Two of Spain’s finest character actors – Eduard Fernandez (pictured, right) and Jose Coronado – are set to star in “El hombre de las mil caras,” a Warner Bros. Entertainment release in Spain.
A Spanish skullduggery imbroglio, “Mil caras” marks Alberto Rodriguez’s follow-up to noirish serial killer thriller “Marshland,” which ticked multiple boxes over 2014-15 and has now scored nine nominations, including picture, director, screenplay and actor (Javier Gutierrez) at next week’s Platino Ibero-American Film Awards.
A jury prize and best actor (Gutierrez) at last September’s San Sebastian, “Marshland” swept this year’s Goya Awards, was a Spanish box office hit €7.5 million ($8.25 million) for Warner Bros. and has sold to every major territory abroad, including the U.S. in a recently announced deal with Outsider Pictures’ Todo Cine Latino (TCL). Gutierrez now faces off for a best actor Platino Award.
In another sign of a “Marshland’s” success, “Mil caras” teams Zeta Cinema with not only “Marshland’s” distributor Warner Bros. but also its producers Atresmedia Cine, the film production arm of broadcast group Atresmedia, José Antonio Félez’s Atipica and Gervasio Iglesia’s Sacromonte. Film Factory handles international sales.
In one of its first announced film acquisitions, Movistar Plus, Telefonica’s new pay TV brand after anti-trust authorities cleared its acquisition of Canal Plus, has Spanish pay TV rights to “Mil caras.” Atresmedia and Andalusian pubcaster Canal Sur share free-to-air rights in Spain.
Based on a real-life story, “Mil caras” has Fernandez (“The Skin I Live In,” “Biutiful”) as Francisco Paesa, a Madrid-born Spanish spy, arms-dealer, subterfuge maestro and playboy who shopped Basque terrorist org ETA, selling it traceable weaponry, is believed to have fraternized with GAL, a government-inspired anti-ETA hit squad, dealt with the Russian mafia, and is credited with an attempted coup d’etat in Ecuatorial Guinea. Having staged his own death in Thailand, he now most probably lives in Paris, where “Mil caras” will go into production July 20.
Budgeted at €5 million – high now by Spain’s standards, “Mil Caras” will shoot on location for 11 weeks in Madrid, Paris, Geneva and Singapore.
“Mil caras” catches Paesa in the 1990s ruined, shopped by his own government but still supported by his faithful friend Jesus Camoes (Coronado). He is approached by Luis Roldan (Carlos Santos), a former head of Spain’s Civil Guard, with a scheme to get Roldan out of the country and safeguard $10 million which Roldan has pilfered from public funds. Marta Etura (“The Impossible”) plays Roldan’s wife.
In a modern world forged by emerging markets and the attempts of formal democracies to escape from an authoritarian past, Rodriguez has found a rich source of artistic inspiration exploring the recent past of Spain, a country whose transition to democracy from the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 was once held up as a model of democratic progress. Though Spain’s democracy has brought multiple essential benefits, the depth of that transition is now being questioned.
Set in 1980, “Marshland” portrayed some limits to change – the impunity of its ruling classes, for instance. Unspooling 14 years later, in “Mil caras” “there’s an incredible metaphor about corruption, about the enormous ability that we have, in Spain, to generate para-political people who are not part of the government or state but seem to be more in control of the country than politicians themselves,” said Francisco Ramos, who produces for Zeta Cinema, along with Antonio Asensio.
Film noir – where the true villain is part of the establishment – is one film type apt for an exploration of the limits of democracy. The espionage thriller – where, as Atresmedia Cine’s press release comments, appearances deceive, traps, lies and pacts constitute character’s hallmarks – yet another.
“Mil caras” d.p. will be Alex Catalan, who won San Sebastian and Goya best cinematography kudos for “Marshland,” and is now in the running for a Platino Award.
Also nominated: Rafael Cobos, Rodriguez’s near career-long co-scribe on “Marshland” and now “Mil caras”; and “Marshland”/”Mil caras” editor José Moyano and art director Pepe Dominguez.