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Pedro Almodóvar on Aging, Mom and 'Pain and Glory'

Spain's greatest director explains his memoir movie starring Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz

En español | Filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, 70, winner of an Oscar and four BAFTAs, tells AARP about Pain and Glory, his highly autobiographical film about a director named Salvador (played by Antonio Banderas) who lives in chronic physical and psychic pain and seeks answers in his past, and above all in his relationship with his mother (played by Penélope Cruz).

His feelings for Banderas and Cruz

With Antonio, I have more of a brotherly feeling, because we belong to the ‘80s, hanging around almost every night. He was like my younger brother. Penélope makes me feel heterosexual [laughter]. And now that I've gotten older, because we've known each other for a long time, this movie is not only about me, it's also about a sort of homecoming.

How this differs from all Almodóvar films about his mom

The tone. There's the fact of getting older. I can now look back in a different way, quieter, more consciously. I wanted to show a mother that is a survivor, a fighter, and sees to the survival of the whole family. But I also wanted to show a part that I didn't use earlier, when mothers are at a certain age and can become a little cruel to daughters and sons. It was important to show this part of my mother for the first time.

Top 10 Must-Watch Almodóvar Movies

Writer/director Pedro Almodóvar introduces "Pain and Glory" during the 57th New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on September 28, 2019 in New York City.

Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

  1. Talk to Her (2002)
  2. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
  3. All About My Mother (1999)
  4. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
  5. What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984)
  6. Live Flesh (1997)
  7. Volver (2006)
  8. The Skin I Live In (2011)
  9. Law of Desire (1987)
  10. I’m So Excited! (2013)

Women on the verge of age

I've had a very good relationship with my mother, but there's a whole generation of Spanish women who have struggled: very strong fighting figures who carry their families. These women are now in their 80s and feel that life has been unfair to them; they don't know how to grow old and how to be happy old ladies.

How pain changed him

Constant back pain and headaches isolate me. Going to the theater is painful, but I still go. I don't go to dinners anymore, I don't go to friends’ reunions — maybe I should, but it's too painful.

Does aging make one wiser?

Not in my case [laughter]! I know a lot of people — directors like Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood, who are over 80 — who are doing wonderful things, and I admire them because they don't worry about the past. I'm producing things every day and I don't have a positive view of getting old [and slowing down]. So, I'm trying [to keep active]. Just making this movie helps me feel much more comfortable with the passing of time.

How he spends his days at 70

I'm generally involved in some aspect of filmmaking. Either I'm writing, working on scripts or preparing — there's always something. I go to movie theaters a lot, even though there are no good films, and I watch DVDs at home. I go to the opera. I do some walking, but out of discipline, not pleasure. And sometimes, sometimes, I still make love.