“God bless Hitchcock. He never won an Oscar and never gave us a
second of boredom…” -- Alex de la Iglesia





Jonathan Marlow: How did Pedro Almodovar and his brother come to produce your
first feature film?

Alex De La Iglesia: Well, the first thing I made in movies was a short film called
Killer Mirindas (Mirindas asesinas).

This was in 1991?

1991, yes. It was in black-and-white and I made it in Bilbao, in my home, with my
friends who work in the theater. With this short film I went to Almodovar’s office
and said, “Can you watch this thing?” Almodovar loved the short film and said,
“Would you like to make a long feature film?” I said, “Yes, of course,” and we
began to work on the film Mutant Action.

Accion mutante is essentially a superhero movie for misfits. It’s what you might
expect would happen if something like the X-men were to really form. They would
not get along.


It’s a group of terrorists. A bunch of handicapped terrorists who try to fight against
the beautiful people. That’s the plot. It’s very badly shot and very badly done, but
very funny. I was very naïve when I made this movie. I put strange things in that
movie. I made things in that movie that I can’t make now. I’m scared of those things
now but, in the moment that I made this film, I felt totally free to make whatever I
wanted.

It seemingly received a favourable reaction from audiences wherever it played. At
least I remember hearing about it for years before I was finally able to see it. As
far as debut films go, it was very successful.


Well, I don’t know if it was very successful, but…

Perhaps not financially, but it established your reputation.

The movie definitely had a big reaction in the world.






How much of your Jesuit education informed Day of the Beast? Obviously, your
former school would not be happy with the film that resulted.


I don’t know what they’d think about the movie, but, yes, I came up with this story
when I was studying philosophy at Loyola University. I remembered one priest there
who always thought about Plotino [known to us as Plotinus]. He was an expert in
Plotino. Plotino is not a very good philosopher. He’s a bad philosopher. A stupid
philosopher after Plato and after Aristotle and I thought, “How is it possible that
this man is, all his life, dedicated to think in a not very important philosopher, not a
very smart philosopher?” Suddenly, he didn’t know anything about life, about TV,
about anything. He was totally ignorant. What happens if you take this man and put
him on the street? That’s the essence of Day of the Beast. A crazy priest tries to
prevent the apocalypse because he reads a lot and discovers that it’s revealed in a
cryptogram.

Of all the films that have been made about the coming of the Antichrist, no other
film has decided that the way to locate the “denier of the Father and the Son” is to
break all of the commandments! What was the inspiration of this idea?


I think that it’s the best plot I’ve made, together with [co-writer] Jorge
[Guerricaechevarría]. The idea, you know, to have some innocent guy making some
wild things is funny because he is small and old and very respectful. He has only
one friend and he is a fucking junkie, this fat guy who’s in love with metal music. I
don’t know how I was able to make this movie. It was very difficult to make because
everyone said no to everything. Almodovar refused because he is very superstitious
and said, “I don’t want to make a movie about the devil.” Okay, but do you think
it’s bad? I don’t know if Almodovar liked the movie at the beginning. Maybe it was
only an excuse.

It has a very shocking opening sequence. I think it really sets everything in motion
with the collapse of the cross.


I love that scene. You know, I love Satanist things. I love demons and the Exorcist
and this kind of stuff. I love those movies. I am always scared to make another
movie about the demons, about hell, because the people might compare it with Day
of the Beast
. I need fifteen years to say, “Okay, let’s do another one.” My next
movie is about demons. The only thing I hate is the people who say “Hey, you’re
repeating the same idea.”

You had a difficult time financing Day of the Beast because it was too…

It was very difficult because in Spain, the people said, “I cannot understand this
thing.” If you read the script, it’s not funny. It’s totally serious. All the dialogue is
very serious…

…including the television psychic.

Yeah, all is very normal, but you have a funny sensation when you see the movie
after reading the script. When you read the script you say, “This is not funny.”

That process comes about in the casting and obviously in the way that you directed.
Obviously, you knew going in, the way that you wrote the script…


Yeah, I knew perfectly.

But the potential financiers just immediately went, “This cannot work.”

When they are reading the script, I can say, “Okay, it seems unfunny, but I swear to
you that it’s funny!”






Did you not have the same troubles raising money for Perdita Durango [aka Dance
with the Devil
– the titular character also appears in Wild at Heart]?


No, because Day of the Beast was a big success in Spain and suddenly they said,
“Make whatever you want.” In this moment, I remember, I didn’t have an idea for a
movie but my producer Andrés [Vicente Gómez] said to me, “Have you read this
Barry Gifford novel [59° and Raining]?” So I read it and I said, “Maybe this could
be a good movie.” It was not my idea to make the movie so, in that sense, it’s like a
job.

You always write or co-write your screenplays. Did you collaborate with Barry
Gifford on this script or…


No.

You just took the book?

I had the book and I had Barry Gifford’s script. There exists a Barry Gifford script for
the movie and I read the script of another filmmaker who wanted to make the movie,
but we made our own script. I think it’s one of my best movies. It’s difficult to take
one idea and make it yours. I am a very scared man, you know? I only want to make
my own ideas. I need to feel some security. I never feel secure with other peoples’
ideas. When we’re working, suddenly some guy in the crew says, “Hey, why not
make this thing in another way?” and I say, “Yes, maybe,” if it’s not my idea. If I
make the script and I know the thing perfectly, I can say “No, it’s impossible.” We
have to make the thing with this point of view and this lens and these characters in
this way, because it’s my idea.

