As an Academy Award winner, who has also received two further nominations, Penelope Cruz has always put her heart, soul, and intellect into every role she has ever taken on.
But despite the toil that went into her being recognized for Vicky Christina Barcelona, Volver and Nine, Cruz insists that her performance in Everybody Knows as a mother that has to contend with her daughter being kidnapped when she returns home to Spain for a wedding was her toughest part to date. Especially because she had to keep up the intensity for “four months” of shooting, which ultimately started to impact her health.
Penelope Cruz talks Everybody Knows
“When we did the takes we would go 100% intensity,” Cruz tells Metro. “It was very intense and very exhausting. I love that I was given this kind of character. I am really feel grateful for Asghar’s trust. But by the end of the shooting, I had a fever every night. At the end, during the last month of the shooting, my body was like flipping out. I was like, ‘What is going on?’ Of course you know it’s a fiction, but I think they a little percentage of yourself gets confused.”
Cruz is the first to admit that she loves “a challenge,” which is exactly why she has done a lot of drama recently, including her acclaimed performance as Donatella Versace in The Assassination Of Gianni Versace. But Everybody Knows tested every mental and physical aspect of her acting talent.
“I’m not complaining. But this one I think was the most difficult ever. But Asghar also made it very enjoyable. Because he’s a very peaceful man and very kind. So we just wanted to give him 100%. But this was the hardest character.”
But how did Cruz manage to maintain and control her level of anxiety and emotion for such a prolonged period?
“I tried to graduate my energy. At the end of the day if I was done on the set I would go and take a shower and I was done. I was done until the next day. I didn’t want to think about it. I never want to take the character home. But imagine, with one like this, I wanted to do that even less. So I would be on the set totally focused. I felt like I was on some kind of marathon.”
“I needed an amount of concentration for this one where I could not even really be hanging out with everybody or go to the restaurant a lot. I was locked in a room studying and reading and in my zone. And then I would be there 12 hours a day and by the end of it I would go home and just be by myself, or with my family, and try to forget about everything. Then go back the next day and give 100%.”
It also helped that not only does Everybody Knows star her husband Javier Bardem, but that Oscar winning writer and director Asghar Farhadi had written the character especially for the actress, developing it with her over five years.
“It was a dream call when he asked. Because I always wanted to work with him. I think he’s one of the greatest directors working today,” she says of Farhadi. “So I got involved in the project from that call and five years later we made the movie. He told me he thought about Javier as well for the movie. Independently, he called him, Javier got attached. So he was having a relationship with both us separately. Sending us treatments and pages and getting us really involved in the process.”
Having seen the likes of A Separation and The Salesman Cruz knew that Farhadi would get a completely honest performance out of her.
“You really don’t see anybody lying in his films. You don’t see any tricks. It feels like a documentary. The acting he gets, it really feels like things are happening in front of you. So that was why it was so fascinating for me to to work with him.”
How exactly did Farhadi get that performance out of Cruz, though?
“He’s very honest. So if he sees something that he doesn’t believe he will come to that person and say, ‘In that take your eyes were lying.’ Or, ‘That was empty.’ Or, ‘Don’t think that this is a movie. We have to think this is documentary.’ He will be so straightforward and honest.”
“I always prefer that. And that’s the way he can get through his point of view. You don’t want a director that always tells you every single take was great. Because that is impossible. You’re not there to get compliments. You’re there to try to do a good job.”
Everybody Knows is now in select cinemas.