Master filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s deeply personal Pain and Glory received it Canadian Premiere at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival on Friday 6th September at Ryerson University’s theatre. The venue held a special significance for the film’s star, Antonio Banderas, as he revealed to the TIFF audience following the film’s screening.
“Sometimes life is just very surprising in many different ways,” Banderas began, “the creation of this character, this is very interesting, very weird, the creation of this character started nine years ago and it started here in this theatre. Let me explain this, for twenty two years we didn’t work together, Pedro and I. Of course we have been friends for all that time. He called me to do The Skin I Live In and I came to the rehearsals with a backpack, with a suitcase, filled with American experiences and I put that on the table and I said Pedro ‘this is who I am now, this is the actor that i am now. I’m like this in front of the camera, I work with my voice, I do this face and I have all these new tools.’ And after several days rehearsing he kind of said to me ‘well, that must be very useful for your American directors, but it doesn’t work totally for me.’ I was living at his house and he said to me ‘where are you?’ And so at the time, the shooting of The Skin I Live In, he was always creative, he’s my friend and we respect each other of course, but it was more tense than normal. But then I came here and for the first time I saw the movie with an audience in this theatre and I just couldn’t believe the capacity that Pedro had to bring out of me a character that I didn’t know I had inside, so it was a big lesson and it was always in mind over these years whether I was going to work with him again or not.”
Banderas continued, “so when I received the script of Pain and Glory, I couldn’t believe it. That my friend and the director I respect the most out of my entire career trusted me to play his alter-ego, and we started a process where I put aside aside all my medals, all my American tools, and we started from scratch to create this character. Two and half years ago I suffered a heart attack and it’s one of the best things to happen in my life because it showed me what’s important in life. You see your family, you see your friends and you see your journey, the vocation of being an actor. Pedro is very perceptive and he said to me in the rehearsals ‘you know there is something that changed in you since you had that cardiac event and I don’t want you too hide it, I want you to expose it in the character I think it’s going to be good for the character.’ I knew exactly what he was talking about. So I tried to just put it up front and to renounce everything that I did before in a way and I tried metaphorically to kill ‘Antonio Banderas’ to be him.”
“I remember that,” added Almodóvar, “I saw one picture of you very recently after the surgery and I was happy in sense that I found pain in your face. The image of Antonio of course is someone very healthy, good looking and sexy and all that. But that picture, I could see that he had the experience of pain and that was very important for the character, because the character doesn’t talk so much about it, even me as a director I didn’t want to be complaining, yes respecting the people who really are suffering for many diseases that are out there, much worse than for the character in the movie. What I needed wasn’t his natural bravura, his natural passion. Another rhythm and he understood that when he read the script. For me it was a real spectacle to watch him changing and doing things that I never saw him doing.”
Pain and Glory received its Canadian Premiere at TIFF 2019 and opens in US theatres on 4th October 2019.