Premiering at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was director Sergio Castellitto‘s Twice Born. Based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Mazzantini, the film stars Penelope Cruz as a single mother who returns with her teen son to present-day Sarajevo where her son’s father (Emile Hirsch) died during the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s. As she tries to repair the relationship with her son, new revelations force her to rethink everything. The film also stars Mira Fulran and Jane Birkin and you can watch the first trailer here.
Before the world premiere, I landed an exclusive interview with Penelope Cruz. We talked about a broad array of things, such as premiering at TIFF, social networking and email, why she wanted to make Twice Born, the type of research she does for a role, rehearsals, how many takes she likes to do and the way Woody Allen works, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Pedro Almovodar‘s I’m So Excited (where she finally works with Antonio Banderas) and more. In addition, with Cruz currently filming Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor, we talked about why she signed on to the project and who she plays. Hit the jump for the audio and transcript.
As usual, I’m offering you two ways to get this interview: you can either click here for the audio or the full transcript is below.
PENELOPE CRUZ: Very good. And you? I remember you.
CRUZ: I don’t know from where, but I know…
It was one of the Woody Allen junkets in Los Angeles.
CRUZ: And what paper do you write for?
I run an online site called Collider, its like a movie website.
Do you go online to read about movies a lot?
CRUZ: I go just to read the paper, read some websites about movies, and some websites about babies, that’s it.
That’s the life?
CRUZ: I don’t do Twitter, Facebook; none of that. My email I do from my Blackberry or my iPhone.
CRUZ: I like the Internet, but I’m also careful with it.
Well, a lot of people when they open the door it can be a flood of negative and positive, you know?
CRUZ: Yeah, it’s not a good thing to Google your name.
I definitely want to ask you about being a part of the Toronto Film Festival this year. Obviously you’ve been here in the past. What does it mean this year and with this film?
CRUZ: I’ve always enjoyed being here; I like very much the energy of this festival. You know, it’s a very good place for distribution, but it’s also a great celebration of movies, but it doesn’t have the competitive aspect. Even if part of it is competition, but it doesn’t feel like that. So, I think that’s in the air, you know. Its different from all the festivals that – I’m not saying anything negative about them, because they are what they are, but it feels much more competitive.
CRUZ: Si, but not here.
What was it about this particular project that got you involved with it?
CRUZ: The book. I wanted to work with Sergio [Castellitto] again, because we did Don’t Move together and it was a really beautiful and intense experience. But I felt as fascinated by this book as I did with Don’t Move. Margaret Mazzantini, his wife, she wrote both books and I think she’s an amazing writer. And I really connect with everything she writes, and with her way of seeing life. She’s given me these two amazing characters.
As an actor how you typically prepare for each of your roles – what is the most research you’ve ever done for one role?
CRUZ: I try to do as much as possible for every character. Some of them it is easier to do the research because you have either real examples that you work with, maybe some specific person that inspires you in that case, or the performances from other people, or the characters, or a character from a book. But, in this one I had my book to follow, it was like the bible. And I had my three books on the set in English, in Italian, and in Spanish; all of them full of notes. Because I was shooting in English and in Italian and none of them are my first language. But, I had the book there with all the answers, and I had the author on the set every single day. But in terms of the research, I had to prepare with the dialect coach, because I spoke English with an Italian accent. Then I had to prepare with the other teachers for the Italian, to refresh my Italian. And I had to really just spend a few times trying to really, really get Gemma inside of me.
CRUZ: We didn’t rehearse, because Sergio doesn’t, doesn’t like to rehearse either. We talk a lot. We talk a lot and we go to Italy before and we spend time together. For example, in Don’t Move he bartered and I bought the clothes for my character, we bought the clothes together for Italia. And the clothes were, like the sweaters that I wore were like one Arrow sweater; really, really scratchy. And we chose the things together. For me it was a very symbolic thing that we did together. A lot of things came out of that shopping trip that we did together. I will never forget that day. And that’s the way we work. We go there. Here we went to Sarajevo two times, and it was very important also to spend time there, to understand – to try to understand a little bit more that war, which is not easy. But it was important to be there and hear it from the people that went through it.
A lot of actors prefer the two-take method of Clint Eastwood –
CRUZ: Not me. (laughs)
A lot of actors like the David Fincher method of fifty takes.
Yeah there’s some people that are crazy.
CRUZ: I prefer in-between.
What do you typically like to do? And what’s the most you’ve ever done?
CRUZ: I think probably the most I’ve ever done is thirty, twenty-five if something was going wrong with whatever. Normally, I’m happy around eight.
That’s a good number.
CRUZ: But now I’m used to working with directors that only like doing two.
