Penelope Cruz is arguably most famous for starring in Hollywood fare such as Blow, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. However, Penelope's jaw-dropping looks and talent actually won the hearts of Spanish audiences years earlier in films such as All About My Mother and Open Your Eyes.
This year, Cruz reprised one of her most memorable Spanish-language roles in a sequel to The Girl of Your Dreams, reuniting her with the Oscar-winning director Fernando Trueba.
We sat down with Trueba and his new leading man, Chino Darin, to discuss the premiere of La Reina De España (The Queen of Spain) at the #Berlinale. Naturally, talk soon turned to #PenelopeCruz, the #Oscars, and whether we could ever see #Batman played by someone of Latin descent...
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Before reading on, check out the brilliant trailer for The Queen Of Spain.
QU: How does it feel to revisit the same characters again? What has changed since then for you as a filmmaker?
Fernando Trueba: "It was great to get the whole band together with some new guys also. To have him [Chino Darin] on board and the eight actors from the original back? It was a joy... It was an incredible cast. I think I’m a privileged guy to have all these people here."
QU: Was it strange to see the original cast reassembled?
FT: "No, because we've been friends since that movie. It was natural, like when we get dinner together, only we’re making a movie and the dinner takes many weeks [laughs]."
QU: How long have you been planning to make this movie? It's been an incredibly long time since the first one premiered.
FT: "I don’t know exactly. It’s maybe been around seven years I would say, maybe eight."
QU: How does this look from your perspective, Chino? You’re a new addition to the cast, so it must have been both difficult, yet also nice to see a band of people so well joined together.
Chino Darin: "For me it was amazing. It was a big challenge and I’m very pleased to have been invited to make this movie with them. They’re all friends, so they’ve all made their own group dynamic. They have lots of humour."
FT: "But you were part of it since the first day."
CD: "So, yes, I felt like I was immediately adopted. The cast, they’re all great, so we had a really great time."
FT: "There was a lot of laughter during this shoot. A lot of work and a lot of love."
QU: In the story, there are a lot of problems on the set. Have you ever faced any challenges like these on a real life production?
FT: "I’ve made sixteen movies. I’ve had some very happy shootings and some painful ones too. Not too many, but a couple of them that I suffered a lot on, so I know how things are, but that is life. Sometimes in life, everything goes perfect, and other times, it’s more difficult. This one was great for me, a great experience."
QU: You’ve worked with Penelope [Cruz] now for 25, 26 years?
FT: "Our first movie together was in '92."
QU: How has Penelope evolved as an actress over time?
FT: "[She] seems more sure of herself today, I would say. She is very natural... I don't know if inside she was, but she was very good since the beginning when she did her first movie, so in that aspect, she hasn't changed at all. She’s a hard worker, she prepares..."
CD: "She’s very precise."
FT: "With this character, she knows her well. With Macarena, it’s like a costume made for herself. She puts it on and voila! I remember my way of directing it — I would approach her and say ‘more Macarena’ and she knew what I was saying. She was relaxing a bit and I used to say that line to her more than once. 'More Macarena, more Macarena.'"
Check out Penelope Cruz in her Oscar-nominated role for Volver below:
QU: How did your work as a film critic years ago change the way you make movies and see the world as a filmmaker?
FT: "When I was writing as a critic, I was very very young. I was 20 at the time, but I was full of passion for movies. I loved movies, I would discuss movies, fight about movies, it was like a question of life and death for me... That’s one of the great things about movies. You can discuss with your friends why you like them and why you hate them."
QU: Was it quite confusing making a movie about a movie being made? You have your real camera equipment and then your real crew here, then your fake camera equipment with you fake crew over here — is it strange or confusing at times?
FT: "I’m very proud to make it more confusing. The script girl is the same in both. When we were preparing with her, I would say you're a perfect beautiful '50s woman. She looked to me like an English script girl from the '50s and when they did the makeup and costume on her, it was perfect. She was very happy, but sometimes it was a bit confusing. I love mirroring real life in film."
CD: "The set was incredible. We all felt like we were making a '50s movie inside this setting in Budapest. It was amazing."
QU: Were there any particular movies which inspired that 50s setting, like Hollywood movies perhaps?
