Pedro Almodovar reveals coping with physical challenges | Inquirer Entertainment
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Pedro Almodovar reveals coping with physical challenges

By: - Columnist
/ 07:41 PM November 11, 2011

ALMODOVAR. Sly sense of humor. photo by ruben v. nepales

LOS ANGELES—“I always assume someone would ask me that question, because it is true that the actors were speaking Tagalog,” Pedro Almodovar said when I asked him about a short scene in “The Skin I Live In,” where the household staff, suddenly let go, turned out to be Filipinos.

I told Spain’s foremost filmmaker that I was very surprised to hear Tagalog suddenly being spoken in film, which he himself loosely adapted from Thierry Jonquet’s novel, “Tarantula.” Strange things are happening in the mansion owned by an eminent plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas, in his first collaboration with Pedro after 21 years) but whose day-to-day operations are overseen by Marilia (Marisa Paredes).




“They were walking away from the house and talking about Marisa’s character in a horrible way—about why they were let go,” Pedro said. “In Madrid, especially in the homes of the very rich, a lot of the help is Filipino. I also wanted to give the sense that people who work in that house are kept at a distance. They don’t understand exactly what goes on inside. It’s one of the things that permit Antonio’s character to get away with all kinds of things.”

While his trademark thick mop of hair has gone all silver now, the 62-year-old auteur known for his provocative and outlandish films has a youthful quality about him. Possessing a sly sense of humor, Pedro took off his dark glasses—his essential “company,” he said—in this interview, in which he revealed more of the man behind the films that earned him a reputation as a sexual agent provocateur, who stirs both praise and controversy. Excerpts:

Your films are dark and twisted. How much of that is a reflection of your own personality?

To write these stories, you don’t need to be weird. You just need to be curious and not be afraid of the risks. You have to take some risks that I took since the beginning of my career. I’m much more comfortable with these themes. I try to be completely spontaneous when I’m writing but it doesn’t mean that my life is like that.

Who is Pedro Almodovar in real life, not the man behind the camera?

I would like to be a mystery in the future, too. I would like to be even a mystery to me. I will surprise myself. It’s true that I don’t talk about my day-to-day life. It’s not that I’m trying to hide something. But, in some ways, I am somewhat reserved and shy. I only share that with a small group of people.


My life has changed a lot from the 1980s. I’ve gotten older. In the ’80s, I used to be outdoors a lot, participating in the larger world around us and everything that was happening with the arrival of democracy.


Now, I do the opposite. I spend most of my time indoors, behind closed doors with very few people. That’s reflected in my films. I’ve gone inside myself. I read a lot. I see a movie on DVD almost every day.

I used to go to the theater. I have no social life. In the last seven years, I suffered from photophobia (abnormal sensitivity to light) and migraine. That’s the reason—but, I don’t want to talk about this issue, because it’s talking about pain. I try not to reflect that, but that is one of the main reasons for the type of life I lead. This is the company that I always have—dark glasses.

It must be hard to work in that condition.

My life is a paradox. Since I was a child, I’m accursed with that, but can you imagine a director? I work with light—it is the material that the movies are made of. When I’m shooting, I’m always wearing dark glasses, a hat that doesn’t fit because I have that kind of head. I’m ugly with a hat surrounded by everything in black.

It’s a comedy to work with me during the shooting. But, it’s not a problem to keep me from making movies. Just the opposite. The cinema really saved my life more than ever. Now, I couldn’t imagine not writing and shooting. It’s strange that I made the last three movies with migraine.

The good news is that when you’re concentrating on the script and then the film, the pain becomes a little less present. It just waits for you in moments. When I go to the car, the pain is waiting with a driver. Anyway, I can live with that. You just have to be in love with the work that you do. And, that’s true in my case, so I’m privileged because of that.


When you read the book by Thierry Jonquet for the first time, what was your impression?

I read the book a long time ago. It took me more time to make an adaptation than to write an original script. I thought it was perfect to read on a short flight. It was very entertaining, but there was something about it that hooked me from the beginning. I was very interested in the theme that is in my movie—the revenge of the father, which  I found very original.

As someone who adapts from book to film, I have to admit that I’m very unfaithful. From the moment that you look at the material through the eyes of someone who is going to direct it, you see it in a very different way.

From the beginning, I thought of the main character as a plastic surgeon, and it was about plastic surgery. The idea immediately came to my mind—that he was working on a new skin. The skin isn’t in the book, but it’s an important element in the movie. I had to invent the rest. I abandoned the book from year to year, until what remained was the idea of revenge.

Do you watch your movies?

I don’t except I saw “Law of Desire” 24 years after. I saw the film about four months ago because it was showing in a theater in Madrid. It was my second time to see it after the opening. Twenty-four years is enough distance from your work.

It’s awful for a director after the mixing of his film. Before the mixing, you have an opinion of what is the movie you are doing, but during the mixing, that sensibility is completely destroyed. So, I don’t feel like watching my films.

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