After blockbuster comedies It’s Now or Never or Don’t Blame Karma on What Happens to You for Being Asshole, director María Ripoll (Barcelona, 1964) gets a little more melancholic to tell us the story of a man who yearns to seek out his young love in Vivir dos veces (Live Twice), which opens in theaters on 6th October. The elderly man, who’s showing the early signs of senile dementia, is played by the excellent Argentine actor Óscar Martínez, and his daughter is embodied by Inma Cuesta. The director of Traces of Sandalwood and Your Life in 65 tells us about her passion for discovering different cultures, castings, women and cinema, and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), the actress she gave her first leading role to back in 1998.
What’s the symbolism behind the movie title, “Vivir dos veces” (Live Twice)?
Well, life has at least two stages. And despite what we’ve been told, sequels are always good. There is no end and we are always beginning.
The screenplay was written by María Mínguez, but it’s really a very María Ripoll-like story, right?
I feel absolutely identified with the script. I read many, and it touched my sensibility. It has four very well-defined leading characters. In cinema, we don’t usually talk about the people who have lived a long time and have a lot to share with us. We don’t respect the elderly sufficiently. Since writing and publishing together with Elisenda Roca the book of short stories Dos mujeres desnudas (Two Naked Women) I feel more and more compelled to write my own screenplays. Even though it doesn’t appear in the credits, I always rewrite the scripts.
Was it difficult to convince Óscar Martínez?
In fact, I began to believe in this project when Oscar Martínez told me that he wanted to be involved. Can you imagine! The star of The Distinguished Citizen! Then, we talked face to face, and, at the end of our conversation, Oscar said he felt as if he had known me all his life. During filming, I suggested things to him, and he responded with a “Let’s give it a try”, thanking me for the suggestion. So, in addition to a great actor, he’s a fabulous person.
Óscar Martínez and Inma Cuesta were safe bets to play Blanca, the granddaughter of one and daughter of the other, you chose Mafalda Carbonell, daughter of Pablo Carbonell.
At first, this character was a little older, she was 15 years old and the casting call lasted ages before we found an actress, that even my daughter attended. When Mafalda appeared, she improvised a little and she blew our minds. We decided to lower Blanca’s age, and I called Inma Cuesta: “I have the girl, it’s your daughter and she’s out of this world.” Mafalda doesn’t act, that’s just the way she is, and it was perfect for Blanca, who is always answering back and against everything. Mafalda speaks to you as if she were an adult. Prior to the film, Mafalda had been on the TV show, The Houdini Club.
How would you define Vivir dos veces?
It’s a road movie about a dysfunctional family. A mixture of drama and comedy, now referred to as dramedy, that makes you laugh and cry. It’s also the story of an elderly man searching to rekindle a love from yesteryear. In the initial script, senile dementia was not discussed so deeply, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to address the issue in a little greater detail.
You enjoy filming, you always say so.
Yes, I have a good time during shooting. I love it because it’s very cool to create a life. With this movie, I also rediscovered Valencia. On top of that, I did so with a great artistic and technical team by my side. The best thing about my job is discovering different cultures. Right now, I’m preparing my new project in Mexico.
A question for fans of Game of Thrones. You directed Lena Headey, which GoT fans know plays Cersei Lannister in the famous series, in your first film, If Only… (1998). What was Headey like then?
The best actress in the world, very cute, an angel! I was facing my first casting, and she was starting out on her career. We were both very nervous, but, after the casting, I said: “We have our lead.” The producer answered that we still had other candidates to read for the role, and I repeated: “We have our lead.” Lena works in such a natural way that it’s like she’s doing nothing in front of the camera. It’s incredible. Then, you look at the footage in the editing suite, and see that she does. And does a lot! There are two types of actor: those who enjoy filming and connect with you, and those who are always on the defensive. Lena belongs to the former group, the same group as Óscar Martínez or Inma Cuesta. We kept in touch for a few years, but she is now a star living in L.A. and is one busy woman.
You also had the chance to direct a living legend, Raquel Welch, in Tortilla Soup (2001).
Raquel is a fighter from head to toe, and, when she learned that we were going to shoot a film about a Latin American family living in the United States, and that they weren’t wet backs, but rather they lived in US society without a glitch, she wanted to get involved in Tortilla Soup. All Latinos in the US feel identified with the protagonists. Raquel, who is very funny, brought so much of herself to her character, because her father was Bolivian. By the way, American producers earned a lot of money: $30 million.
Now, fortunately, we have many directors in Spain. When you started, it wasn’t like that. What has it been like for you to live through this development?
I’ve taken it all in my stride. At present, not only do we have more women filmmakers, but we also have more women involved in film crews and projects. You see, in addition to resilience and being so hard-working, women have an additional quality, we know how to work as a team. And cinema is, above all, teamwork. In Vivir dos veces, the director of photography is a woman, the art director as well, costume manager, and makeup…