Pedro Almodóvar, Blanca Suarez, Carlos Areces, and Miguel Ángel Silvestre Interview | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Pedro Almodóvar, Blanca Suarez, Carlos Areces, and Miguel Ángel Silvestre

Director of I'm So Excited Goes Back to Basics

Jul 02, 2013 Web Exclusive
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The most internationally renowned Spanish director of his generation, Pedro Almodóvar burst onto the scene 30 years ago with films of frank sexual discourse steeped in the tradition of some of his favorite directors, such as Douglas Sirk, Luchino Visconti, and John Cassavetes. Like those masters, Almodóvar knows a thing or two about melodramatic settings and strong leading ladies. His newest, I'm So Excited, is a joyous return to the lighter camp of his early days, and brings together a veritable who's who of Almodóvar regulars, including Cecilia Roth, Lola Dueñas, Penelope Cruz, and Antonio Banderas. Stranded on a seemingly neverending flight, a group of passengers find uncommon bonds in those around them, as they are freed from the confines of the real world below.   

On the press tour, Under the Radar caught up with Pedro Almodóvar and a few members of his cast, Blanca Suarez, Carlos Areces, and Miguel Ángel Silvestre. The group was in high spirits from the get-go, as they discussed the production of the film, Almodóvar's extensive filmography, and his possible foray into an English language debut.

John Oursler (Under the Radar): The translation I'm So Excited is quite different from the Spanish title Los amantes pasajeros (The Passenger Lovers).

Pedro Almodóvar: "I'm so excited" has a double meaning in Spanish. It implies enthusiasm, but it also implies sexual arousal. Being excited means being horny. Welcome to the party.

In Spanish, "passenger," "pasajero," has a double meaning, too. Almost everything in Spanish has more than one meaning depending on the expression, tone. In this case "passenger" means someone that is travelling, but also something that is fleeting. It was very important that those two meanings. In French and Italian they have the double meanings, but not in English. We take advantage of having the song in the movie. I thought "I'm so excited" represents the mood of the characters after having drinks.

I love the song "I'm So Excited" by The Pointer Sisters. I love good disco music like Grace Jones and Donna Summer. I think that it was a perfect song for the stewards. I wanted a song of that period because at the beginning unconsciously it's a kind of tribute to the '80s in Spainabsolute freedom in every sense. With a new democracy everything changed. I missed that feeling. Fortunately I was young and could enjoy that moment.

How did you come up with the idea for the film?

Pedro: Sometimes, perhaps it sounds weird, at home in solitude, I write for fun. I don't write with a precise reading. I just write for writing, as an exercise. I started for fun and I wrote the sequence in the cockpit and it's a liberating sense when you're not bound to a story but are doing it for the sake of it. The result was very entertaining then I moved from the cockpit into the gallery and wrote some of those sequences. I have tons of documents like these in my computer. At some point someone will publish these without my permission, at which point I'll come back from the dead. The real challenge was to move from this being a comic whim to building a structure and story that had substance. That took a lot longer.

You wanted to do something lighter?

Pedro: When I finished the script I didn't like it. It took me a lot of time for me to get where I wanted with this kind of metaphor. Fortunately we were living in an awful crisis in Spain. It gave me the idea for the clouds and the people in Spain, something very metaphoric about the situation. We are turning around without knowing where we are going to land. Wherever we land implies risk and danger, and we don't know. With that in mind, at the last rewriting, like being in heaven and on earth, death or alive, that was really what gave me the idea just to finish. And also at the end what I wanted was that they are almost in a cloud. In a place that they cannot lie. At that point, after surviving that situation, the foam at the end is very important because it still looks like a cloud and so that walk at the end where they've walking from the clouds moving from one world to the next world. These people are in complete solitude. No iPad or iPhone, you are completely alone in front of yourself.

Can you talk about working with Pedro as a director. How does he work on the set with each of you? What kind of atmosphere does he create?

Carlos Areces: It depends how he gets up in the morning. Basically, Pedro is very funny, but he's funnier when he's in a bad mood. He can be more acidic.

