Respected and admired in the world of cinema (“The Bar”), television (“Aída”) and  theater (“El disco de cristal”), Secun de la Rosa (Barcelona, 1969) makes his directorial debut on July 23rd with “The Cover”, a story of success and failure, and of risking a career on stage … just in case it all goes terribly wrong. Or maybe it works out. This is a tribute to and a declaration of love for artists, whether they’re famous or unknown, from four singers who perform in venues in Benidorm, played here by Àlex Monner, Marina Salas, Carolina Yuste and Lander Otaola. Can fear of failure frustrate our dreams? This is only one of the questions posed by a movie jam-packed with details and anecdotes provided by the director, who has even reserved himself a minor cameo in a scene.

How long has the project “The Cover” been around?

I’ve had the idea to do the project for years. After so many years staging my own plays, I hoped to make my first film, to make the leap to cinema, talking about something that interests me a lot; guerrilla artists. And what art is and what it isn’t? I wanted to tell a story somewhere between the naive, in a good way, and risky on a formal level. Kike Martínez, from the producer Nadie Es Perfecto, got involved and we went to talk to Universal Music about the song. And they liked the project, which was very important, because there’s a lot of music in “The Cover” and music is expensive. In addition, these are all live performances.

You start shooting in Benidorm and then the pandemic hits …

Yeah, we had to stop, and rethink not only the filming, but also rewriting some of the   subplots. Then, more recently, I caught COVID, so between one thing and the other, between what we narrate in the film and what happened to us while we were shooting it, we couldn’t be more excited. And to top it all off, I don’t even mention half the obstacles we encountered in interviews: shooting with masks, with the elderly… It’s not worth it. Let’s think positive. No more suffering. Now let’s see how the theatrical release goes, after the Malaga Festival, where it was very popular.

These adventures and misadventures of the four main characters, played by Àlex Monner, Marina Salas, Carolina Yuste and Lander Otaola, take place in Benidorm. What is the Benidorm you portray like?

From the beginning, I decided to defend Benidorm, its aesthetics and its way of being, and not to cultivate ugliness. It would have been too easy to fall into that pitfall. I also make an uncompromising defense of artists who perform at venues around the city.

Carmen Machi, Secun de la Rosa and Àlex Monner. “The Cover”.

Let’s talk about the characters. In the center, Dani, played by Àlex Monner, who we’ve seen recently in the series “La línea invisible” (Movistar+) and “Unauthorized Living” (Mediaset).

Dani is a man who’s grieving, who doesn’t have a fucking cent and who has a complicated relationship with his grandfather, a waiter played by Juan Diego. Among many things, the movie is a tale about losers, illuminated in neon lights. Dani’s parents were e-popping ravers from the early 80’s and 90’s underground club scene in Spain. Will Dani now make a place for himself among the world of artists? Will he build his own personality and repertoire? Will he dare to perform before the public? We’ll find out in the end. I know that directors with whom I have worked assiduously, like Álex de la Iglesia (“The Bar”, “30 Coins”, “Witching and Bitching”) and David Serrano (“Soccer Days”, “Días de cine”), would have taken this same story from “The Cover” to other realms. Alex would undoubtedly have made things much wilder, and David, more comical. All things considered; I think the film has a certain air of Berlanga.

Marina Salas, who plays Sandra, is not a discovery for audiences, but certainly a confirmation: she can do everything, and do it well.

I really like Marina, and, in fact, “The Cover” was not the only project we’ve worked on together. We were planning to make a theatrical production of “My Dearest Señorita”, based on the film Jaime de Armiñán shot in 1972 with José Luis López Vázquez and Julieta Serrano. Sandra has all my favorite lines from the movie, like the one that states Benidorm is a place where failure is tolerated. There were other lines for her that we couldn’t fit in, in the end. Another sentence in the mouth of Sandra, and that becomes the leitmotif of everything that is told: “Your drive must outweigh your fear”.

Àlex Monner and Marina Salas. “The Cover”.

