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Hola bebes, we had the joy of meeting two of the men behind one of the most acclaimed collaborations in modern cinema.  Many moons ago, director Pedro Almodůvar discovered a handsome, young Andalusian called Antonio Banderas and starred the 22-year-old in the first of five increasingly fabulous films, amongst them, Law of Desire, Matador and Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down.  After 21 years apart, the duo reunite for Almodůvarís sexy, twisted horror tale, The Skin I Live In.



The Skin I Live In

Antonio Banderas and Pedro Almodůvar


Antonio Banderas


The Lady Miz Diva:  When watching The Skin I Live In, I saw a very relaxed quality, but a lot of power in your performance that is different from any other film youíve made.  Did you feel that coming through as you made this movie?  Do you think that quality came from working together with director Almodůvar for the first time in 21 years?

Antonio Banderas:  I donít know if this is something I should say or not -- coming from somebody else is very nice, actually -- for me, Iím very close to the movie.  Itís difficult just to be objective about the things that I have done, but I have to tell you that itís true.  The first time I saw the movie, I received that same impression that he {Almodůvar} -- I mean, it was he -- made me play the notes in my own acting that I didnít even know I had.  At this particular time in my life, at 51 years old, it opened a door for me to understand another side of me in terms of acting in front of a camera.  It probably has to do with matureness, but it had to do with him, because on paper when I read the script and I saw a character that is bigger than life, obviously with his psychopathy, normally the tendency was just to go big with it, and Pedro was the one who said, ďNo, we are not going to go in that direction. We are going to just contain him. We are gonna just hold him back. We are going to make the character very minimalist and very economical in gesture. I donít want you to comment the character with the audience and tell them how bad you are, that ĎI am the villain in the movie.í I want the character to be very unexpected and mysterious and we donít know really what is going to be the next step that he is gonna take.Ē  And so, though I resisted during the period of rehearsals a little bit that idea, he totally convinced me, and I did what I think any actor who works with Pedro Almodůvar should do, which is to take a leap of faith, with Pedro Almodůvar, especially. And especially to me, because all those movies that we did in the eighties and these 21 years in the middle that you said before, at the end of the process, I was still very far away from having an opinion of what is the meaning of me in this movie and what the meaningís all about, I have to recognise already that he made me play in a universe, in a territory which is where I think creation is.  And creation is not in the comfortability of directing, when you are very comfortable Ė and I remember commenting that to a beautiful actress that I respect very much, Laura Linney, she always said to me, ďWhen you are comfortable acting, Antonio, you are doing nothing. You are cowering back in experiences and cumulative work and whatever you are putting up there, but in reality, you are just using something that you know will work for you in front of an audience, but itís not where creation is.Ē  Creation is painful, and when you feel very insecure, itís because you are actually stepping in different territories of your personality as an actor.  And so, thatís what Pedro did to me 21 years after; he just slapped me big time and made me wake up to that fact.  And I am very happy that that happened; not only just for this movie, but it made me reflect again back to what the source of my work probably should be in the years to come.  So, it has been from every point of view, a celebration just to meet with him again.


Pedro Almodůvar


The Lady Miz Diva:  Itís been a long time since you worked with Antonio Banderas.  What was it like to come together after 21 years and what were the differences after all this time?

Pedro Almodůvar:  The different thing is the role I gave him.  What was the same was his disposition towards the work.  And fortunately, heís still an attractive man and heís still so at the age of fifty {sic} because this is what I needed for the character.  But also, it was very important for me to find the same disposition to the work, because Iím sure that his experiences in Hollywood, they are completely different than what it is to go to Spain, to work with me.  Even the way the day itself is organised is very different. Even the way that he prepares himself and the character and the work is different than the way he worked with me.  So, since the moment that I sent him the script and I talked to him by telephone and he was asking who was the character and he told me since the beginning -- and Iím glad that he did it because I wouldnít ask him to be like that -- he said, ďDonít worry, Pedrito, I will put myself in your hands and you can do it absolutely whatever you want.Ē  For me, that was very important because even though I kept on being friends with Antonio and I saw him whenever I went to LA, or when he came to Madrid, but many things have happened since; he has an American family, he is a big Hollywood star.  He was making different movies than this one, so you never know.  But, for me it was fantastic that during the shooting he was absolutely the same person and I really donít know if he is conscious of that.  I have a picture of Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down and this one, and even before, Matador or Law of Desire, that they are all of the same picture, in the way he behaves with the rest of the crew or even with me.  I have like two or three completely the same {Photos} like Iím saying something and heís there {Makes goofy face}, or leaning on here {Gestures to shoulder} like sleeping, but the same, the same picture that someone took.  So Iím very glad that I called him.


