Penelope Cruz: “I start all filming as if it were my first film”

One day, years ago, Penelope Cruz received the call she most dreamed of. But he refused to answer it. He thought it was a joke. And in bad taste, too. Why would anyone play with the illusion of a teenage girl? “I said, ‘Yeah, sure, come on now,” the actress recalls now. But at home they insisted: Pedro Almodóvar was waiting on the other end of the phone. It seemed impossible to the girl: the director of Átame , the film that had so impacted her that she decided to dedicate herself to acting, asking about her. It couldn’t be true. When the filmmaker’s voice congratulated her on her first roles, she had no choice but to believe it. Although the most surprising, actually, was yet to come.

Because that contact was the first of thousands. Thus a friendship and a collaboration germinated that continue 30 years later. The filmmaker discarded her from Kika , because she was too young. But in Tremulous Flesh , in 1997, he gave her a few minutes and a delivery on the screen that they became famous. Just like the two of them: from promising talents, they became stars. All about my mother, Back, Pain and glory . He wrote and filmed. And she amazed at the camera. Until Almodóvar asked her again to give birth in a film. But this time, Cruz would occupy almost every frame of the footage. The result is titled Parallel Mothers and opens this Friday, October 8, in theaters.

Penélope Cruz besa la Copa Volpi el pasado 11 de septiembre en Venecia.
Penelope Cruz kisses the Volpi Cup the past 11 September in Venice. ETTORE FERRARI (EFE)

“The actors look for material that supposes a challenge, characters different from ourselves and what we have done. In my career, I have been fortunate to come across a number of complex roles. And many with Pedro ”, assured the interpreter (Alcobendas, Madrid, 47 years) to EL PAÍS in the last festival of Venice, where the film was released. The Volpi Cup for the best actress of the contest endorsed her work: she is the first Spanish to get it. The same thing he achieved with the Oscar, for Vicky Cristina Barcelona , by Woody Allen. For the magazine Variety , in addition, this role can crown her again in Hollywood.

“Of all my roles with Pedro, it may be the more complicated. You do not have a rest on a mental, emotional, even physical level. It is a non-stop of roller coasters, of putting her against the ropes, “explained Cruz about Parallel Mothers. Because her Janis is a resistant and imperfect woman. That is, human. On the one hand, she turns to raising her baby. On the other, he fights to have his grandfather exhumed from the mass grave where he was buried in 1936. “It seems important to me that this theme travel the world. As my character says, it is about giving their relatives a dignified burial. How can you deny something like this? “, Says the actress about historical memory.

The film immerses her in very heartfelt experiences, and more so for an interpreter who considers herself” intense “. “It is a way of life that one does not choose. The good things maybe I also feel them more. But the bad ones a lot, very close to the skin. I am affected by the energy of others, if a person enters a room and is not well and on top of that I have a relationship with them, it hits me. Sometimes too much, I wish I could put a little more distance from things. But I think it’s one of the reasons why I unconsciously chose this job. It is not that I live the performance as a therapy, but it supposes a kind of relief ”, reflects Cruz. Chance offers an immediate demonstration. The espresso you have ordered arrives, but very abundant. And she smiles at the waiter: “I can’t have a double coffee. If not, then I fly. ”

Precisely what his career has done. Cruz always appreciates the “luck” of starring in the same year, 1992, Ham, ham and Belle Époque. But its merits are more than evident: from then on, it has not stopped reaping successes. The daughter of Encarna and Eduardo, lifelong workers from the Madrid municipality of Alcobendas who struggled to make ends meet, has managed to settle in the firmament of world cinema. “She may be the best known Spanish outside her country, apart from the Real Madrid and Barcelona footballers and, perhaps, Rafael Nadal,” wrote the magazine Esquire a few years ago. Ha shot in Hollywood and Europe, in Italian and English, and is the only performer with at least one award in Spain (Goya), Italy (David), United Kingdom (Bafta) and France (César de honor).

“I start all filming as if it were my first movie. And sometimes boot days are a bit harrowing. I feel fear, insecurity. But I don’t want to lose them, this job can’t be done without it. No two people are the same, so it’s a bottomless pit of searching and learning, and it’s what I like the most. Sometimes the period of preparation of the character gives you more happiness than the moment of doing it or seeing the result, “said Cruz. Although, at the same time, his embrace so deep to his alter ego takes time to let go: “It happened to me from having to take a moment and say: ‘This character must go’. Sometimes I feel like I have it inside for a few months; of course it affects and modifies things. ”

And more a role like Janis. By mother. And for its emotional ups and downs. On the set there were fake tears, and other real ones. And the plot infected its austerity on the set, with hardly any jokes. “I don’t know if a character like this can be done without suffering, from a relaxed place. I only had a bad time the last week, I was very tired on an emotional level. Pedro was interested in filming the moments before and after the explosion of feelings, and for that he had to go through the peaks. It was practically daily. He demands, but explains well what he wants. He cares for you emotionally. It was a tremendous journey. Now, if he invited me to another, in a few months, where do I have to sign? ”, Clarifies Cruz. At the end of the day, Almodóvar has enormous confidence. And the ability to understand the distinction between friendship and profession: “We changed a bit during filming. It is not that we are colder with each other, but a somewhat different relationship is created. ”

It is hard to believe that, as a result of such an intimate bond, an intriguing idea has not emerged: Has a film by Almodóvar where Cruz and her husband and actor, Javier Bardem, act? “It happened in Tremulous Flesh , although it is true that we did not have sequences together. I think the three of us would like it, but it should come naturally, ”she replied. At the moment, in any case, he has other matters on his hands. He announces it with emotion, although without details: “Now my mission is a documentary that I am going to direct and to which I am going to dedicate two or three years. I can’t say what it’s about. ” The actress has already filmed another, I am one in a hundred thousand, about childhood leukemia. And, as possible indications, these years it has been sensitive to climate change, the NGO Proactiva Open Arms and the rescue of migrants, the drama of the slums of La Cañada Real or gender violence.

In a few months, in addition, another feature film starring Cruz , Official competition, by Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn. Things of the covid and its delays, because the actress already puts pauses between her projects: “I don’t usually shoot one film after another. I did it during 15 or 20 years, but once I had my children that has changed: my priority is to raise them and have time for them ”. There is no script that can compete with that.

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