Penelope Cruz | Actress
The Oscar nominee for best performer for ‘Parallel Mothers’ confesses: “The connection with Almodóvar is so strong that I can never lie to him”
The couple formed by Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem makes history. Both have a statuette, but this Sunday night (early Monday morning in Spain) they will attend the 94th Oscar gala nominated for best leading actress and actor. She is the one most likely to win the award for her role as Janis in ‘Parallel Mothers’, a photographer who becomes pregnant while struggling to exhume the remains of her ancestors. The interpreter already won it in the supporting category for ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ (2008). In this edition, experts believe that the title for best actress is the most open of all due to the merits of its main candidates. For one thing, Jessica Chastain has won the Screen Actors Guild Award. Nicole Kidman won the Golden Globe, Kristen Stewart received the critics’ award in New York and Penelope won the Volpi Cup in Venice. Considered within the industry as a great star, Cruz was also crowned best actress at the recent Santa Barbara Film Festival, where she did this interview.
– Your creative relationship with Pedro Almodóvar is one of the strongest in modern cinema.
– With Pedro the connection is so strong that I can never lie to him, neither on set nor in life. I discovered it after seeing ‘Tie Me Up’ and it was a decisive moment in my life because, with the intention of trying to participate in one of his films, I would go to cinemas or bars where I suspected he would be. Now I am very grateful to him for putting pressure on me, for his trust, for imagining me doing things that I can’t even imagine myself doing. That’s the best a director can give you.
– Do you enjoy success? An Oscar nomination is a reward for effort.
– I am very grateful and I feel lucky for everything I have achieved, but I also torture myself because I demand a lot of myself. What I enjoy the most is the investigation and the mystery of discovering who the woman I am going to play is.
– Do you work with the same dedication as when you started?
– My rhythm is different at this stage of my career, but I still have the same excitement as when I was 4 years old playing with the neighbors. I knew I wanted to be an actress ever since my parents enrolled me in classical ballet classes, when I was 6 years old, and the teacher asked me if she could play the role of Carmen. Shortly after, my parents bought me a Betamax machine and that’s where I discovered artists like Meryl Streep, Billy Wilder and Al Pacino.
– Was the ‘Parallel Mothers’ project conceived during the pandemic?
– Yes. In this case, Almodóvar told me the idea of the film at a dinner about twelve years ago. It’s something he does. He has an idea and he tells me about it, and then a few years later he sends me a script of that idea. It can happen in different ways, all magical for me. The first time he shared anything about this story with me, we were in New York, doing press for ‘All About My Mother.’ He told me some things about the story that later changed, evolved a lot into something else. But that was the root of the story. Later, when we were confined in Madrid, we made one of our calls, a facetime, and he told me: “By the way, I’ve taken this story out of the drawer and I’m thinking of you for the character.” Imagine, he told me in full confinement, when we didn’t know how long we were going to be stuck at home or what the future was, or what kind of future. We didn’t know anything. His script gave me an injection of hope and excitement. Knowing that he had a plan on the horizon encouraged me. The project gave me faith in going out again and leading a normal life, although we didn’t know if it was a plan for a year or five years later. We had no idea. But I will always remember that first phone call. Others followed where he shared his stories of him with me in dire circumstances and those calls became my favorite. His calls were a lifesaver.
– Do you think that Pedro adapts his characters for you?
– I am not with him when he writes, although he is always writing. Even when we travel on promotion, he writes. He always has three scripts in his head. I don’t know how he does it, but he’s been that way ever since I met him. However, Pedro is happier when he is filming and I understand it, because the same thing happens to me.
– It seems that you find it more and more difficult to work.
– I have a life that makes me very happy, but even so, even if I have children, who you know obsess me and are the best thing I have in my life, I enjoy my work. I am a family oriented person. I’ve always been like this. I value my family time very much and educating my children is my priority. I’ve been working since I was sixteen years old and I still enjoy that feeling of getting up in the morning and going to the shoot. That makes me feel complete. We actors can have that feeling two or three times a year, but for a director it’s different. In Pedro’s case, he is much happier when he works. I always tell him, “Every summer we have to shoot a movie.” He writes in the winter and we film in the summer. He likes to shoot in the summer.
– How do you prepare a character?
– In order to put myself in the place of a character, I always try to understand him thoroughly, even without necessarily sharing his moral decisions. I never wonder if we have anything in common.
– Would you say that this is the most political Almodóvar?
– Pedro touches on certain issues in a way that goes far beyond the need to open a political debate. He is not what he is looking for. As Janis’s character explains to someone from another generation, “I have this mission in life to be able to honor my family members, I just want to be able to give them a proper burial.” It is impossible not to understand that. I think the way he touches on this topic is very beautiful and very successful because it goes beyond where each character is, or which side each one is on in politics. Pedro speaks of the basic needs of dignity that any human being deserves in this world.
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