Carmen Maura’s eyes light up when she speaks about France, the French and her command of the Gallic tongue. On the one hand, she’s delighted: “They gave me the César [French film award for Best Supporting Actress] more for the sum of my career than this film, The Women on the 6th Floor,” she says. “It was a small part and really easy.”
On the other hand, she can’t stand them: “It has taken me 20 years to get them to respect me. And I have put up with them... They treat you badly for being Spanish. Now I make a scene as soon as they grumble at me. I’ve turned into one of them: a grumpy bourgeois. I even bought a dress without looking at the price just to spite a sales clerk.”
Maura, who is currently recording a TV series, is promoting The Women on the 6th Floor, a film about Spanish maids working in the houses of rich bourgeois Parisians in the 1960s.
“It’s good that I didn’t look at the drama in more detail because it has made a lot of money the way it was done. Because it has been a big hit in France, where we premiered it.”
The film is “director [Philippe] Le Guay’s love letter to Spain, because he adores Spain,” she says. More than that, “he had to fight a lot to shoot it. He even did it without a co-production deal with Spain, respecting the characters’ languages.”
Maura divided her time between the Spaniards and the French on set. “My Spanish colleagues ought to understand how important it was that we did it well. Because of the roles and for ourselves. In return, the crew adored us because we are more straightforward than French actresses.”
She says leading man Fabrice Luchini was a model co-star: “His presence saved the production. And he is very funny, with an amazing vocabulary — but at the same time he was a pain in the neck who only talked about money.”
The actress says she doesn’t look at daily rushes: “I don’t care if they film me looking a state. What matters is the authenticity.” Perhaps this explains why she’s drawn to playing a witch. “On September 3 I start Las brujas de Zugarramurdi [or, The witches of Zugarramurdi] with Alex de la Iglesia. It’s a wonderful and difficult role. I levitate, I walk on the ceiling, I turn into a cockroach... I play the daughter of Terele Pávez and the mother of Carolina Bang. Alex is my Spanish soft spot.”
And Almodóvar? “We had a coffee together for Volver, we filmed it and that’s all. I don’t think I’ll work with him again, because his shoots are tense. I don’t feel like it. Alex is very young and nice; there’s no comparison. Even so, he is playful and he gives you a bruising during filming... I understand his sense of humor, it’s close to mine, not like that of...”
And that’s as far as she goes.