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Álex de la Iglesia • Director

“I reclaim dignity, because it is undervalued nowadays”


- The vibrant former president of the Spanish Film Academy talks to Cineuropa about As Luck Would Have It, starring comedian José Mota and Mexican thesp Salma Hayek

Álex de la Iglesia • Director

After his turbulent stint as president of the Spanish Film Academy, Bilbao-born director Álex de la Iglesia is back behind the camera – after his brutal film The Last Circus [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Álex de la Iglesia
film profile
– with As Luck Would Have It [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Álex de la Iglesia
interview: Álex de la Iglesia
film profile
, a more modest film, a European co-production with a €3m budget, starring comedian José Mota, Blanca Portillo, Juan Luis Galiardo and Mexican actress Salma Hayek. In this film, De la Iglesia fiercely rails against the crazy times that have befallen us.

Cineuropa: Did you feel like making a more low-key film, after the excessiveness of The Last Circus...?
Alex de la Iglesia: Yes, this is a smaller film, in terms of characters and dialogues, but it’s odd because it’s also about a circus: the media circus. I changed the screenplay so that the main setting was a Roman theatre: I liked the idea of the protagonist falling in the middle of a stage, with the mayor there for the opening and the director of the museum present, so the lively forces appear and give it a more social tone, a Berlanga-esque tragicomedy.

As Luck Would Have It is one of the few films by you that you haven’t written.
I did the adaptation, even though I don’t appear in the credits. The writer, Randy Feldman, has written a lot of commercial cinema (for Stallone and Van Damme) and he had this cursed screenplay. I read a lot of screenplays that I get sent, but I never like them. This one was a very unusual case, because I really loved it.

What was it about it that you liked so much?
Its subject matter appeals to me: a man trapped in an extreme situation; a bloke locked in a situation where if he is released, he dies. I felt I had to tell this story because we’re all like him: as if on the brink of death.

Why are today’s media, especially television, so interested in tales of death and misfortune?
I don’t know. I think they should be allowed to focus on what they want, but I’m concerned by the exclusiveness of it. It frightens me that there is only that, just like those mottos they use frivolously: "It’s what people want" or "We have the television, press and cinema we wish for". No mister, we have what we get given and we can! We’d like to have many more alternatives and there are some, but this is cheaper and more effective, but it isn’t the only one.

Religious iconography usually appears in your films. Do we need martyrs to redeem us?
Yes, there is a bit of that: there is a scene where I position the protagonist as if he were on the cross. It seems that we need an exorcism, a kind of revolt for us to become aware of things. If someone doesn’t sacrifice themself, we don’t realise that the situation is extreme. Therefore, sometimes Mota seems like a Christ surrounded by bastard Romans and people who make him suffer. Salma Hayek is also a bit like the Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene: she is by his side, attentive to him.

Could the crisis in values become more dangerous than the economic crisis?
Yes, a festival director said this: he wasn’t worried that there was no money for the next edition, but he was worried that nobody cared that culture was disappearing. This is also in my film: Blanca Portillo defends a Roman theatre, full of gems of history, which people demolish out of a thirst for news. But the film is hopeful and it reclaims dignity, which is undervalued nowadays.

Has your experience as president of the Spanish Film Academy been useful to you creatively?
I feel like filming and I have ideas. I’ve realised that the important thing is to create products: doing things instead of talking about them.

See also


Basque Cannes
Ex Oriente Film
Jihlava Film Fund

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