RT-UK Exclusive: Alfonso Cuaron talks Mexico and a Return to Harry Potter

The director celebrates Mexican cinema with Rotten Tomatoes.

by | July 27, 2007 | Comments

BAFTA is putting the final preparations in place for BAFTA Goes to Mexico in association with ezylet.co.uk, a weekend of special Mexican events that starts tonight with a glitzy party and a celebration of the work of director Alfonso Cuaron. RT-UK caught up with Cuaron ahead of the celebrations to talk about Mexican filmmaking, keeping it in the family and, of course, the possibility of a return to the world of Harry Potter.

RT-UK: You must be having a busy week, I imagine you have a bunch of friends coming in for the BAFTA celebration…

AC: Actually it’s the first time I’ve seen people here, today. I’ve been really busy, though, I’ve been writing and supervising the film that my brother Carlos is shooting in Mexico – he wrote Y Tu Mama Tambien and he’s directing his first feature. It’s Gael [Garcia Bernal] and Diego [Luna], the same cast of Y Tu Mama Tambien, I’m producing that with Guillermo [del Toro] and Alejandro [Gonzalez Innaritu]. Then I’m producing a short that Jonas, my son, is directing that is going to Venice. And his feature film is going to Venice too, so it’s a lot of stuff going on!

RT-UK: It seems like it’s a good time to be a Mexican filmmaker.

AC: The most important thing, I think, is the community; that’s what’s more exciting than anything else. It’s really a community that supports each other and it’s a community that’s extremely politically aware. It’s a community that understands that sometimes cinema is a means for something more important. In that sense it’s a community that, even with aesthetic differences sometimes, comes together for the important issue. It’s really exciting to be a part of that.

And it’s also a community that has decided to, finally, erase the borders so it’s not about Mexicans it’s about filmmakers. A big chunk of the Argentinean and Brazilian community are making fantastic films and there’s no difference between them and the Mexican community; it’s pretty-much the same. It’s about filmmakers that you bond with. I have so many good friends in that community and we’re always looking to collaborate.

RT-UK: You’ve started a production company with Guillermo and Alejandro, is that going to continue your form of making films both in Mexico and the rest of the world of various different ideas and sizes?

AC: The thing is that the company doesn’t have a nationality, in a sense. Right now we’re producing Carlos’ film in Mexico but there’s a plan to do this other film in Argentina and probably one that’ll be in America. For us it’s not about Mexico, it’s just about filmmakers. I believe in what Marco Muller from the Venice Film Festival talks about as nomad cinema. You can see it in Sokurov films, that he can do Russian Ark in Russian in Saint Petersburg in the Hermitage Museum and he can do The Sun about Hirohito in Japanese in Japan. Both films have the same soul and the same heart of this filmmaker who happens to be Russian. This community of filmmakers that are bonding are doing so because they have the same approach, I think.

RT-UK: It seems to be the case that you’re able to preserve a certain sense of passion whether you’re making Y Tu Mama Tambien or Harry Potter which are clearly very different films.

AC: Yeah, hopefully. They’re mine so it’s kind-of difficult to talk about because I’m too close to them, but I can see it in the work of my peers; I can see it in Guillermo through Pan’s Labyrinth and then I watch Hellboy and I can see that same passion again; it manifests, for me, in the girl in Pan’s Labyrinth and the teenager on the roof in Hellboy; those two are Guillermo del Toro. Two different manifestations of the same thing.

RT-UK: Does being around Guillermo, Alejandro and the rest of that community make you raise your own game?

AC: We’re brutally honest with each other. Sometimes painfully honest! But that’s an amazing comfort, you know, because you know that you don’t have to be trying to smell the bullshit around. I trust their judgement and I know that if they’re going to get tough on me it’s coming from the standpoint of caring and love. That just pushes the envelope. If I’m getting lazy or anything or if I talk about the next project I’m going to do, sometimes they’ll tell me, “You know what, that’s becoming lazy. You’re not trying to stretch yourself. You can do that, but it’s boring. Go and do it, become a ‘bureaucrat of cinema,'” as we say.

And it’s not exclusive to those two either; I can have these conversations with Fernando Trueba or Emanuele Crialese. It’s very obvious to see the Mexicans just because we’ve known each other for a long time and I guess it’s easy to identify the three of us together, but each one of us has relationships with other filmmakers that we’re in constant communication with. There’s this attitude of love of filmmaking and love for filmmakers. Yeah, there are filmmakers that are very competitive but, then, maybe they don’t want to be your friends!

RT-UK: It’s not about movies being better than each other; it’s about having a good raft of great movies…

AC: Well that’s the thing, I love my work but I really admire seeing a great film and when I see a great film I tend to want to meet with and talk with the filmmaker. In most cases you realise it goes both ways; a communication is established and in many cases a relationship is established, and once you’ve established that relationship it’s a great support to know that you can rely on somebody else. You can call and ask someone for advice. Obviously with Guillermo and Alejandro there’s baggage, there’s history, and that makes everything very telepathic, very second-hand.

RT-UK: Making Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban appeared to be a strange decision after Y Tu Mama Tambien, but it also appeared to lead to the chance to make Children of Men – what’s the story behind that?

AC: Well, actually, I wrote Children of Men right after Y Tu Mama Tambien and that didn’t happen at the time. Of course Harry Potter helped make Children of Men happen. That’s one of those beautiful coincidences; I did Harry Potter because it crossed into my life and I was completely unfamiliar with the material. Guillermo is the one who kept on telling me, “You need to read it.” Originally I was making jokes about them offering it to me. I read it and I really fell in love with it. It just made sense, you know, and when I did it I spent the two most beautiful years of my life doing that film. After one of the perks was that I could do Children of Men; it’s just one of those things, I’ve been very lucky. Sometimes you have to just not follow your ego as the perception you wish people had of you, you have to follow what you feel is the right thing and you have to understand why you’re making those choices.

That was the thing about Harry Potter, I have to say, it was something instinctual that I knew I had to do it. When you commit to a movie you’re committing one or two years of your life to a movie, and that affects what you do with your life. I don’t want to get really old and realise that I’ve wasted my life making films. I want to look back and say that I lived and that I was making films as I was living. It’s the combination of all of that stuff.

RT-UK: Is the Potter universe something you’d like to return to?

AC: You know, it was such a great opportunity and such a beautiful two years and everything around Harry Potter – JK Rowling’s creation – is enveloped in this really beneficial energy. I got the benefits of that energy for those two years. So yes I’d be very tempted to do so even though, at this point, I feel a little bit like I have to try to do the films that are not going to exist without me. On the same token, I would be really tempted because it was really beautiful. I just started reading the last book and something I respect is the care the producers have put in the film franchise. It would have been so easy after the success of the series just to take the cynical approach of knowing that no matter what people are going to see those movies. Actually they’ve been taking a lot of care from beginning to end, so yeah I would be really tempted.