FT: "I was thinking about the movies the Americans made in Spain during the ‘50s and ‘60s. No one [in particular]. The producer who made the most movies in Spain was Samuel Bronston. He produced El Cid, about the Roman empire, 55 Days At Pekan, King Of Kings in Spain. [La Reina De España] is not about Bronston, because it's set before that, at the beginning of America's time filming in Spain. But when Bronston died, when he went bankrupt and moved to Madrid in '64, '65, he had the project of making Queen Isabella, The Catholic Queen. That was a dream that he never fulfilled...
I wanted my characters to make a big story with a Spanish character, so the obvious thing that the Americans would do was Isabella, as she's internationally renowned... All of this gave me the opportunity to make more comedy."
QU: What interested you about the Franco regime and censorship at the time?
FT: "The construction of the clothes, the ambience of the time, the American and Spanish relationship... Also, America was not Disneyland at the time. They had the Cold War, the Black list, McCarthy and the witch hunts, so it was also a very difficult time there. A lot of scriptwriters were already working in Spain at the time. many in London and Italy too. They were blacklisted and had to escape. Some went into prison in the States, so they were working under pseudonyms, like [Dalton] Trumbo, so it was very interesting from that cinema history point of view."
QU: Chino, at one point, Penelope Cruz’s character refers to you as Superman. Would you ever be interested in playing a superhero role?
CD: "Well I love superheroes, but I think that we empathise more with regular people. My mum says that when I was young, I said that I wanted to be the actor of Batman... I really wanted to play batman, but I was conscious that this was impossible. But maybe I can one day make that dream come true."
QU: Would you ever be interested in working within English language cinema?
CD: "I’m not specifically interested in anything. I love cinema. Im glad of the cinema that we’re making in Argentina and in Spain... European cinema is amazing. I also love Asian cinema. Of course we all grew up watching Hollywood cinema, actors playing great characters. I can dream about playing those characters, but they're in the past, so its impossible to make them now.
I like the experience as an actor of being involved with new people, the idiosyncrasies, so I think that’s very encouraging, to grow up as a person and as an actor. I'm looking forward to meeting new people, to travel with this work and of course, I welcome any new opportunity to work outside my country. I’m doing my first steps and I’m enjoying it a lot."
QU: Is there anyone in particular who you would like to work with in the future, Chino?
CD: "Well there’s lots of people. In particular, if I can name a contemporary one... I very much like Xavier Dolan, but there are lots of other great filmmakers all around the world. I think we are very lucky that things are changing and everyone is working everywhere right now. It’s very globalised. I think that the opportunities will come."
Remember when Penelop Cruz wowed us in the musical Nine?
QU: Do you have another project that you’re working on now, Fernando?
FT: "I’m writing a script right now. I have one finished and I'm writing another. It started as a documentary. I shot 160 hours for this, but then I decided that it was just the research part and that I was going to turn the footage into an animation. I have another finished script too — a kind of romantic thriller. I always loved Hitchcock movies and Patricia Highsmith novels — not the adaptations — and I would like to try with this screenplay to venture into that kind of territory."
QU: Fernando, when you won an Oscar, you thanked Billy Wilder. Would you call him a patron saint of your movies and this particular film as well?
FT: "Well, he’s always there for me. I have dreams with him. Recently, I had one of the most incredible dreams of my life. I was in a hotel room in New York and it was very old, like a [Edward] Hopper painting. He was there and he was telling me, ‘Fernando', as if we were friends. 'If you want, I can help you with a script', and I was like, 'really? Thats the best gift of my life! Thank you so much. Oh my god, seriously?' 'Yeah, yeah, we can work here. Come every afternoon and we will work on the script…'
And at that moment, I woke up and it’s 3 in the morning or something, completely dark. Then I fell asleep again and went back to the hotel and he was there. I told him, 'You know? We have a problem. This is a dream. You are dead, so we can’t work together, we can’t make it.' 'But you came back, you're here!' 'Yeah, but I just fell asleep again. But I will come back tomorrow and every day.'
Then he realised that he’s dead. He said, 'Anyway, I want you to know that I’m here.' And when I woke up, I said to my wife, 'Can you believe this? I had this dream today.' It was incredible. The mind and dreams…"
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So far, The Queen of Spain has only been shown in Spain and at Berlinale 2017, but fans of Trueba and this unforgettable cast should keep their eyes peeled for when La Reina De España makes a royal entrance on international shores.