I suspect that this film was a bigger challenge because it was a co-production
between many countries and had a larger cast…


That’s the reason I love this movie because it was a big effort for me to do it. I had
to talk with a lot of people and go to Mexico and go to Arizona. The pre-production
was a nightmare. I remember suffering a lot to make the movie. Rosie Perez was a
very strange girl and suddenly, in the middle of the movie, she says, “You don’t
understand what you are making.” I said, “Why?” She said, “You don’t understand
English very well. You don’t know if I’m acting well or not.” I said, “I don’t speak
English but I know you’re acting perfectly.” I had to convince her all the time for
every shot, every take. Suddenly she said, “I don’t want to make this thing.” I said,
“Why?” Because there’s a nude sequence.” I go, “Yes, of course, because the
movie is about this tale…” She says, “In my contract, I can never appear in a nude
sequence.” I go, “That’s impossible,” so I took the contract and read that thing! I
asked my producer, “What the fuck are you doing agreeing to that?” “I signed it
because it’s so hard to get a contract for this kind of character, for these kinds of
actresses, and I say yes to everything.” It’s so hard to make this movie.






Obviously, you have great deal of experience with American cinema and, in several
ways, that expertise surfaces in La Comunidad (Common Wealth). Particularly, the
influence of Alfred Hitchcock
.

Hitchcock, yes. I love the Hollywood directors of the 1940s and 1950s – Hawks, Ford,
Cukor, Mann, Tourneur…

You also maintain this notion of trying to film in enclosed spaces, an effort at
keeping the primary action in a single location, which you continue in your latest
film, El Crimen Ferpecto (The Perfect Crime). I wonder if this started as a budget
concern or…


I think it’s better for shooting. It’s easier to work well with the camera when you
work in an enclosed space. You feel the dramatic scenes more if you have all the
sequences in a closed location. It’s more theatrical. I love theatrical things, to create
the set and imagine that all these images are mine. I imagine the actors in the set, I
imagine the position of the camera, you know?

In Common Wealth, this location was built from scratch, yes? It’s the full set.

Yes.

You used Carmen Maura, the star of Common Wealth, again in 800 Bullets,
although she has a much smaller part in that.


She has the same job, working with buildings!

If Common Wealth shares a connection with mid-century American cinema, I see
800 Bullets as your love letter to classic Spanish cinema. The character of Julián
Torralba that, at one point, had a tremendous career as a stuntman but his style of
cinema is now out of fashion. In a sense, you hinted at this last night with the
mention of your fondness of Spanish filmmakers such as Luis Garcia Berlanga, the
director of El Verdugo (The Executioner). There is a stylistic gap between what
came before and the filmmakers that are working now.


I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right. I don’t feel for my parents’ movies. I love
my grandfathers’, you know? Not the hippies’ generation but the generation before.
Maybe when I talk about cinema – because 800 Bullets is a movie about cinema – I
am talking about needing to know where I am or whether I belong to some place.
The idea, you know, of coming from a one-star town in the middle of the desert.
Maybe this film is talking about that.

When you were scouting for Perdita Durango, did you visit Tombstone? There is a
similar recreation of an embellished past. It’s the same sort of situation that is
recreated in 800 Bullets.


Yes, I went there.

There are these kinds of things all over, but these towns that exist purely for the
recreation of a past, whether it is real or imagined. You bring that same
atmosphere back in your latest film with the amusement park, Rafael and Lourdes’
only escape from the department store.


Why do you think that is?

I don’t know. I just ask the questions.

I don’t make these things and think… I say, “They must go to an amusement park.”

It’s intuitive. A place of escape, but an escape that is definitely not a place to relax.

These kinds of things, you just don’t think about them. You say, “They go to an
amusement park.” It’s important, that scene. They visit the amusement park because
the amusement is not real, perhaps.






You use footage in El Crimen Ferpecto [in fact, the name of the film is a reference
to the Spanish title for Hitchcock’s Dial M for MurderEl Crimen Perfecto,
except that Alex’s title is, well, less perfect; the English distributors corrected the
spelling, unfortunately] for Rafael’s research from one of the greatest films ever
made – Luis Bunuel’s Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz. This idea that
reality is less powerful than fantasy. It’s one of the few successful intersections of
comedy and murder, like [Charles] Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux, except that
Bunuel naturally twists the tale by making the aspiring killer an absolute failure.
Did this provide some inspiration for writing this story or at least taking it in that
direction?


The real origin of the movie comes from Vincent Price. He’s the only character who is
truly bad in these movies and, in the end, he always is punished. I remember one
tale in particular called The Masque of the Red Death. A big castle in the middle of
Europe surrounded by a plague while inside the castle there is a big party with
beautiful people trying to forget the red plague. You’re in a beautiful place dancing,
like Vincent Price, you know? “I am the king of this castle, where the people survive

and live in a beautiful way.” Suddenly, as always, the red plague finds a way inside.
Lourdes [Mónica Cervera], in El Crimen Ferpecto, is the red plague. She infects
everything!