The Deadbolt Interview
THE DEADBOLT: How would you describe your character in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides?
PENELOPE CRUZ: I play a pirate called Angelica in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Angelica is very tricky, manipulative and dangerous when she has to be. She loves games, but she has a good heart and she has a religious background with very strong values, so she’s full of contradictions.
THE DEADBOLT: Exactly how manipulative is Angelica?
CRUZ: Angelica knows that to be the equal of people like Jack Sparrow, she has to be a very good liar, a very good actress and a very good manipulator. I think that’s what makes the character so interesting. In order to get what she wants, she knows that she has to manipulate people.
THE DEADBOLT: Is Angelica successful at manipulating Jack Sparrow?
CRUZ: Angelica has a personal score to settle with Jack, but at the same time she needs him because they are both on a mission together. They spend the entire movie tricking each other, but at the same time they help each other, too.
THE DEADBOLT: How did you approach such an interesting relationship?
CRUZ: It was great fun to create this fantastic relationship by working with Johnny Depp. Whenever we work together, we always end up playing characters that fight. We played a married couple in a movie called Blow where we fought in every single scene. And in Pirates Of The Caribbean, we fight a lot, too. We’re always playing enemies that love each other.
THE DEADBOLT: How would you describe Johnny Depp?
CRUZ: One of the things that surprised me the most about Johnny Depp is the fact that he’s incredibly humble. He’s extremely kind to everyone and he’s very sweet, but he also has a really brilliant mind. He’s smart, clever, fast and funny. In fact, he’s one of the funniest people I know. However, he also has a very big heart.
THE DEADBOLT: Angelica dances the tango with Jack Sparrow in the movie. Were those scenes fun to film?
CRUZ: Johnny was a little scared about the tango. At first, he kept saying, “I’m not going to be able to do this. I’m not a good dancer. I can’t dance!” But then he learned the choreography in two minutes. He’s a great dancer with a fantastic sense of rhythm. I guess that isn’t surprising when you consider the fact that he knows how to play a lot of instruments. He’s a very good singer, too.
THE DEADBOLT: Johnny Depp has talked about Rolling Stones star Keith Richards being a huge inspiration behind Jack Sparrow. Who inspired your pirate, Angelica?
CRUZ: Angelica isn’t inspired by anybody you would know. I looked at people around me who are very bossy, or people who are very good liars and are very manipulative. These inspirations aren’t actually pirates in real life, obviously, but they are still good inspirations. Most of them wear a suit and a tie, but they are like pirates in other ways. I was inspired by a lot of people like that.
THE DEADBOLT: It sounds like making the film was an adventure in itself.
CRUZ: It was exactly that. One of the beautiful privileges of this job is that we get to travel so much and to discover beautiful places. Film shoots take us to places that you would never see if you weren’t making a movie. We’re very lucky.
THE DEADBOLT: Both your brother and sister are listed on the credits of Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. What was their involvement in the project?
CRUZ: My brother, Eduardo, is an amazing musician who wrote the beautiful tango music in the film. And my sister, Monica, is an actress and a dancer who is very good with swordfights because she had done some in a movie before. By the end of the film shoot, I was six months pregnant so we needed a little extra help. Monica very generously came in and covered for me.
Izumi Hasegawa Interviews Penelope Cruz
Izumi Hasegawa: Interviewing Woody Allen, it was funny to hear him talk about the scenes where you’re arguing with Javier [Bardem] in Spanish, and Woody had no idea what you were saying until he went back to edit the film and got someone who could translate. How freeing is it for you, as an actress, to be able to do stuff like that, without worrying or caring what the director thinks?
Penelope Cruz: No, he cares a lot, but he trusted us. He trusted all the actors to improvise – sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish. He didn’t do it only with the Spanish. Sometimes he would say, “Okay, just turn it around and you know what the message is that the character has to send, of course, but just use the words you think she would use in that moment.” Once in awhile he would do that, or he would ask for us to… He said, “Do what you think Maria Elena would do, going back from English to Spanish, whenever you feel it’s natural.” And I did a lot of swearing [Laughs] – sometimes too much – and I was a little bit worried about what he was going to think when he discovered [Laughs] some of the things that were said. But we did no looping. There was no ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement - ‘dubbing'] so I think he was happy. And normally he does just a couple of takes. Sometimes, if he doesn’t get it, he will do up to five or seven, but the median is two – sometimes just two takes, check the gate [final camera check], and you’re doing a scene that is five pages of dialogue for one shot. There is no coverage and he knows exactly. I mean, you have to be very secure, and he knows what he wants. He has the whole movie, the whole map in his head.
IH: So would you ever say, “I want to do it again?” Did you ever say, “Can I do it one more time?” when you were shooting takes?
