Cristina Marsillach is a Spanish actress best known for her roles in Dario Argento's OPERA (1987) and the romantic drama EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE (1986), opposite Tom Hanks. The daughter of renowned theatre director and actor Adolfo Marsillach, she has had a long and varied career in both Italy and Spain, working with some of the most talented European filmmakers and actors in the business. Her new film, Damian Lahey's beautiful, impressionistic SIMPLE LIKE SILVER (2021), is her first film in nearly 25 years. In the second part of our two-part interview, we talked about making her Hollywood debut with EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, the differences between working on European and Hollywood productions, working with the likes of Giancarlo Giannini, Ugo Tognazzi, Andrea De Carlo, Sergio Corbucci, Gabriele Salvatores, why she walked away from acting for a few decades, and her new short film.
Part one of the interview.
Were you nervous about making your first English-speaking Hollywood film with EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE?
Yes, I was nervous. I brought a language coach from Spain with me, who was also a very good acting teacher. She helped me a lot. Any time that I can, I bring people with me who can help me be better in any way. In fact, on SIMPLE LIKE SILVER, I brought my own teacher and makeup person, and it was a nice experience.
What was it like filming in Israel for EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE?
It was very interesting because Israel is a wonderful place. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel. It was very fun working with Tom Hanks. He was very friendly. He knows how to treat people and we would chat and laugh a lot. One day we went to the Dead Sea, and he ran ahead and jumped into the sea, and all I could see was this long, tall guy floating along in his red bathing trunks. I would say ''I''m not going into the sea'', and he would try to get me to come in. He was a great guy and a great co-star.
Was your experience making a Hollywood film any different an experience from making a European film?
No, they were more or less the same. I've always been lucky to work with a small team, which gives you a lot of intimacy, something I really appreciate as an actress. I haven't worked on a super big production with a large crew. I didn't notice a significant difference between working on an American and a European production in my case.
After EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, did you have an idea to pursue more Hollywood projects or were you happier making films in Italy and Spain?
No, after I finished the film I continued my acting career in Italy and Spain. I haven't really moved from those countries. I did work with a lot of different directors – people like Dario Argento, Gabriele Salvatores, Andrea De Carlo, and Sergio Corbucci.
MARRAKECH EXPRESS with director Gabriele Salvatores is one of your most acclaimed films. What was Salvatores like as a director?
I felt very comfortable with him. He didn't speak much, but he smiled a lot. He was close, but distant – a very curious personality.
How was working with the acclaimed novelist and filmmaker Andrea De Carlo on his film adaptation of his book TRENO DI PANNA (1988)?
Andrea De Carlo was a writer before he directed TRENO DI PANNA, and this is reflected, I think, in the film, which has a precise quality and very fluid dialogue. Curiously, I might have had the opportunity to work with him years before. He was the assistant director on AND THE SHIP SAILS ON (1983), and I had auditioned for Fellini on that film.
What was it like working with Sergio Corbucci on DAYS OF INSPECTOR AMBROSIO (1988) and WOMEN IN ARMS (1991)?
He was a wonderful person and one of the most sensitive directors I ever worked with. He was like a father to me. He was like a teddy bear. I also worked with Ugo Tognazzi on DAYS OF INSPECTOR AMBROSIO, and he was exceptionally fun. He would tell many anecdotes from his career working with so many talented people. He was very human.
Having made so many movies in Italy, do you think of the country as a second home?
Yes, absolutely. Spanish and Italian cultures are very similar, so I feel like I'm in Spain when I'm in Italy!
You worked with Giancarlo Giannini on 'O RE (1989). What was that experience like?
We got along well making the movie, and we had fun, even though he was very sad at the time, having recently lost a son. He is equally adept at comedy and drama, which is a rare thing. He's a very real actor, and was a very good friend to me on the movie.
You've worked with so many great actors. Who would you say you learned the most from?
Giancarlo definitely helped me a lot. With Tom Hanks, I learned to play a lot. He would stop and talk about the scenes with the director or the other actors, but he would also be making jokes without stopping what he was doing. He was very focused. It's very important for an actor to know how to relax, because you cannot be spontaneous or be real in a scene otherwise. It's fundamental. In fact, an actress like Meryl Streep touches her body a lot in order to relax, and that was something Ingrid Bergman used to do as well. She would do these head movements, because she understood that relaxation was the basis of acting, and the more relaxed an actor is, the better the performance.
You were, for a time, the Artistic Director of the Marsillach Acting School in Madrid. What did you enjoy the most about running the school?
I think the most interesting thing was synthesizing the classic works of Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams and Strindberg, and cutting down what might have been a two hour play into a half hour. For the students, I had to take what was most important from each play and create kind of a mini-play. It was an interesting challenge.
Until SIMPLE LIKE SILVER, you had not acted onscreen for nearly 25 years. Why did you decide to step away?
Well, I was doing other things. I got married, and I gave a lot of importance to my sentimental life. I dedicated my life to other things related to art, but not as an actress, such as fashion and antiques. I needed a break. I think an actor needs to recharge between projects, if they can afford to financially. I'm not the same person through a whole year, and I need to fill my life with many different things. After the film with Damian I directed a short film and did some writing, but I've done other creative things too. I never stop creating. I've grown a lot and I have learned, and I am able to bring that to my next projects. I'm multi-disciplined in life. I'm not just an actress, I like to do many things.
It's inspired by the French term 'flaneur', which was made famous by the philosopher Walter Benjamin. A 'flaneur' is a man who wanders around, observing events, reflecting upon them and getting involved at his discretion. This is what happens in my film. It's a film dedicated to the aging and decline of people, in this case my mother, who has Alzheimer's. The film is very short, but was a very satisfying endeavor.
Many thanks to Alicia Lopez for her help with translating the interview.
SIMPLE LIKE SILVER can be rented on Amazon Prime.
Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2021. All rights reserved.
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