CRUZ: Like Woody. And sometimes he’d try to check the gate after one take, but I remember I never let him. I ran up to him and I said, “You can not have me going home like this, because I’m going to have a nerve attack. How can we know we have it in one take?” “Oh no, but it was perfect, I have it.” “Ok, but for me, for my peace of mind let me do one more.” He never said no. He is really kind, he is really respectful to everybody else, but he knows when he has it. And then and I know he saw it was right. And if he thought that was the take he liked, unless you really surprised him with something different. It’s like Ridley [Scott]. They are machines, the way they have the whole movie in their head. It’s incredible to see them work.
Before I run out of time with you, I know you’re filming in London now. What was it about that project – was it the script, was it Ridley, was it the actors? How did you get involved with The Counselor?
CRUZ: I read the script, and after three pages I was completely blown away by how new this feels. It’s Cormac McCarthy’s first script. Not based on any book, its just a script. And it’s an incredible piece for actors, all the characters are incredible. All the scenes are very long scenes, a lot of dialogue, scenes that have a beginning and a transition. You can travel with each scene, you have the space and the time to really go through a journey with each scene; and that, for actors, it’s a big privilege to have scenes like that. Then we started talking about it and playing Laura, who is one of the–how do I tell you without saying?
Yeah, I don’t want you to spoil it.
CRUZ: Yeah, but it’s a character that has always chosen the light. Has very particular ideology, is a very religious woman, or has been educated like that and is starting to have doubts about some things. Or, also starting to feel a curiosity toward the darkness. Also knowing that there is a very big, real danger there. Life is putting her in that situation where she’s tasting the darkness.
Do you do an accent in the film?
CRUZ: No, I’m a European girl from Spain that is living in America.
Do you typically have most of your scenes with one of the other cast members? You have an incredible cast.
CRUZ: Most my scenes are with Michael Fassbender and with Cameron Diaz. And I don’t have any scenes with Javier.
[laughs] That’s very funny.
CRUZ: But for us it is better, we could do every movie like this, because then always one of us can be free. You know? We don’t have to be working in the same day. (laughs)
I also want to ask you before I run out of time with you, you were a part of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, obviously this is a major thing that Disney wants to make another one. Have you heard anything about another one?
CRUZ: No. I haven’t heard anything. I haven’t read a script, I haven’t heard anything.
Did you have a lot of fun making the last one?
CRUZ: I loved making that movie. Because, Johnny is an incredible human being. He’s a very good friend, and he’s always been so good to me. And you know, that was a very special time for me because I was pregnant through the whole movie and the way Johnny and Rob Marshall were with me, the way they protected me, the way they took care of me, I will never forget in my life. And I love them for that.
So basically if they call and say, “We’re making another” you’re in? Or is it you need to see the script?
CRUZ: No, it’s not that. With Johnny and with Rob; its like, anything. But I don’t mean movies. I consider them my friends. And I really love them and respect them.
You’ve done so many great roles have been part of so many really great movies; when you’re waiting in line at Starbucks, what do people typically always want to talk to you about? Is there one particular role, or one film?
CRUZ: It’s strange, it could be a role or it could be the most strange question you can imagine. And, I’m trying to remember what is something really weird. Most of the times people are very nice, very respectful, and say really nice things to you. But once and a while you get a just peculiar, strange comment. Or like when they try to put you on the phone to talk to their aunt or to talk to somebody in their family. And you don’t really know what to say to that person, and you know, and you’re there waiting in line and talking to some stranger. And then, usually “Hello,” and they say “No!” and they hang up on you. “Sorry, I didn’t call in the first place.”
My last question for you; you’ve made, or you’ve finished filming with Pedro [Almovodar] on an upcoming film, what can you tell people about it?
CRUZ: This is our fifth movie together. And it;s actually the opening of the movie, it’s two scenes that Antonio Banderas and myself do together to open the movie. It’s like collaboration in the film. But it is the first time that we are together in a movie, Antonio and I. So we are happy that Pedro is the one that has put us together and the three of us are really wanting to do a film together.
Are you just in the opening of the film, or are you in the whole movie?
CRUZ: No, no. Antonio and I have two scenes in the beginning of the movie, and create a big problem that I can’t talk about, and then we just disappear.
I want to thank you so much for your time today.
CRUZ: Thank you.
Really, congratulations on this, on Twice Born.
CRUZ: Thank you so much. I’m very happy you liked it.
I really did.
CRUZ: I really like the movie. I loved seeing it yesterday with the audience. I think Sergio did a great film.
It’s really good. I didn’t realize that the initial first cut was four and a half hours, and they cut it down to two hours, two hours and ten minutes.
There’s so much more of the story that I would love to see.
CRUZ: Yeah, and I mean, what I’m really proud of, that’s Eduardo Cruz, my brother.
He did the soundtrack.
CRUZ: That’s his score that he’s done, the soundtrack. I think it’s amazing. He’s twenty-seven years old, and I’m so proud of him, I’m blown away by what he’s done.
I really do want to see the stuff that’s cut out thought, I’m very curious about it. I mean that’s twice as long.
CRUZ: It’s two more hours, yeah.