1 September 1995

Interview: Alex de la Inglesia


Alex de la Inglesia interviewed by Michael Hutak, September 1995

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If nothing else, Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Inglesia is in your face.

“I hate the real violence but I love the violence in the cinema. Violence is necessary in all artistic creation. Violence is part of humanity. Shakespeare works with the same idea. There is no drama without violence. My mum is violent, my dad is violent - the best thing to do is laugh.”

Emerging from the patronage of countryman Pedro Almodovar, Inglesia is on the phone promoting his latest film, Day of the Beast, an occult/sci-fi/splatter black comedy, which won six Spanish Academy Awards and has just opened locally. It tells the unlikely tale of a middle aged Madrid priest who discovers the antichrist is about to be born. He enlists the services of a tabloid TV host and a death metal freak in a desperate and hilarious attempt to stave off Satan and save the world. In the best Spanish traditions of the theatre of cruelty, gory, grizzly, and garish are words that spring to mind. And funny. Very funny.

“Day of the Beast is a local story - a story about the chaos that exists today in Spain. I set myself a hard task - to make an action film with an old man as the star. It is black humour - oil and water. The old man discovers a big secret, that the world is going to end, and this is too big a task for him.”

Portrayed as a decaying, morally bankrupt sespit, Madrid comes off very poorly in Inglesia’s vision, but “it’s not just a critique of cities, the problem is the people. When you put so many people together.

“The worst people are the normal people - who watch TV and go to the supermarket. I prefer people who say ‘I am not normal’. I’m afraid of the people who are satisfied.” When I ask if these people aren’t precisely his audience he lets out a strangely evil laugh, like I’ve caught him out. “I don’t think of my audience. I think of me. I try to explain the story, that’s all - like Hitchcock, the best director in the world,” he says, before adding cheerfully, “People enjoy it when you insult them. Ha, ha.”

While he may have disdain for the common man, his two features to date have been box office hits with the great unwashed in his native country. Day of the Beast, which cost just $US2 million, was the most successful local film in Spain last season. His first film, Militant Action, produced by Almodovar, was also a hit. “It was about handicapped terrorists who attack normal people. It’s a black comedy.”

Inglesia describes himself as a country boy who went to Madrid to draw comic books. He then started working in film, first as a set designer, then as an art director, before he got his big break when Spanish film’s most famous bad boy Almodovar read his script for Militant Action and offered to produce. “This is the best thing about Almodovar,” says Inglesia without missing a beat, “We have nothing in common at all. He loves Douglas Sirk. He is homosexual. Almodovar is not a person who likes followers.”

Talking from Mexico on the set of his latest film, Inglesia’s enthusiasm for his chosen craft pummels infectiously down the phoneline, his pidgen English struggling to match the obvious speed with which the ideas are coursing maniacly through his head.

“I have one or two proposals in Hollywood. Little movies I can make in Spain. I can do anything I want in Spain. I have no limits.” Coincidental to Australia, Spain swung to the right in elections earlier this year after 13 years of socialist government. “It was a very open country,” he laments, “in the last 20 years it was a cultural paradise, now it’s like the finish - the party’s over.

“That’s why I’m working in Mexico. In my next movie all the people are talking about God. It’s so funny. It’s a road movie with an android sex slave and a nymphomaniac girl of 12 years. But we needed more money - the budget is $US6 million which is very expensive for Spain so we are making it in America. Ciby2000 has the rights.”

“If I work in Hollywood I want a big budget. The most thing I love is sci-fi movies. But I want to do something not commercial - very violent, very sexy. Sci fi now is pathetic. When you have $US50 million budgets you have to make a family movie. This is not me.

“I work fast, I’m afraid to respect things. It is dangerous. I don't believe in talent, I only believe in work. I am only learning now - I have only made two movies. Movies aren’t mystical, they are work. I think if you make 80 movies, then you are a good director. The most important thing is work.”

MICHAEL HUTAK

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First published in Beat magazine

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