Think back long ago, to a time when you couldn’t order literally any thingamajig that pops into your head at 4 a.m. from your phone.
The year was 1994 and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was a 9-to-5 working stiff with a forward thinker’s dream — an insanely lofty one that had to do with a vast computer network called “The Internet.”
The Vision Films biopic, “Bezos: The Beginning,” which premiered Monday night at University of Miami’s Cosford Cinema, delves into what transformed that unrealistic dream into the web’s largest e-commerce site.
The film starts out when Bezos, played by UM grad Armando Gutierrez (“The Little Mermaid”), was weighing whether to quit working at his fancy NYC hedge fund job with D.E. Shaw. (Look out for his boss; that’s fellow Miamian, “The Profit” Marcus Lemonis).
With a loving push from his devoted coworker/girlfriend turned wife MacKenzie Scott (UCF alum Alex Mitchell, of “An American Murder Mystery”) and seed money from his stepfather Mike Bezos (Emilio Estefan), the New Mexico native did indeed take the brave, digital leap.
You see Bezos starting the online book marketplace out of his garage in Bellevue, Washington, with the first sale made in July 1995.
Trivia: Back in those days Amazon wasn’t named after the world’s largest river, it was called Cadabra, half of the phrase uttered after a magic trick. It didn’t stick, obvio, because it reportedly sounded like “cadaver.”
Gutierrez, who also shares producing credits and orders something from Amazon almost daily, said it felt “natural” for him to make the movie, based on the book “Zero to Hero.”
“It shows you in the early years ... the battles with competitors and the various people who didn’t want him to do this,” said the 305 native. “When I read the script, obviously, I was extremely excited to be any part of this origin story.”
Though Gutierrez hasn’t met Bezos, he thinks the king of the World Wide Web should provide motivation for us slugs in his hometown.
“The fact that someone like that went to school in Miami, that should fire you up,” said the 41-year-old with a laugh.
Speaking of fired up, Gutierrez said he got “really, really into” playing the divorced father of four, even shaving half his head to channel the billionaire during various parts of his incredible journey.
“There’s a difference between him then and now,” said the actor. “He knew he wanted to start something, but he wasn’t sure what it was. He was still insecure, like he was scared of leaving his job. Go back to Bezos in ‘94 and tell him, ‘If you do this, you’ll be the richest man in history,’ and he’d be like, ‘Yeah. Sure, sure.’” (The 59-year-old is actually hanging on at No. 3 at last count.)
As for casting Bezos’ beloved stepdad, Miguel “Mike” Bezos, Emilio Estefan was the obvious choice. Not only did the famed music producer resemble the actual person, the two Cuban natives knew each other.
“He was a perfect fit,” said Gutierrez.
Estefan, who has had cameos in such locally shot movies as “Marley and Me,” “Rock of Ages” and “The Specialist,” agreed.
“People thought [the Amazon idea] was crazy, but he had a vision and his father loved him so much,” said the Miami Sound Machine legend who arrived with his superstar wife Gloria. “It’s a great immigrant story. That’s America. People take it for granted but this [movie] sends a message: In America, all dreams can come true. We live in the best country in the world.”
“Bezos: The Beginning” is now playing on streaming services, including (yes) Amazon.