Pedro Almodóvar’s dark mystery “Julieta” (December 21, Sony Pictures Classics) is Spain’s Oscar submission this year. After he introduced the Hitchcockian “tough drama” at Cannes, the storied Spanish auteur and Oscar-winner (original screenplay, “Talk to Her”) sat down with me to discuss Hitchcock, adapting Alice Munro, and the woman who was originally set to play the title character: Meryl Streep.
Check out highlights from our conversation and video below.
“Hitchcock is always present,” said Almodóvar of the master of suspense’s influence on “Julieta,” including “Strangers on a Train.” “Even if I don’t think about him, he’s like the mother of the cinema.” Ditto Patricia Highsmith, the oft-adapted novelist whose books have provided a template for countless writers and filmmakers hoping to thrill their audiences.
The writer-director, who’s humble about his command of the English language and prefers to work in Spanish, explains that the first draft of “Julieta” (like Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle”) was written in English and was supposed to be made with Meryl Streep playing the “mysterious woman” at every age. But he abandoned shooting in Vancouver or New York in favor of his native country.
“I apologized to Meryl,” he said, while looking forward to someday working with her and other actors he admires in America. “I think that one day I’ll do it,” he said of making a film in English, though it would most likely be a literary adaptation — working from preexisting material would be more “comfortable” than starting from scratch.
Besides, he could add to Munro a “sense of guiltiness” or “awful moral sickness” in a Spanish setting, where he truly understands the culture.
As for the music of “Julieta,” Almodóvar says he wanted something simple in the vein of Toru Takemitsu, the revered Japanese composer who collaborated with Kenji Mizoguchi and Akira Kurosawa. Putting all these influences and elements together is “always an adventure” that “takes time,” said Almodóvar — something he thinks Hollywood doesn’t always have time for.