Career-long collaborators actor Antonio Banderas and director Pedro Almodovar return with The Skin I Live In. Banderas stars as a plastic surgeon whose ambition goes far beyond simple nips and tucks. With the aid of a new kind of burn-proof skin he has developed, the evil surgeon alters his victim into someone very different, someone very close to the doctor. Although the film revolves around Almodovar’s usual array of transgender transgressions, the director is out for a certain sinister darkness this time, rather than comedy.
Herewith, Antonio Banderas and seven observations he had playing the mad surgeon.
1. Almodovar likes to strip his cast naked, metaphorically speaking:
“He doesn’t allow the suitcase that you bring filled with acting tricks. He throws that suitcase out the window. He makes you totally naked in front of the work. That can be very painful.” [laughs]/i>
2. Almodovar likes rehearsing, a lot:
“Pedro loves to rehearse, which is not very common for movie directors. Some of them do a little, some of them prefer not to. A month and a half prior to principal photography, he started modelling, little by little, the characters we were portraying.”
3. Banderas’s lead role as the demented plastic surgeon was all about restraint:
“Pedro wanted the character to be economical, versus the very complicated narrative. This allowed the character to be unpredictable. Another reason was the psychopathy of the character, a guy who melds very well within the society he lives in.”
4. It seems people are always surprised when discovering that a psychopath lives next door:
“Normally they say, ‘Oh, no, he was a very nice guy. He used to go to church on Sunday and dress very well.’ But he has five guys mutilated in the fridge.” [laughs]/i>
5. Banderas had a multifaceted, non-judgmental approach to playing the role of evil doctor:
“First of all, I didn’t want to establish a moral judgment on him. Second, it was not to carry the whole of perception of what he is, good or bad, like a backpack over my shoulders. I couldn’t play it like that. What I did was just to try to make natural what isn’t natural. I don’t think that this guy thought, for a second, what he was doing was bad.”
6. On the changing public reaction to Almodovar:
“When we opened Law of Desire [Almodovar’s 1987 openly gay film] it was a revolution in Spain. People wanted him crucified in the middle of the street at the time. But, you know, the best ally of Pedro Almodovar is time.”
7. On the difficulty of artists gaining recognition in their homelands:
“With Spain, it’s not only Almodovar. Look what we did with Picasso! Many, many of our artists end up living in other countries or are half exiled. Spain is a country of many, interesting, out-of-the-blue geniuses who are not accepted on their own turf. It’s a part of our greatness and our misery.” [laughs]/i>
This interview has been condensed and edited.
The Skin I Live In opens in select cities on Friday.