PC: Every single time. [Laughs] I drove him crazy with that. [Laughs] The last day, I think he’d run out of patience, because he was so sweet and so kind, and he always said “yes” to one more take [Laughs]. But the last take, the last day, I could not stop because it was the end, and it was a difficult scene, and I said, “Please, one more.” “Okay, do it one more time,” and then we finished the last take and we were going to check the gate. I think it was the scene before last, before ending the movie, and he was nowhere in sight. [Laughs] We said, “Okay, cut,” and I was looking for Woody, and he was hiding from me. [Laughs]
IH: Now is that insecurity on your part, because you’re still finding your way in American films, or…?
PC: I’m always like that on the set. As soon as I finish the take, I come up with something I think is better that I should have done but didn’t, and if I don’t get to do another take, I torture myself for the rest of the day, and then I remember everything from every take, from every scene. I remember all the takes. So I have like a machine, the Avid, the editing machine in my head [Laughs]. I don’t think that’s good for my health or for my work. [Laughs]
IH: Can you improve that? Can you get rid of it? I mean, [Pedro] Almodovar [director of Volver], I think, talked to you about that, trying to get you to free yourself…
PC: I do the same with him. I always ask for one more take…
IH: Where did that come from, that need for you to really do more and more and better yourself that way?
PC: Since my first movie, I’ve been like that, probably with the insecurity of the actor and what happens when you relax after the take, then always you come up with something you couldn’t see when you were tense, because you were in the middle of it.
IH: You and Javier have a relationship that has gone on for years and years in the picture that we don’t see. Did you guys get a back-story together? Did you discuss it? I mean, how did you work…
PC: You mean Juan Antonio and Maria Elena? What happens to them before the movie? It’s all what Woody does with the actors, and he’s very open to whatever method the actors can have, very respectful. But sometimes I would go up to Woody with a book of notes on the past of Maria Elena [Laughs] and he would laugh at me [Laughs], but not in a mean way. He’s respectful. But I had drawn monsters and things, and all the past [Laughs] of what happened when Maria Elena was told she was a genius, and who told her that, and how that ruined her, and how that has made her live for so many years stuck in this victim role, because she thinks she’s too special to be happy, and she thinks if she stops suffering, she won’t be as talented, because she needs to be the tortured artist and self-destructive. So I had a whole thing about these theories, and he would look at it and say, “Let me ask you this,” over the notes. He said, “I think it’s great that you do this but, really, things are going very well. I think you don’t need to…” [Laughs] But he’s so charming and adorable and kind…
PC: No, second.
IH: How was it working with him this time? Because you guys have to speak English and Spanish. How joined are you guys in relation to this film?
PC: It was great, and he’s an amazing actor. And I think it always comes from the director, too, for this is an ensemble movie, and it’s always whatever the director creates – the atmosphere the director creates for all the actors. Woody is very different from everything else I know. But I love his system because, even if there are no rehearsals, you never feel that he’s not there for you. He sees everything, and you feel that your director is taking care of you.
IH: He actually wrote this for you in a way, didn’t he?
PC: I don’t know…
IH: He said yesterday that you heard he was going to make a film in Barcelona and you wanted to be involved, and he kind of thought of you when creating this character. Are you surprised by that?
PC: He has to tell me that story because I don’t know. [Laughs] I think my agent called him and said, “We heard you’re shooting in Spain. Do you want to meet Penelope, because she would love to work with you…” Something like that happened, and then we met in New York and we had a 40-second meeting…
IH: Forty seconds?
PC: Yes [Laughs] and he told me, “I saw Volver and I loved it, and I’m writing something, and if it keeps going in this direction, it could be great for you. So I’ll let you know in a few weeks.” [Laughs] “Thank you very much.” [Laughs] There is no bullshit with Woody, which I love. He did say, “Good morning, it’s very nice to meet you.” And as soon as I started getting to the, “Oh my God, I loved Deconstructing Harry…” [Laughs] “…I love all the movies…” he said, “Mmmm, no.” He’s so honest. He’s the most honest person I know. Somebody asked him in Cannes about a country – I’m not going to remember this story – but somebody asked him about a country, and he didn’t like the time he spent there, and he told us the funniest story. It’s so honest. I mean, you always feel like, “Did he really say that?” And he’s like that all the time. But I left the meeting smiling because I thought he was really himself and honest and charming. And when I said, “I would love to work with you,” he said, “Well of course.” [Laughs] Then, a month later, I was in Paris and I got this phone call that said “Woody wants you to make the movie,” and I was very happy… and happier when I read the script. I said, “Oh my God, he’s giving me such a treasure.” This is such a really beautiful character, and complicated, and with a subject that I’m very interested about and with somebody that is emotionally very unstable. I wanted to explore that and try to understand Maria Elena’s reality, and not just play her like a crazy person. She’s defending her reality, which, for her, is equally as important as the person in front of her, and I wanted to do it from there.