Drawing a parallel between the fiction you’ve penned and your reality. When did you personally say, “I’ve made it, I’m earning my living from this being an artist lark”? Do you remember that moment, that year, series or movie?

Firstly, I should point out that I’m stubborn as a mule, and that also helps. My success comes from being a stubborn survivor. In my professional career there are several moments when I’ve been able to say: “I’m getting there.” First stop on this journey through my life: at 18, I left Barcelona and moved to Madrid to study theater. For me it was a shock. I went from being at home, hidden, outcast, watching “Dragon Ball” on TV, to sitting in a classroom at Cristina Rota’s school, among other boys and girls who, like me, dreamed of dedicating their lives to acting. Cristina encouraged us to start acting as soon as we could, to get in touch with the trade. Another milestone moment in the process was when I came across the number for director Francesc Betriu in the Yellow Pages, who by the way not long ago departed this life. I know him and, after a casting and several obstacles and adventures, I end up playing a moving boy, along with actress Antonella Lualdi and speaking Italian. It was in the series “Private life” (1987), directed by Betriu based on the novel by Josep Maria de Sagarra. More memories? That after-school camp my mother took me to and where my passion for acting first began to hatch. Others? My first contact with the Animalario theater group. Or the day I met actress Pilar Castro. In 1997, years before “Aída”, I was in another not so popular series, “In full form”, starring Alfredo Landa and in which I played Shaila Dúrcal’s girlfriend. Rocío Dúrcal’s daughter! Imagine what that meant to me. In the mid to late 90s, I had moments of despair, thinking that I wouldn’t ever make it, but here I am.

Carolina Yuste. “The Cover”.

Let’s move on to technical issues. In this sense, you start out strong, with a sequence shot, the camera descending a flight of stairs, moving between the stage and the stalls. Not happy with this challenge, later on, you insert a sequence in which a huge group of actors are linking, singing songs.

A sequence shot with 30 people singing live! Heavy duty, yes. Another technical feat from “The Cover” is the scene on the beach in which they sing the classic “Ne me quitte pas”. By the way, I’m also delighted with Carolina Yuste, who plays this Amy Winehouse from Benidorm.

Apart from narrating and filtering your own experiences and those of other colleagues, did you write cinema references into the script? In some scenes, especially dressing rooms and when our protagonists are walking around Benidorm, I was reminded of “Showgirls” (1995), by Paul Verhoeven.

Really? That’s really interesting! I have to say that Las Vegas, where “Showgirls” takes place, is horrible during the day, which is not the case with Benidorm. I’ve depicted a beautiful Benidorm. Rather than “Showgirls”, I was thinking more of a ”Saturday Night Fever” (John Badham, 1977) streets and atmosphere’ vibe.

Secun de la Rosa, Juan Diego and Marina Salas. “The Cover”.

Are you ready for Juan Diego to collect the Goya for Best Supporting Actor?

I’d love to see that. You cannot even imagine how much I’ve enjoyed working with Juan, with that delivery of his. That fight scene! Juan is explosive, and I’m excited about having him in the film, as I am about María Hervás, Carmen Machi and all the artists from the world of musical theater who appear in “The Cover” and who have difficulty accessing the world of cinema. Hopefully, they’ll have greater fortune from here on in. And I don’t believe in numerology or all that hocus pocus, but it’s funny because I’m 25 years older than Àlex Monner and 25 years younger than Juan Diego. What a coincidence…

How would you define your debut film?

It’s a personal and honest film, whose ambition is to reach people. An indie and commercial film at the same time, which speaks of the human and social condition in a simple way. Although, there’s definitely something very punk about the whole thing…

Pere Vall
Pere Vall. Journalist covering the world of cultural and entertainment in general, specialized in cinema. Pere is a regular contributor to Time Out, Ara, RNE and Catalunya Ràdio, and was editor-in-chief of the magazine Fotogramas in Barcelona for more than 20 years. A fan of Fellini, of good, regular and bad horror movies, and of humor and comedy in general. As a child, he wanted to look like Alain Delon, and has ended with a certain resemblance to Chicho Ibáñez Serrador. Not that he’s complaining though.