LMD:  The look of the movie is so beautiful and I wondered how inspired by art, painting or sculpture the film is?

PA:  From the very beginning when we see the house, we see the Venuses by Tiziano {Titian} and itís already the epitome of a beauty, of a naked beauty, and itís important because of course when we see the character, sheís already a naked character.  So, on the one hand, weíre talking about feminine beauty, but also of health, and so you have that chart of those huge flowers, which are painted by some Spanish painters.  I mean, health, this is what Robert feels that is health, which is not exactlyÖ {Laughs} I mean in his case, thereís a lot of insanity inside.  So, there is a lot of painting with a lot of meaning; even the paintings that we didnít see.  There is a painting that is painted by John Baldessari, you only see it with a movement of the camera, we didnít make a close-up, and it was very beautiful.  And for me, what interested me more about his work is that you cannot identify the person; only having a part, an ear, a colour, a pop colour.  So, of course, and itís obvious, the contribution of the work of Louise Bourgeois to the character of Vera.  And I have to say that in the middle of the screenwriting, after the sixth draft I went to an anthology of Louise Bourgeois at the Tate Modern in London and I was very, very impressed.  I knew the spider {Maman scuplture}, obviously, but I was very, very impressed immediately when I saw the little dolls that she made with her own underwear.  They were so moving, so demanding of tenderness.  I was really, really very moved and immediately I thought about Vera; that it was a way for her to survive doing this kind of work, imitating Louise Bourgeois.  I mean, I donít hide that this is an imitation. I mean, she invented that.  I donít mean that she {Vera} is a great artist, no, no, no, no; she is only trying only to spend the time doing something.  And also, as we are talking about the Tate Modern anthology, you can find many sculptures with both sexes, even many sexes, or both female or male genitals, and it also fit so well for the story.  For me, it was all a relation, some kind of an epiphany when I saw this, and really this is what I always demand from art.  That it not only inspires my movies; itís not just that art serves as an inspiration, but it also serves as a way of finding sustenance and healing and relief, as well.


LMD:  Antonio told me that working with you on this film has changed him and the way heís going to look at his career in the future.  He admires your pure approach to filmmaking and your vision.  Is keeping true to a sense of purity important to you?

PA:  Iím myself in spite of myself.  And of course, I find it charming that Antonio would say this about me, but integrity is not something that one does purposefully.  Everything that I make, it was just what I decided and then with complete freedom, but also, I was very faithful of what my real ambition was in every time and itís now. And perhaps from outside, it can be seen like a kind of purity, but in my case, I mean, I couldnít avoid it.  I mean, when I refused, for example, to go to Hollywood and make movies there, it was not that I wanted to be applauded for that.  I mean at the moment when it arrived, I was thirty, thirty-a-lot, almost forty the first time.  So, at that moment, I knew exactly what I wanted; what my real ambition was as a filmmaker, and it was not going to Hollywood and to make a movie there.  Even though I love movies that Hollywood made in many, many times, but the way that I work doesnít fit really to a big studio production system.  I'm sorry, I'm really sorry about it, but fortunately I knew that since the moment that they tempt me.  Fortunately, I have that information in my mind.  I talked to many directors before, then I felt this is not my cup of tea, as the English say.  I prefer to keep on making movies in Spanish, and with low budget.  But I realised at that moment that for me, just to be free, independent, crazy, whatever you want to call it, it was much more important than to go to Hollywood and to make a movie there.  So, it was not purity, it was just the way I am.  And I also think it was the easiest thing for me to do and because even the idea of making a lot of money wasn't something particularly appealing; I was already doing well, and so I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

Oct. 10th, 2011




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Film stills courtesy of  Sony Pictures Classics




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