IH: We heard that when you were filming in Barcelona, there were many people watching you guys. Could you talk about filming on location in the city and the crowds of people?
PC: People were nice and very helpful, and they allowed us to shoot in locations that are very difficult to get permits, and yeah, there was a lot of expectation because of Woody coming to Spain. People wanted to see him; people really love him there.
IH: Did you show the Americans a good time in the nightlife? Because he finishes pretty early at the end of the day, right?
PC: No, Woody came to the wrap party and that was a big deal, but…
IH: What about the American actors in the movie?
PC: Honestly, everything went so fast, there was not a lot of time, but I felt like I was doing the most serious drama that I had done in my career. Then, when I saw the movie in Cannes, I said, “Why are they laughing?” [Laughs] And I understood that when I read the script, but preparing Maria Elena and then playing her for those few weeks, I forgot. I was suffering with her, and I think probably Woody was laughing about that, too, about how seriously everyone was taking everything, because all the characters are suffering and struggling. And I think that’s why those scenes are so funny, because Woody managed to make all of us forget that we were doing pure comedy. For us, we were doing drama.
IH: Maria Elena and Cristina like the same guy, but she still mentors her with the photography. Of course, they’re all attracted to each other, but I thought that was really nice, and I wondered if, in your life, you’ve mentored a sister or someone who wants advice on a career, or how do you relate to other women who might want your help/advice?
PC: I don’t like very much giving advice, especially in interviews, because it always sounds like, “Who are you to give advice to anybody?” [Laughs] But with things related to acting, if I have to get specific, it will always be about saving time to study, to prepare your characters, to have your time for months, for trying to understand who that person is – because that’s when I feel happiest about the work. The part that gives me a lot of happiness is the preparation time and, a few years ago, I was just going from set to set, like four movies a year. I don’t enjoy that anymore. I’d rather do one a year or maybe two, if they are not too long, but I have my time to prepare.
IH: But I meant a woman in your life, like a younger sister or someone you have helped with their career. Have you done that…?
PC: No, because in my family, we all help each other with everything. We are very close, but I don’t have like the role of the older sister. In how annoying I am with them, yes [Laughs] because I am the oldest and I’m always protective of my brother and sister, but with the rest, with the work and all that, everyone knows what they want to do.
IH: Speaking of preparation, how are you preparing to play in Rob Marshall’s new film?
PC: God, I am so excited about the movie. I did many auditions, singing and dancing, and I trained for 17 years dancing in my life. Now I get to use it in a movie! And I love the character and will be singing many hours a day and training. We’re going to record with an orchestra and I think that’s going to be an amazing experience for me, because I love music.
IH: How’s your singing?
PC: They say it’s good and they gave me the part, so now I have to do it. [Laughs] But I have to work very hard. We’re going to be training very hard. I’ve already been taking lessons, but now it’s going to be many hours a day.
IH: What does it mean to you to work with Woody Allen in Spain?
PC: I was very excited about working with him, but even more about him coming to my country. Everyone was very excited to have him there.
IH: And what do you think about your character? Do you have something in common?
PC: I don’t ask myself that question. I just try to understand her and go from there and try not to judge her, and that’s what I try with all the characters. By the way, when I said that about the singing, that “they” think I sing good, I meant Rob Marshall and the people who have given me the character.
IH: Do you sing one song in the movie or more than one?
PC: More than one.
IH: Did you see the play?
PC: Yes, I saw the play. Eight and a Half is one of my favorite movies of all time, because Nine is based on Eight and a Half, and I love Carla. I love this character.
IH: Isn’t Javier starring in it?
IH: But you have a very huge cast for that movie. I think Daniel Day-Lewis is in it.
PC: Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Judy Dench, Sophia Loren…
IH: But who’s playing the director?
PC: Daniel Day-Lewis.
IH: When do you actually start filming? Do you go straight into that right now in the rehearsals?
PC: I have to promote both movies – Elegy and Vicki Cristina Barcelona, and then I go into the rehearsals for Nine in London.
IH: How different a character is this one from the character in Elegy? I know that’s opening here soon as well.
PC: So different. Consuela is very put together. She’s very mature for her age, very centered, focused; she knows very much what she wants. What we have in common is that she can also feel everything very much, the good and the bad. But I really like the movie. I was obsessed with the book. I love Phillip Roth, and I was blown away by Ben Kingsley. I think he’s an amazing actor.
IH: And what does he bring to the table? What qualities did you see in him that excited you on the set?
PC: Just times of truth, all the time. There is nothing he does that is fake, and I can’t imagine anybody else playing that character. I was attached to the project for five years – before all the directors – and I don’t imagine anybody better than Isabel and Ben. Isabel did a very honest movie, I think.
IH: When do you start work on Nine?
PC: As soon as I finish the publicity for both movies, because one comes one week and the other the week after; then it’s England.