An international star for many years, Sergi López (Vilanova i la Geltrú, 1965) has never stopped working in Spanish cinema. Blue-eyed boy actor of directors including Manuel Poirier, Miguel Albaladejo, Isaki Lacuesta and Marc Recha, he has also worked under the direction of Terry Gilliam, Stephen Frears and Guillermo del Toro. López just recently premiered in “La boda de Rosa”, the latest film by Icíar Bollaín, where he plays the brother of Candela Peña and Nathalie Poza. In addition, he has just finished filming “Rifkin’s Festival”, Woody Allen’s latest movie produced by THE MEDIAPRO STUDIO, Gravier Productions and Wildside, scheduled to inaugurate the San Sebastian International Film Festival on 18th September. We discussed all these issues with Sergi, as well as awards, comedies, confinement, and aging.
“La boda de Rosa” is the story of a woman who wants to get married, and her announcement to her family. Rosa wants to continue caring for others, but also to start thinking about her own happiness. Was it this message that hooked you when you read Icíar Bollaín’s script?
Yes, the fact that Rosa (Candela Peña) dares to take stock of her personal situation. Nowhere is it written that your role in society has to be secondary and that you always have to serve others and be aware of the happiness of others. Icíar manages to talk to us about all these issues with humor, in a light tone that immediately connects with audiences.
Bollaín’s watermark (“Take My Eyes”, “The Olive Tree”) is very present throughout the life of Rosa and those around her, including your character, her brother Armando.
Icíar is a filmmaker with a unique hallmark. And, as I said before, she’s a brave woman who dares to narrate her stories from the perspective of what is a new genre for her; comedy. But without becoming insignificant or banal as a result. Hers is a voice that interacts with the public.
The film also deals with what is commonly referred to nowadays as ‘managing emotions’. Without going any further, Armando’s emotions, who is in the process of separation, and is constantly concerned about communication with his children and about his work.
In theory, in our society, men have been assigned the role of problem solvers. It has to be effective and solvent, regardless of everything else that’s going on. And where are our emotions? Why in this macho society do we associate emotions with women, with women who, in addition, are considered weaker than men?
Just prior to appearing in “La boda de Rosa”, you’d already walked in the shoes of parents concerned with their kids’ wellbeing in “Staff Only”, by Neus Ballús, and in “The Innocence”, by Lucía Alemany. Have you seen yourself reflected in these three parental roles?
For example, Armando is different from me, but, at the same time, we have certain things in common. We’ve both had to deal with the rearing of our children, a task that comes along without an instruction manual.
Are you more of a comedy actor than a drama actor? Despite the fact that you’ve played far more dramatic characters throughout your career, do you think that knowing how to make others laugh is a gift, a super power?
I have a friend who reminds me that, even before I started acting, I used to make him laugh. It’s true that a sense of humor is a gift, and it might even be considered a super power. I like the definition!
You just finished filming “Rifkin’s Festival” and working with Woody Allen. What was that experience like?
Well, I didn’t have that many scenes in the movie and the moment I arrived on set, I was explained about the whole protocol: that I shouldn’t talk to Woody Allen directly and that kind of thing. But, of course, I took charge of breaking protocol. After all, I’m from Vilanova i la Geltrú! So, let’s show it! Woody, who is now quite elderly, would sit in his corner, very still and focused, but when they yelled “action!”, he’s be up and become someone else. He has a great sense of pace and comedy, and despite not understanding Spanish, he told us to keep rolling, not to stop, not to take breaks. It was amazing to see his eyes light as he watched us work! He’d be laughing; he’d be cracking up. At the end of all my scenes, and despite everyone telling me about his reputation for being standoffish, he’d approach me to congratulate me on my work. Woody Allen’s greatest asset is his talent to make you laugh even when dealing with serious issues such as suicide or love. He is a specialist in downplaying all kinds of issues.
Are you aware that you are one of the protagonists of one of the most exceptional European movies in recent years, critically acclaimed and loved by audiences? I’m referring to Alice Rochrwacher’s “Happy Lazzaro” (2018).
Yes, it’s a movie that really touches you deeply on an emotional level.
Let’s move on to the issue of sheltering-in-place. How was it for you? Good? Bad? Regular?
My intuition immediately told me that if we couldn’t leave the house, it was best not to go out. And do you know what I did, among other things? I watched more movies than ever at home! Two, three or four a day. That saved me during lockdown. Once again, life was smiling at me. One of the ones I liked the most is “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (2019), by Céline Sciamma. It’s amazing.
A regular nominee for both Goya and Gaudí awards, but which have as yet eluded you, do you think you will finally win one with “La boda de Rosa”? You won the French César Award for “Harry, He’s Here to Help” (Dominik Moll, 2000), among other awards, but in Spain, you’ve been unlucky.
Yes, yes, I’m the perpetual nominee. I don’t know, when it’s my turn, then it’s my turn. I know that people don’t believe me when I say that I couldn’t care less about awards. The ones that really worry me are all those comedians who are suffering because they can’t find work. That’s really serious.
You’ll be celebrating you 55th birthday this coming December 22. How do you feel? Better than at 20 or at 30?
I’m better than ever! Not so much physically of course. You get older, your health is not what it was when you were younger, I’ve taken my knocks over the years … But you see: I have people by my side who love me, I have a fantastic job and more professional offers than I can take on.