Cate Blanchett leads the project 'Manual for cleaning ladies' with a script by Pedro Almodóvar

Pedro Almodóvar y Cate Blanchett, en la inauguración de la retrospectiva de Almodóvar en el MoMA en Nueva York en 2016.
Pedro Almodóvar and Cate Blanchett, at the opening of the Almodóvar retrospective at MoMA in New York in 2016. Jason Carter Rinaldi

Pedro Almodóvar opens next Friday Parallel Mothers, the drama for which Penelope Cruz won the Volpi Cup at the last Venice festival, “and she’s already thinking about his next project ”, according to what the producer and brother of the filmmaker, Agustín Almodóvar, told EL PAÍS. “It has always been like this, as soon as I had finished a film I was already thinking about the next one,” he explains by phone. But it is not clear that it is Handbook for Cleaning Ladies, as was their initial plan before the pandemic, and of course before the short film was shot The human voice, with Tilda Swinton, and Parallel Mothers, whose script he wrote during confinement. As Agustín Almodóvar explains, “it is a question of rights and interests.”

Almodóvar adapted it into a libretto —it carries the project three years— several of the 43 stories that compose Manual for cleaning women, by Lucia Berlin, one of the books whose reading has most impressed her in recent years. The stories unfold between Texas, Oakland, and Mexico, in English and Spanish. “Two-fifths of the script take place in Mexico,” recalls Almodóvar, the producer. “So it could be shot in Spain in locations in the Canary Islands, Andalusia …”. The script impressed who would have been its protagonist, Cate Blanchett. “Although the female character changes profession and sometimes physique, she is always, deep down, Lucia”, explains the producer. Manual for cleaning ladies would mark the filmmaker’s debut in a feature length in English, “after happily shooting the short with Tilda, although it is true that it was a small project carried out as a family ”, says her brother. Almodóvar had already been offered projects to direct in the US, among them A caring nun or The boy from the newspaper, although they were commissions and he never felt that they came out organically from him. He even wrote Juliet based on Alice Munro’s texts for Meryl Streep, before deciding that the story would work much better in Spain and moved it from place and language, losing in the trip to the Hollywood star.

So, what has passed with Manual …? “The transfer of rights to the book is over,” explains the producer, who specifies his statements in a podcast from Castilla-La Mancha Media. “The script was done and Cate was excited about it.” But when the time came to definitively buy the adaptation rights, with what it involved an economic effort, and in doubt as to whether or not it would be shot, the Almodóvar production company El Deseo decided not to make the payment. “Now, Cate has decided to stick with him. He hasn’t bought the rights yet, he’s working on it, and he would do it with Pedro’s script ”. And then several possibilities would open up: from when the film is not made until it is directed by another director, or in the end by Pedro Almodóvar himself. “In international projects everything is uncertain”, recalls the producer. “If he goes ahead with another director, Pedro would appear as a scriptwriter and both he and I as co-producers”, with which they could even have a voice when choosing who directs the script. “The experience with Tilda was great, and Cate is the same kind of person. However, it is not at all clear that this is Pedro’s next shoot ”, his brother concludes.

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