Penelope Cruz first fell in love with director Pedro Almodovar at the age of 16, when she snuck in — then too young to see an R-rated film — to watch 1989’s “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!”
Since then, they’ve worked together on seven projects, and she’s served as his muse in everything from 1997’s “Live Flesh” to 1999’s “All About My Mother” and 2006’s “Volver.”
Their latest project, “Parallel Mothers” premieres as the opening night movie at the 78th annual Venice Film Festival on Wednesday. Before the film’s gala, Cruz and Almodovar appeared at a press conference together at the Palazzo Del Casino, where they talked about their 24-year working relationship.
Cruz said that she doesn’t lobby Almodovar for new parts, but waits to see if he envisions a role for her after he’s done with a script.
“I respect him too much to bombard him with requests,” Cruz said. “I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be able to work with him so many different years, seven different projects.
“When he calls me, it’s the call that makes me the happiest. He’s the reason I started to work as an actress.”
The 71-year-old Spanish director admitted that Cruz is the first actor he’ll consider for a meaty role if there’s a character in her age range.
“I admire her very much as an actress, but what I want say the most is it’s very important to me that we understand each other,” Almodovar said. “We speak the same language. I’m a very demanding director and she gives me everything I ask her.”
Cruz said that Almodovar spends months making himself available to actors before a movie starts shooting, so they can build the characters together from the ground up.
“Sometimes he says to me that I suffer too much when we start filming,” Cruz says. “There are some things when you take your job seriously, you have to really discover parts of yourself.”
Cruz recalled that when she read the script for “Parallel Mothers,” in which she plays a woman grappling with her duties as a mother, “I said to myself, Pedro has once again written a piece which is a wonder.”
“It is a very difficult character,” Cruz said. “I think it’s one of the most difficult characters I’ve interpreted. But I never felt like I was alone.”
The poster for “Parallel Mothers,” which features a lactating nipple, has created a stir on social media after it was momentarily banned from Instagram. Almodovar, who described ring-wing politicians as “vulgar” and “low level,” spoke about why he wouldn’t respond to political critics of the envelope-pushing themes in his film.
“The right wing and the far-right wing in Spain I would prefer not to think of that, because I don’t want to anticipate anything,” Almodovar said. “They react to everything with a sort of delirious [response]. So I guess there will be a reaction to this. But I will not think about that. Not because I don’t want to be part of the battle. It’s a battle that will simply not take place because we are condemned to not understand each other.”
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