Miguel Ángel Silvestre: In this film, he's very precise with what he wants, but he's a perfectionist and allows you to be free and encourages you.

Carlos: I disagree! Continue. I don't think Pedro is that kind of director who wants you to propose and to play with the role and see "what can we do, what do you think?"

Blanca Suarez: In my case, yes, sometimes.

Carlos: [Laughs] Maybe he thought he has to be more concrete with me.

What was the first film you had seen of Pedro's and what are your memories?

Carlos: Pepi, Luci, Bom. It's probably the most shocking in his filmography. I remember when the movie was screened on TV. I was 13 years old. The film featured famous TV hosts. I wanted to watch the movie but my father didn't let me. Four years later I got a VHS and I watched with some of my friends. We were really shocked, but we were very amazed and I keep remembering one of the dialogues I loved most was when one of the characters pissed on another one. [At which point Carlos gets up and acts out the scene from memory!]. We found it very, very funny, and that was the start of my affinity for Pedro.

Blanca: I'm a bit younger. He had already done a lot by the time I'd seen. The first film I saw was Talk to Her and obviously I was extremely impressed.

Miguel: The first I saw was Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and it floored me. The one I like the most is Dark Habits. It's one of his early ones, but it's one of my favorites.

Did you know anyone in real life like your characters?

Carlos: Yes! Pedro described us (the actors playing the stewards) like a three-headed monster. He had in mind some kind of gay friends that he met, so he told us, "We are gonna do a dinner and invite some of my friends. Please take some of their movements. I want you to find inspiration in them to create the characters." At the end of the dinner we were taking a little thing from each one of his friends. We were picking up and dividing.

Carlos, could you talk about filming the big musical number?

Carlos: It's very funny, but it was very hard to practice and rehearse.

Miguel: Carlos was a ballet dancer!

Carlos: No, that is a joke. My whole life I tried to keep myself apart from any sort of exercise. So, when you have to do choreography you have to practice a lot and it's very boring. Very. We did a lot of rehearsals and then Pedro came one day and he saw us doing the choreography and he told us, "It's too good. It has to look less professional. You are a bunch of friends doing a dance you have done at some parties. You are not professional dancers." I kept thinking, "Oh my. If we had rehearsed less it would have been for the better. I've been doing some exercise that I could have avoided."

This is such a different film from Pedro's last, The Skin I Live In.

Blanca: As artists, we pass through different personal stages. Whatever Pedro is going through will be reflected in the work. Given that I've said that you'd think he was going through a dark phase thenI don't know if that's true. I think what's clear is that you go through phrases and it shows in the work.

Pedro: I'm not a sad person. I don't want to scandalize anyone. This one, and The Skin I Live In, represent me completely. I think one way to think about it is that I've been evolving. I'm happy I'm not making the same kinds of films I made in the '80s. As I went through the darker period I was interested in those kinds of stories. I'm also impassioned by comedy as much as I am by other themes. Just because I make a dark film doesn't mean that I'm experiencing that kind of horror in my personal life at the time. As an author I work very hard to give my characters a happy ending so they're better off at the end. Skin deals with identity and sexual identityI try to combine positive and negative aspects in my films.

Does this make you worry about flights? Are you worried now that you've seen how the pilots and the co-pilots are on the plane?

Carlos: Yes, I'm very worried!

Miguel: If something bad would happen in a plane I would love that Pedro would be orchestrating the flight.

Pedro, at one point planned to make a film in New York...

Pedro: I would like to, but I don't dare. I was writing something that happens here, and also at the beach in the state of New York, but I didn't get what I wanted out of it. I still feel a big interest in the plot and story, but my collaboration with the writer was not what I expected. I need to write a script but I don't have it finished. It would be in English. I know exactly what I want to say. It's based on something by a wonderful author that I bought the rights to, but my English is not good enough so I'd have to co-write. I would still like to do it at some point.

[I'm So Excited was released on June 28th by Sony Pictures Classics.]



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