In the Pedro Almodovar film The Skin I Live In, Vera (Elena Anaya) is forced to go on a journey as the human guinea pig for an obsessive doctor. Ever since the horrific death of his wife, Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas), a distinguished plastic surgeon with no scruples, has been interested in creating a new skin that could have been used to save her. Although she has had to shed her own skin, in favor of study and experimentation, Vera has managed to retain her identity and soul, though it all.
At the film’s press day, Spanish actress Elena Anaya spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about her reaction to learning Pedro Almodovar had written the role for her, what it was like to play a character with such a huge determination to live, how the body suits and mask that she had to wear only added to her performance, working with such a great cast, and just waiting to see what the future brings for her career. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
ELENA ANAYA: I didn’t have an idea, but he knew. He knew for a couple of years that he wanted to work with me on this project. Finally, he called me and said, “Okay, I finished the script, and I’ve been thinking the last two years about you doing this role.” And, I had a panic attack of excitement and fear, but nice fear. And then, I met with him and he explained the story to me, and I was so impressed. Later on, I read the script and that impression just grew and grew. This film stays with you while you digest it. He offered me such a beautiful and complex role, and it was an incredible opportunity to enjoy and to give the most of myself.
Is it just a surreal experience to have someone like Almodovar call you and tell you he has this role for you?
ANAYA: It is strange, yes. Normally, that doesn’t happen. It’s like you are dreaming, and then somebody wakes you up and says, “Wake up, this is true!” You always look back, thinking that maybe they meant to call someone else. But, when life gives you the opportunity to go through something like this, you better make the most of it and enjoy it and have fun. This doesn’t happen every day.
ANAYA: She’s like a burn survivor. She’s somebody whose determination to live is amazing and huge. This character has suffered a massive transformation, in an involuntary way, but there is something, thank god, that can’t be changed or altered, which is the identity. That’s what saves her. That’s what brings her back home, finally. Identity is something that we sometimes need to take care of and feed, to not die. She’s a strong person that really chose to live.
What were the biggest challenges in playing this character?
ANAYA: It was almost playing a role inside of another role. I played this role as someone who was held captive inside another person’s skin. She’s in an artificial skin that doesn’t belong to her, with a face that doesn’t belong to her. She says barely anything, but feels a lot, and has to be very careful about the emotions she shows because, if her audience realizes that she is suffering, and she’s not as tranquil and normal as she looks, then something will go wrong. So, she has to play a role inside of that house and that room, and she better do it right, or she will be dead in the immediate moment when the doctor realizes that she is cheating.
ANAYA: The body suits were great. It was like living in that skin. Every morning, when I got into the suits, starting with the toes, it made me come back to the origin of the character. In a way, this character is nude for the whole film, but it’s very weird and uncomfortable nudity because it’s not nudity, it’s another skin. I used that. It helped a lot, actually, to jump into the character every morning.
Was the mask difficult to wear?
ANAYA: No, it was very comfortable and soft. The guys who did the mask were extremely good. It really was a good thing every day. The mask was amazing. It helped a lot, to only have the eyes show.
The thing with your performance in this film is that you can see the horror in your character’s eyes while what she says doesn’t match that. Was it difficult to convey both levels of that?
ANAYA: No, because the acting that I tried to do was like a way from mind to mouth, that goes all over the body. When you are alive in your performance and you feel something, that’s not complicated, when you are not talking. You have to just be, and be able to stay in the circumstances of the character.
ANAYA: It was excellent. I had the best partners, in Antonio and Marisa [Paredes] and Jan Cornet. It was such a great cast. Working with Antonio was just great. He’s just such a sweetheart, and a generous person. I admire him so much, as an actor. I think he’s excellent in this film, with no expressions, no tricks and no nothing. He really scared me. But, working with him was just excellent.
Do you know what you’re going to do next? Are you looking to do Hollywood films?
ANAYA: I don’t know. It’s difficult to plan this kind of career. You just need to wait and be picky and try not to commit to just one thing. I’ll have to see what’s next, see what happens, and see what the future brings.