Why 'Official Competition' reunited Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz

Sergio Burstein, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

"Pedro brought us together; it couldn't have happened any other way," Cruz said, referring to Almodóvar, the enfant terrible turned eminence terrible of European art-house film. "But we had only had one scene together in 'I'm So Excited!' and in 'Pain and Glory' we were separated."

"In this case, communication was very easy, because we know each other very well," she continued. "The biggest difficulty was that you had to cut many times due to one of us laughing, including the directors and members of the production team, because this is one of those intelligent comedies that are not made frequently."

Beyond getting to work with Banderas, the role piqued Cruz's interest because it allowed her to play a filmmaker.

"I know a lot about this world, because I've been in it since I was 13 or 14 years old, but this was a kind of weirdo that I was able to create as if it were my own Frankenstein, using references that did not correspond only to women or people linked to cinema but also to other fields of art," said Cruz, who has directed some short films and a documentary. "But of course, I can't name them, because I don't think they would be very happy to know this."

Banderas relished the challenge, and the ironic analogs, of portraying Félix, an internationally famous and prolific Spanish actor who has triumphed in Hollywood, despite (or perhaps because of?) his arrogant and impulsive temperament.

"That was not a problem for me," Banderas said of the role. "In fact, when we received the script, Penélope and I proposed to directors Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn that they come to my house in London to work on the script and thus be able to contribute details that were added to the film, basically about behaviors that we have seen in film rehearsals and that have to do with ego and vanity. We laughed a lot remembering things we had seen and things we had done."


Cruz echoed her co-star's praise for Duprat and Cohn, who made their mark internationally with "The Distinguished Citizen," a 2016 dramatic comedy starring Martinez. "Both of them have a very smart, very acidic, very elegant sense of humor, and despite the input we made, the script remained completely theirs," Cruz said.

In building her character in her latest film, Cruz wanted to give Lola a distinctive look to suit her relentlessly attention-seeking persona.

"She is a very careful egomaniac, and quite insufferable," she summarized. "However, when playing her, I couldn't judge her but had to defend the reality of her," although if she met someone like that in reality, "I would run away."

"The way she looked was very important, because she's kind of a scarecrow who's making a 'statement' all the time, from the clothes she wears to the way she combs her hair to the way she walks. Deep down, I see her as a scared girl."


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