Old friends make movie magic

For “Broken Embraces” star Penélope Cruz, the key to working with two of the world’s most celebrated and meticulous directors — in this case, Spain’s Pedro Almodóvar, and, for last year’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” Woody Allen — is the ability to adapt.

It was Almodóvar, her longtime confidant and collaborator, who helped Cruz earn the first of her two Oscar nominations, for her captivating starring performance in the slyly comical family drama “Volver” (2006). Yet it was her tempestuous supporting turn in “Vicky Cristina” that won her the statuette.

How would she compare the two?

“They’re both great,” says Cruz, 35, “but their approaches couldn’t be more different. Pedro loves to rehearse for months. Woody doesn’t even like to rehearse on the day of the shoot. He gives you amazing freedom to do what you want. ‘You want to do this take with your back to the camera? You want to do it upside down?’ He’s open to anything.

“But I know how Pedro works, and I want to give him my best because he puts so much trust in me. Both directors are very supportive of their actors. And it’s your job to adapt to their unique styles.”

Although she calls her relationship with Allen “wonderful,” Cruz describes working with Almodóvar, who directed the current “Embraces,” as a more intimate experience, one that benefits from a fast friendship formed nearly two decades ago.

“I met Pedro when I was 17, and I was too young for the script he was writing at the time,” she says. “He told me he would write something else for me, and then we did ‘Live Flesh’ [in 1998]. Even then, we had something more than a working relationship. We liked each other from the beginning. He’s one of my closest friends.”

In “Embraces,” Cruz plays Lena, an aspiring starlet who falls for Mateo, her director, with tragic results. Did the Madrid-born actress draw on her feelings for Almodóvar in playing the part?

“The dynamics of our relationship are different than Lena’s and Mateo’s, but yes, I was inspired by Pedro,” she says. “When we were rehearsing, he would read lines with me, and without planning it, we ended up acting out scenes together. There was one scene we did, with Pedro taking pictures of me, looking at me in a mirror. In that scene, I wasn’t seeing my director, I was seeing one of my best friends.

“In six months of rehearsing and shooting, that was my favorite moment, those seconds I spent looking through the mirror at Pedro.”

If you go

Broken Embraces

Starring Penélope Cruz, Lluís Homar, José Luis Gómez
Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Rated R
Running time 2 hours 7 minutes

artsentertainmentMoviespenelope cruzSan Francisco

Just Posted

Danielle Baskin, right, and friends hung a Halloween store banner on the sign of a mostly empty tech campus on Monday as a prank. (Photo courtesy Vincent Woo)
‘BOOgle!’ Pranksers wrap Google’s SF office park in ‘Spirit Halloween’ signage

The goof says it all about The City’s empty tech campuses

Alison Collins, a member of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education, listens during a board meeting. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Alison Collins speaks: Embattled SF school board member confronts the recall effort

‘It’s important for folks to know what this recall is about. It’s bigger than any one of us.’

Passengers board a BART train at Powell Street station on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Powell Station death serves as a grim reminder. BART doors don’t stop for anyone

What you need to know about safety sensors on the trains

Is the Black Cat affair a distraction from the recovery of The City’s storied nightlife industry or does Mayor Breed’s behavior inadvertently highlight the predicament the industry’s been in since San Francisco reinstated indoor mask requirements on Aug. 20? (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner, 2021)
Mayor Breed mask controversy highlights nightlife businesses’ plight

‘It’s what all the venues and bars are living every single day’

If he secured a full term in the Senate, Newsom would become the most powerful Californian Democrat since Phil Burton at the height of his career, or maybe ever. <ins>(Kevin Hume/The Examiner)</ins>

Most Read