Penélope Cruz first met Pedro Almodóvar when she was cast in his 1997 film, “Live Flesh.” Almodóvar had originally wanted her to star in “Kika,” but Cruz was too young for the role. The director promised her he would write a character for another movie, and he did. It would mark the beginning of their many collaborations, the most recent of which is “Parallel Mothers.”
“He told me about it 18-20 years ago when we were doing press for ‘All About My Mother,'” but he never talked about it again,” Cruz says. When the pandemic hit, the actress got a call from Almodóvar, who said he was writing the story for her. Almodóvar didn’t recall their earlier conversation, but Cruz did. “I don’t forget anything he shares with me,” she laughs.
Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast recently spoke with Cruz about “Parallel Mothers,” working with Almodóvar and much more. Listen to the episode below.
“Parallel Mothers” is about two single women who meet in a hospital room where they are both going to give birth. One is middle-aged and doesn’t regret it, while the other is adolescent and scared. The two women form a strong bond with one another as they both confront motherhood.
Cruz received the script and recalls being moved by the story of this mother put in a difficult position. “To have the permission to do that with a character, but also with good motivation behind it because she just doesn’t want to lose what she loves the most, I feel grateful,” Cruz says. “I thought, ‘What an incredible homage to motherhood through these very different mothers.’ He doesn’t judge that are put in very extreme difficult situations. And I just fell in love with Janis. What happens to her is so unexpected and so we can say is not something that happens very often in life.”
Cruz was just awarded the best actress award by the LA Film Critics group. She calls her relationship with Almodóvar “a fairytale,” and credits him for her finding an agent when she was starting out as an actress, and inspiring her to go to theater school.
Cruz also talked about her roles and what she’s drawn to. “I try to do stuff that is as different as possible from myself from each other,” she says. “I don’t want to do the same thing twice.”
But Cruz did say she would like to explore doing TV again and entertained the idea of working on another musical. “I’m always telling Pedro we have to do a musical together because imagine what kind of musical he would do? It would be incredible. Every time I tell him, he’s like, ‘I know you’re right. But I don’t know maybe one day.'”
Up next for Cruz is 2022’s “The 355,” starring Jessica Chastain and Lupita N’yongo. Cruz, who plays a psychologist, teases the story is both clever and funny. But importantly, it was about seeing women leading a film in the spy genre. “I love seeing all these women together,” she says. “I think it is one more step into a direction that we will see more of.” She adds, “It’s really hard to find something like that where the leads are five women.”
Also joining the podcast is actress Tessa Thompson, whose film “Passing” has received critical acclaim. The actress shares what struck her about this story, working with director Rebecca Hall, her process for stepping into the character of Irene, her love for Shakespeare and her thoughts on the “Sex and the City” reboot.
Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast is hosted by Clayton Davis, Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Jenelle Riley and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in movies. Michael Schneider is the producer and Drew Griffith edits. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week.