“I don't get involved with my actors. I don't get so involved with the films. If
I lived like my characters, I would have been dead before I made 16 films.”
Oscar-winning filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, the most internationally popular and
important Spanish director since Luis Bunuel, garnered rave reviews for his
acclaimed films All About My Mother (1999) and Talk to Her (2002). He is also
the brain behind such films as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988),
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), Bad Education (2004) and Volver (2006).
The openly gay, celebrated auteur, who often uses symbolism and metaphorical
techniques to portray circular storylines as well as often portrays strong
female characters and transsexuals in his films, recently released Viva Pedro, a
theatrical re-release of eight of his greatest films.
"All my movies have an autobiographical dimension, but that is indirectly,
through the personages. In fact, I am behind everything that happens and that is
said, but I am never talking about myself in first person singular. Something in
me -probably a dislike of cheap exhibitionism- stops me from approaching a
project too autobiographically." Pedro Almodóvar.
Childhood and Family:
In the small town of Calzada de Calatrava in the impoverished Spanish region of
Ciudad Real, Castilla-La Mancha, Pedro Almodóvar Caballero was born on September
24, 1949 to a humble family. His mother, actress Francisca Caballero and his
younger brother, actor and producer Agustin Almodóvar (heads of the Almodóvar
brothers’ production company El Deseo), often appear as cameo in his films.
Francisca, who appeared in Almodóvar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
and Atame! (a.k.a. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!), died in September 1999.
When he was eight years old, Almodóvar migrated with his family to Cáceres in
Extremadura, another Spanish province. In 1960s, he attended a Catholic boarding
school run by Salesian Fathers and the Franciscan friars, where some of his
friends were abused by priests. Almodóvar, who asserted that he himself was not
abused, later used his experience as the inspiration for his later film, Bad
Education (2004; a.k.a. La mala educación).
“I do remember having extreme physical fear of the priests. One of the things we
had to do was kiss the priest's hand, which I found revolting. The notorious
abuser, who eventually had to leave, had this harem of about 20 boys.” Pedro
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!
"Already when I was very young, I was a fabulador. I loved to give my own
version of stories that everybody already knew. When I got out of a movie with
my sisters, I retold them the whole story. In general they liked my version
better than the one they had seen." Pedro Almodóvar.
17-year-old Pedro Almodóvar arrived in Madrid, where he made a living by selling
used items in the flea-market called El Rastro. The aspiring filmmaker initially
wanted to study filmmaking but could not afford it. Besides, the filmmaking
schools were shut down in the early 1970s by Franco's government. He then worked
at the National Spanish Telephone Company Telefónica where he worked for twelve
years as an administrative employee. He saved his salary to buy a Super 8 camera
and began making numerous short super-8 films with the help of his friends. His
first short film was shot in 1974, called Dos Putas, o Historia de Amor que
Termina en Boda (a.k.a. Two Whores, or a Love Story Which Ends in Marriage).
During that time, Almodóvar devoted his time acting with theater group Los
Goliardos, where he met Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas. He also wrote comic
strips and articles for various underground Spanish magazines like Star, Vibora,
and Vibraciones, and was the lead singer for the infamous punk-glam-rock parody
duo Almodóvar & McNamara (with Fabio McNamara).
In 1980, Almodóvar’s first mainstream feature, Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas
del montón (a.k.a. Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls on the Heap), made in 16 mm
and blown-up to 35 mm for public release. He wrote the initial script of the
film in 1978, when he worked for Telefónica. It is inspired by the punk film Bom
("Alaska") which follows three girls, Pepi (Carmen Maura), Luci (Eva Siva) and
Bom (Olvido Gara) who live in Madrid during the punk era. Almodóvar’s first
commercial film was eventually regarded as a document of La movida, the
post-Franco punk scene that developed in Madrid.
Following his first success, Almodóvar retired from Telefónica to direct,
compose and perform score for his next film, Labyrinth of Passions (1982; a.k.a.
Laberinto de pasiones), a camp melodrama/comedy starred by Cecilia Roth and
Antonio Banderas. Later that year, he attracted attention outside of Spain for
the first time with his third feature, the dark comedy Dark Habits (a.k.a. Entre
tinieblas). He also made his first international hit with the 1984 drama comedy
What Have I Done To Deserve This? (a.k.a. ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer ésto?),
which involves jokes about paedophilia, prostitution and a telekenetic child.
