Back in the 1980s, the life I led was flamboyant. I was a singer, I was modelling, I was writing, I was making films. Spain had just become a democracy again and the freedom of those years made it possible for me to work independently — to give substance to the characters that filled my movies.
Rossy de Palma, Antonio Banderas and I were just part of the nightlife. I cast them both in their first film roles: him in “Labyrinth of Passion” (1982), and her in “The Law of Desire” (1987). I met Penélope Cruz in 1992 after she debuted in the film “Jamón, Jamón”. She was a revelation, and I knew I wanted to work with her, which I first did when I made “Live Flesh” (1997). She had a small role — only eight minutes — but it brought out her beauty and humanity.
We all established a bond by promoting our films; you strike up a close relationship when you spend 24 hours a day together. Travelling with anybody can be extremely uncomfortable, but with them it’s more human. There are people you see at these red carpet events around the world, and maybe we give the impression that we’re all great friends — that it’s all hugs and kisses and “I’ll call you for lunch” — but we’re really not.
So I have this stable group that I work with, but I only ever put a face on a character once I’ve finished the first draft of the script. After that, I can start to build the film around the actor, and I know that the necessary chemistry will kick in. For example, Penélope and Rossy will be in my next film, “Parallel Mothers”, and that gives me an enormous sense of security. Rossy’s the person who keeps me up to date about the impression our films make on young artists, and Penélope always has an eye on me, the way any selfless daughter would behave with a father she adores.
I’ve become more reclusive over the last 15 years — I’m still interested in what’s going on, but I’ve decided to give up the physical, sexual and chemical excitements — and that’s why quarantine didn’t take me by surprise. Writing was my escape from the terrible reality we were living through, but I missed dinners with friends and going to the cinema and to the theatre, which are things I’ve always done with the three of them.
I’m a product of these relationships and of the era that’s been mine to live in.