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Pedro Almodóvar Pitched ‘Parallel Mothers’ to Penélope Cruz During ‘All About My Mother’ Days

Almodóvar, Cruz, and co-star Milena Smit spoke about their long-gestating melodrama ahead of the New York Film Festival's closing night.

“Parallel Mothers”

Courtesy of the Venice Film Festival

Pedro Almodóvar is back in fine form with his latest melodrama, “Parallel Mothers,” which stars his muse Penélope Cruz and breakout Milena Smit as a magazine photographer and a teenager whose newborns are switched at birth. In the movie, which is the closing night selection of the New York Film Festival, Cruz found herself reuniting with her longtime director, while Smit landed in the film as a discovery off Instagram. But according to Cruz at the New York Film Festival press conference on Friday morning, “Parallel Mothers” is actually a long-gestating film, as its genesis dates back more than 20 years ago, from around the days of 1999’s Oscar-winning “All About My Mother.”

“The first time he shared with me something about this story, we were here in New York, and doing press for ‘All About My Mother,'” said Cruz, who in the film forms a fascinating bond, via an erotic twist, with Smit’s character. “He told me a few things about this story that changed, evolved a lot into something else, but that was the root of the story.”

Cruz said that “when we were in total lockdown, we did one of our calls, FaceTime, and he told me, ‘Oh, by the way, I took this story out of the drawer and I’m writing it again and I’m thinking about you for the character.’ Imagine during the lockdown, we didn’t know what kind of future, we had no idea. We knew nothing. And then he gave me this injection of hope and excitement and knowing that would be the plan, for us to do these wonderful stories together. Maybe from all the times he has shared those stories with me, this is my favorite.”

Cruz has worked with Spanish director Almodóvar on seven films. Her first role with him was 1997’s “Live Flesh” (opposite her now-husband Javier Bardem), followed by “All About My Mother,” “Volver,” “Broken Embraces,” “I’m So Excited,” “Pain and Glory,” and “Parallel Mothers.”

“For me, it was the only way [to get through the pandemic], to write, to escape from the reality,” Almodóvar said. “Around me, I could see the newspapers every day. Huge tragedies… [but] actually it was more productive than before because during the confinement I could be much more concentrated. I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t see anybody.”

“He’s writing all the time, even when we are traveling or promoting one film, he’s sometimes writing three scripts at the same time. I don’t know how he does it, but he’s been like this since I met him,” Cruz said. “When we are shooting, I think he is happier. Writing, shooting, post-production, traveling around the world with the movie, he’s happier in those processes.”

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