Pedro Almodovar on sex on the plane and more
LOS ANGELES—While mile-high club shenanigans animate Pedro Almodovar’s “I’m So Excited,” the celebrated Spanish filmmaker admitted that when he’s aboard a plane, he’s a “very dull passenger.”
“I don’t take drugs,” quipped Pedro, whose English has improved so much that he only occasionally turned to his regular interpreter for her assistance in our LA interview. “I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t talk, so the only things that I do on the plane are, I read and write a lot. The plane encourages concentration—which I would like to have on my desk, too. I wrote many script ideas for the first time on the plane.”
“I think of sex on the plane, too,” admitted the director known as a “sexual agent provocateur.” “It’s a common fantasy: I sit and you see everyone, like in a fashion catwalk, watching people walk back to their seats.” Often doodling with a pen and paper during our talk, he drew a rough sketch of the aisle inside a plane. “It’s like you evaluate people—you think, he or she is very attractive, or I could make something with him or her. It seems like passengers are presenting themselves before your eyes in a fantasy way.”
“I’m So Excited,” which portrays plane passengers who, in fearing for their lives because of a technical failure, reveal their deepest, darkest secrets, stars Spanish actors and, in cameo roles, Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas.
The high camp film is Pedro’s return to comedy. “I always wanted to go back to this genre, because comedy was how I started in the ’80s,” he explained. “What I wanted was to recover my youth—because, in the ’80s, I was 30 years younger. When I had the idea for this movie, my brother (producer Agustin Almodovar) was also very enthusiastic and pushed me to finish the script. It took me more time than I thought it would. I didn’t like the first draft because, while it is very funny, it needed some substance.”
He continued, “I wanted to escape from Spanish reality, although for the Spanish audience, there is a metaphor about the Spanish situation. It’s a light comedy. I hope it’s entertaining, but at the same time, I couldn’t avoid the reality that’s in the script, as well.
“For me, the metaphor is this journey of the passing year turning into cycles with people not knowing where they are going to land. Uncertainty is an awful word, but the movie is also about that. It represents the situation in Spain.
“This is also a tribute to the ’80s. After Franco died, we lived in a democracy. There was an explosion of freedom. I miss it now. Madrid is very different—and so is the whole world! I wanted to make a tribute to that wonderful decade for the Spanish people.”
The most important filmmaker to have emerged from Spain conceded that his “darker period was more successful than the lighter period.” The openly gay writer and director said that being in a dark mood often resulted in some of his compelling work.
“To be in love is always good,” he clarified. “But, for a writer, to be in love is not always to be very happy. There are dark experiences in love. And, sometimes, it’s very hard! For example, when I wrote ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,’ I was in love, and I was having an awful time. What I did was to joke about that, to convert something that I was deeply suffering from into a comedy. It was good therapy, and also it was a lot of fun just to make the opposite of what your life is in that moment.”
He added, “What’s important is to be conscious about yourself. I mean, try not to embellish your life and not to also make it worse than it is. And to take good notes because, even though I don’t talk exactly and directly about my life, it is underneath all of the plots in my films. The people I love are behind the characters in my films, but not in a direct way.”
The director who began making short films with a Super 8 camera in the early ’70s said that his enthusiasm to make films hasn’t diminished; in fact, he’s more excited making a film these days.
“It’s more now because I’m much more conscious about that,” he said. “I mean, I wasn’t conscious of being in that moment before. I did it spontaneously. It was my life and I didn’t think about it.”
Asked who in the Hollywood community he sees when he’s in LA, Pedro answered, “My almost biological family here are Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas. Also, Carla Gugino who treats me like a mother, always giving me advice on diet. They’re like my American family. When they are in LA, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt treat me very well.”
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