Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, whose drama “Julieta” is competing in this year’s Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, felt the need to unburden himself after a Monday night screening of his new film.
“I apologize to Meryl [Streep],” he said during a Q&A session hosted by TheWrap at the Landmark Theater in Los Angeles.
“Julieta,” an adaptation of three short stories by Alice Munro, is set in Spain. But the filmmaker said he initially courted the three-time Oscar winner to play the lead in what would have been his first English-language movie.
“I didn’t tell her after talking to her that I decided to make it in Spanish,” explained Almodóvar, who won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his 2002 film “Talk to Her” and also directed the 1999 foreign-language winner, “All About My Mother.” Although it’s probably safe to say that Streep, who appears to have never wanted for work in her decades-long career, is not too sore about the situation.
“I really wanted to work with her,” he added of Streep.
The film stars Emma Suárez as the mature Julieta, who looks back on a chance meeting on a train when she was a young woman that changes her life forever and eventually leads to a separation from her beloved daughter. Adriana Ugarte co-stars as the younger version of Julieta.
Despite his work on 19 previous movies, Almodóvar told TheWrap awards editor Steve Pond that he became too insecure to set “Julieta” in an English-speaking landscape. “I didn’t know everything about the place where it happens,” he said. “I felt very insecure about the language and the culture.”
The director said he purposefully left out cliched dramatic scenes in his adaptation of Munro’s stories. Mild spoiler alert: In one early scene, he skips showing a character’s death, instead focusing on the moment when the body is identified by a family member.
“Pain happens during the ellipses,” Almodóvar said.
When it came to showing Julieta’s transition from young to old, the director also wanted to avoid CGI or any cinematic parlor tricks. “I really was looking for the simplicity of the cinematic language,” he said.
He admitted the film is “much more restrained” than his earlier works. “Perhaps because I’m getting older,” he said.
While “Julieta” is an adaptation of Munro’s fiction, the director said it’s not a literal one. “I kept the parts of the three stories I liked the most.”
“Julieta” opens in theaters on Dec. 21.