Sony Pictures Classics opens the airborne comedy in New York and Los Angeles next Friday. (TOH review here.)
Almodóvar talks fast:
On the difference between the film's English and Spanish titles:
"Almost everything in Spanish has more than one meaning. 'Passenger' means someone who is traveling, but also something that is fleeting. It was very important to have those two meanings. For example, in French and in Italian, too, they have those two meanings. But not in English. So we took advantage of having the song in the movie. "I'm So Excited" represents the mood of the characters."
On the use of The Pointer Sisters song "I'm So Excited" in the film:
"I wanted a song of that period. This movie is a tribute to the '80s in Spain and to that decade when we found absolute freedom in every sense, because Franco died and we had a new democracy. Everything changed for the best. I miss that feeling."
On the origin of his idea for "I'm So Excited":
"Sometimes at home, in solitude, I write for fun. I don't write with a reason--it's writing for writing. I started for fun, and I wrote the sequence for the cockpit. It's a liberating sense when you're not bound to a story or a character. The result was really entertaining, so I moved from the cockpit to the galley and wrote some sequences. I have tons of documents like this which will stay in my computer, and at some point, those who inherit it will publish them, probably without my permission. At which point I will come back from the dead to terrorize them. But I showed them to my brother Agustín and my secretary and they loved it. They said,' Pedro, come on, write a comedy.'"
On turning these ideas into a full film:
"When I finished the script, I didn't like it. It took me time to come up with the metaphor for the movie. We were in an awful crisis in Spain and I came up with the idea of having people up in the clouds. It's very unreal but very metaphoric about the Spanish situation. We're traveling around without knowing where we're going to land. We need an emergency landing, but that implies risk and danger, and we don't know who will be in command. And also this idea of being on both sides: in heaven or in earth, death or life."
On his varied filmography, from screwball comedies to dark, disturbing films and back:
"I am not a sad person, and I don't want to scandalize anyone. This movie and The Skin I Live In represent me completely. I've been evolving--I don't want to say I'm getting better, because that's not the case, but I'm very happy that I'm not making the same kinds of films that I was making in the 80s. As an author, I always work very hard to give my characters a happy ending, such that they're better off at the end than they were in the beginning."
On the significance of the short opening cameo with Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas:
"What I wanted to show with this sequence is to have a tiny little drama about the fact that they've been trying for a really long time to get pregnant. So when he finds out she's pregnant, it blows his mind and he just has to run off with her. And to tell you an anecdote, she became pregnant shortly after that."
On the prescient nature of ideas in the film that later became reality
"Movies have a kind of premonition-esque power. I have a theory--and I've lived it in my own life--that films don't speak of the present, they speak of the future."
On the film's meta-commentary on film and theater
"Screens tell us something about ourselves. But the screens in this film have a different meaning--they are black. What you see is the absence of fiction. But for me, this movie is much more about theater than about cinema. The red curtain is always very present in the film to remind you of the stage. And also, it's a movie where the words are very important--the people talk a lot, and they don't hide anything. But it becomes a spectacle for the other passengers--they listen and they're very entertained. Words are the root of the human connection and the basis of theater."
On reconciling his own wealth and success with the film's social commentary
"I have a big heart. And I feel solidarity with people who have real problems. Even though I do fly first class, I really do feel like I belong in economy class. It's how I grew up--I came from a very humble class in Spanish society. I feel the same as when I was a boy. It's very clear to me that even though I am in a privileged position and I don't have economic problems, I do fight against economic and social inequality, especially because in the last five years, the gap between rich and poor has been growing. And the party that is now in power considers me a bête noire."
On his first time traveling first class
"It was coming here [to the U.S.]. But the first I came, I didn't even have money to rent a place, so I was sharing a bed with a friend. It was a big bed--nothing happened! That was '84. So I think it was on 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown' when I was in a nice hotel, for the New York Film Festival. And after, we flew to LA for the Oscars, and that was the first time that I remember very clearly having a villa for me in the Sunset Marquis Hotel."
On making a film in New York:
"I would like to, but I don't dare. A year and a half ago, I was writing something that happens here [in New York City] and also on the beach. But I didn't get what I wanted. I still feel a big interest in the story, but my collaboration with a writer wasn't what I expected. I need the right script and I don't have it now. The problem is that I know exactly what I want to say in the story--it's based on a wonderful author's work that I bought the rights to--but my English is not enough to do it. I need to co-write it with someone. But I have a first draft in Spanish that I feel very good about. I would like to do it, but I need time for the script."