After forming production company, El Deseo, with brother Agustin in 1985,
Almodóvar created the thriller-drama Matador (1986; starring Antonio Banderas
and Assumpta Serna) and drew criticism for depicting unprotected gay sex in his
first explicitly gay film, Law of Desire (1987; a.k.a. La ley del deseo;
starring Banderas and Maura). He also made his biggest US success with the
1988’s comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (a.k.a. Mujeres al borde
de un ataque de nervios). The film, which again stars Banderas and Maura,
brought Almodóvar to widespread international attention. It was nominated for
the 1989 Academy Award for Best Foreign-language film and won five Goya Awards,
including Best Film and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Maura.
Entering the new decade, Almodóvar made his fifth and last collaboration to date
with Banderas in his offbeat Spanish drama Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990; a.k.a.
¡Átame!). He then directed Marisa Paredes and Victoria Abril in the family drama
High Heels (1991; a.k.a. Tacones lejanos) and cast Verónica Forqué to play the
title role in the drama comedy Kika (1993). He also appeared in the documentary
charting Madonna's world tour "Truth of Dare" in 1991 and became member of jury
at the Cannes Film Festival in 1992.
In the mid of the 1990s, Almodóvar began departing from his typically comedic
story lines for The Flowers of My Secret (a.k.a. La flor de mi secreto; starring
Marisa Paredes). The film, which grossed $1 million in the USA, earned Almodóvar
and Paredes nominations for Goya awards, Best Director and Best Actress,
respectively. In 1998, Almodóvar revealed continued attraction for austere and
sober narratives with the noirish crime drama Live Flesh (a.k.a. Carne trémula),
which was very loosely adapted from Ruth Rendell’s book with the same name. The
film, starring Javier Bardem and Francesca Neri, won a 1998 Goya Award for Best
Supporting Actor (José Sancho).
1999 saw Almodóvar with his finest and most mature film to date, All About My
Mother (a.k.a. Todo sobre mi madre). It won the 1999 Academy Award for Best
Foreign-language Film and seven Goya Awards, including Best Film, Best Director
and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Cecilia Roth. The film was also named by
Richard Schickel of Time Magazine, among other critics, as the best of the year.
Almodóvar then followed it up with another acclaimed project, the romantic drama
comedy Talk To Her (2002; a.k.a. Hable con ella). The film, starring Javier
Cámara, Darío Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, and Rosario Flores, won the 2002
Academy Award for Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and the 2003 Golden
Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
"The education we received was about guilt, sin, punishment." Pedro Almodóvar
(on his experience in a Catholic boarding school which he based his film Bad
Education (2004) on his time there).
In 2004, moviegoers saw Almodóvar’s experience in Catholic boarding school,
where his friends were abused by priests, into the feature Bad Education
((a.k.a. La mala educación). The film, which consists of sexual abuse by
Catholic priests, transsexuality, drug abuse and a metafiction, was opened at
the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. It earned Almodóvar an Independent Spirit Award
nomination for Best Foreign Film.
“Bad Education (2004) deals with my own biography. It took time to remove myself
from it. Now it's not me. I changed the tone of the story, but the main
situation is the same. Pedro Almodóvar (on why it took 10 years to finish the
Almodóvar’s latest project was the bitter-sweet comedy Volver (2006), starring
Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura and Lola Duenas. The film, which competed for the
Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, received rave reviews and gathered
a standing ovation when it won two awards: Best Actress (shared by the six main
actresses) and Best Screenplay.
More recently, Sony Pictures Classics presents Viva Pedro, the theatrical
re-release of eight of Almodóvar’s greatest films. It will open in New York and
Los Angeles in August and expand throughout the United States in Fall 2006.
“Cinema has become my life. I don't mean a parallel world, I mean my life
itself. I sometimes have the impression that the daily reality is simply there
to provide material for my next film.” Pedro Almodóvar.
BAFTA: Best Foreign Film, Talk to Her, 2003
BAFTA: Best Original Screenplay, Talk to Her, 2003
Oscar: Best Original Screenplay, Talk to Her, 2003
Golden Globe: Best Foreign Film, All About My Mother, 2000
BAFTA: Best Foreign Film, All About My Mother, 2000
Oscar: Best Foreign Film, All About My Mother, 2000
Cannes Film Festival: Best Director, All About My Mother, 1999
Venice Film Festival: Best Screenplay, Women on the Verge of a Nervous