Tomorrow marks the release of I'm So Excited!, the latest offering from lauded Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. His first outright comedy in years, the film is dramatically different in tone from 2011’s The Skin I Live In – a brilliant but unremittingly bloodcurdling tale, after which he perhaps felt in need of some levity. This time around, the feel is glitzy, fun and extremely camp: indeed Almodóvar has described it as his "gayest film ever". Set predominantly aboard a plane bound for Mexico, mayhem and hilarity ensue when, faced with the possibility of things going dangerously awry, pilots, air stewards and passengers alike throw inhibitions to the wind, turning to sex, drink, drugs and song (the clue is in the title) for relief.
Typical of Almodóvar, the winning formula lies in the shrewd character portrayals and intertwined backstories, punctuated by the director's wonderfully dark sense of humour and fondness for melodrama. Here, to celebrate the film's release and the man himself, we present some fascinating vignettes from the off-screen life of Almodóvar.
1. Almodóvar grew up in Extremadura, Spain where his father ran a local gas station and made wine at home. He showed promise as a writer from an early age, winning a prize for an essay he wrote about the immaculate conception when he was only ten-years-old.
2. Almodóvar survived his early months in Madrid by selling secondhand goods in El Rastro flea-market but later got a job at the National Telephone Company of Spain where he worked for 12 years as an administrative assistant, saving enough money to buy his first Super-8mm camera.
3. In the early 70s, he joined the avant garde theatre group, Los Goliardos where he met a number of actors who would later star in his films, including Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas.
“In the last decade you can count the number of Hollywood dramas that have revolved around women. The studios have forgotten that women are fascinating.”
4. He was a key player in La Movida Madrileña (the Spanish cultural renaissance that followed the death of Franco) – making short films, singing in glam rock parody duo Almodóvar and McNamara, publishing a novella, and, writing under the pseudonym "Patty Diphusa", penning various articles for major newspapers and magazines.
5. Almodóvar spent 10 years writing the script for his 2004 film Bad Education, during which time he made such acclaimed films as All About My Mother and Talk to Her. Interestingly, the script for Bad Education is based upon a short story he wrote as an adolescent, following his experience at a Catholic boarding school in the 1960s.
6. Although Almodovar is gay, he does not think of himself as a gay filmmaker. Many of his films concern universal passions and concerns and feature women at their centre. He once remarked, “In the last decade you can count the number of Hollywood dramas that have revolved around women. The studios have forgotten that women are fascinating.”
7. His mother Francisca Caballero and brother Agustín Almodóvar, with whom he started up El Deseo production company, often appear in cameo roles in his movies.
8. He uses only his last name in his film credits – ie. "Un film de Almodóvar".
I'm So Excited! is in cinemas nationwide from tomorrow.
Text by Daisy Woodward