How Cruz and Bardem split life and work

Farhadi wrote Cannes opener roles with couple in mind

by Richard Mowe

Javier Barden, Asghar Farhadi and Penélope Cruz
Javier Barden, Asghar Farhadi and Penélope Cruz Photo: Richard Mowe

Working together is a carefully rationed bonus for Spain’s golden couple Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, together in Cannes for the Festival’s opening film from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi.

Farhadi united them for Everybody Knows, in which both become caught up family deceits and dark deeds. Cruz confirms that neither of them are affected in their home life by whatever emotional situations are sprung on them in the day job.

Penélope Cruz
Penélope Cruz Photo: Richard Mowe

“We have worked together a few times but we don’t take the characters home at the end of the day. We both started very young but when I was in my twenties I thought the more I tortured myself and the more I would stay in character for months the better the result would be.

“I have realised that it is not related to that and I have a life and a job, and that allows me to jump many times in one day from reality to fiction and I love that dance going back and forth from both dimensions.”

She does not think it would help the performance to pillage things from her private life and bring them to the table. “The fact that we know each other and trust each other so much definitely helps but at the same time it is not something we would do every two years. We would work together once in a while if we feel it is right.”

Farhadi wrote the film with the two of them in mind, going back over a five year period. “We would see each other on and off and we would hear about the story and then we got a script,” explained Cruz. “We saw the way he works and the time he takes. Then two years ago he came to live in Spain and he had a Spanish teacher every day with him. He was living the culture. It is a different way of working to most other people. He was like a sponge, soaking up how people live and talk.”

Javier Bardem
Javier Bardem Photo: Richard Mowe

Cruz recalled that the director was able to pick up on any mistakes in the Spanish dialogue because he had memorised all our lines. “He doesn’t sleep much … You could never fool him. He did not take it lightly coming to another country and culture. He was totally dedicated. Apart from his talent he puts enormous energy and work into it so that you forget that this an Iranian director making a film in Spain and in Spanish.”

Farhadi, who previously has worked in French on The Past with Berenice Béjo, explained that working in a different language and culture was always difficult. “What I did was to focus on what is in common. I do believe that contrary to what the media says, human beings are not so different when it comes to culture and feelings. We are all basically the same - love, hatred and anger are feelings that you find in all corners of the world. It is just the modes of expression that vary with the culture.”

As a post-script to his media gathering, Farhadi called on Iran to allow his fellow director Jafar Panahi to be allowed to accompany his film Three Faces to the festival. Until now he has been banned from leaving the country. The Golden Camera prize winner at Cannes for his 1995 debut The White Balloon, has been barred from leaving Iran since 2010 after being found guilty of "colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic." Farhadi concluded “I hope the decision will be made to allow him to come to see the reaction to his film at first hand.”

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