The premiere of ‘Way Down’ has recovered the genre of robberies on the big screen for Spanish cinema, a favorite subject in recent years with ‘La casa de papel’ triumphing in the world. It also supposes a welcome return to the form of director Jaume Balagueró, which this time has left its horror film niche to offer a show with nothing to envy to the great Hollywood premieres.
The Spanish director chatted with us, accompanied by his international cast, with Jose Coronado, Luis Tosar, Freddie Highmore, Sam Riley, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey y Axel Stein. We delve into the depths of how the project took shape and the difficulties of filming with actors from all over Europe and Balagueró tells us about his new project for ‘The Fear Collection‘by Álex de la Iglesia.
Espinof: Jaume, you have done a lot of terror, what caught your attention in the robbery genre.
Jaume Balagueró: It is not a genre that is foreign to me, I have done a lot of terror but as a spectator I have been trained with these films, also dreaming of getting to make a story that I am passionate about its premise. I quickly said, let’s go there, I feel in my sauce because I have grown up with it, so it has squared me both this and the other horror.
I: How important was the World Cup for you to join the project?
JB: Actually, it was the premise that appealed to me. I was not proposed a robbery story, but a robbery in the final. It is the foundation on which history is built, it was not an afterthoughtIt’s just the 90 minute time limit of a soccer game that drove me crazy.
I: What caught your attention in the robbery cinema as actors, especially Luis Tosar and José Coronado, who were already in ‘One Hundred Years of Forgiveness?
José Coronado: It is the second that we share together and we do not share a plane, it is unforgivable.
Luis Tosar: Hopefully, we would like to be able to correct this now. I was attracted to the fact that it is a genre, one that we especially like.
José Coronado: The difference is that this production is a little bigger, also that it took place during the World Cup.
Axel Stein: I love movies like this, I wanted to do something ‘The Italian Job’ so I didn’t even think about it.
Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey: For me it has more to do with shooting with Jaume and what he can bring with his talent to the genre, besides The idea of a robbery in a moment of celebration seems very original to me, combine some action at a key point in Spanish society.
Espinof: Have you noticed a difference when filming at the production level, filming with international actors, shooting days etc …?
JC: Technically there is not much difference, there are good actors, there is a good team, everything is better, although don’t think there were many more days than usual, maybe there were more cameras and then more time for post-production.
LT: It makes it something more interesting on a day-to-day basis, the mechanics are the same, when push comes to shove someone says action, you’re rolling and that’s itBut shooting in English has a different idiosyncrasy.
Espinof: How does it feel to rob a Spanish bank, that is, money that is ours, everyone’s?
LT: Well, they are modern pirates and they always have the approval of the viewer, since we were little we always want to be Long John Silver. We find it funny because it’s a fantasy that attacks a great institution, you rebel against the authorities and then you have to carry it out or not. If in the movies what they did were real, we still didn’t like them so well, but in fiction there is glamor.
JC: And above all that they are not robbing the taxpayer, it is a disputed treasure, and it is something else.
Espinof: José, you are the good one, but you are terrible, however you do not do anything bad, how do you play a villain who is just doing his job?
JC: Putting yourself in front of the protagonists is already a counterpoint in itself and this man does not allow himself to smile, he only wants to hunt those who want to board his ship and makes him hateful not so much for what he is but for how good that the others fall. He is a professional that has that point of bitterness and obsession that is detrimental to the person.
Espinof: Freddie, in Spain we already know you for your impeccable Castilian, is this the first time you shoot here, what differences have you noticed?
Freddie Highmore: In England we do not cut for the sandwich (laughs). No, it’s great, just walking around Madrid is a luxury, I had previously been working as an intern and in a law firm, but it is the first time here. The way the team has collected the city and the buildings, the Plaza de Cibeles, is impressive, the scale is enormous. I would love to do something in Spain again.
Espinof: Have you seen ‘La casa de papel’? Do you know that the Bank of Spain is also robbed?
JB: When they told us it was a bit of a shock. We found out that they were about to start shooting another season a month after shooting ours. We had a script so closed and approved that we could not make changes to four weeks: actors, companies … there was no possibility of movement. When I saw it it was a relief because the type of story is different, there are different motivations and everything that has to do with the vault came out in two sufficiently different ways.
FH: I know, I haven’t seen that season, but since we shot two years ago I don’t think it was out yet.
Sam Riley: What about Spaniards who want to rob their own bank all the time? It is a great desire in this country to steal from themselves.
ABF: I had not seen it and I have it pending, they have told me that it is great.
AS: I did not know it, I write it down.
Espinof: It also coincides that it has been released ‘The Fortune‘from Amenábar and this’ Way Down’ looks like a B-side, the side of the pirates, what did you feel when you sided with the bad guys from that one?
JB: I have not seen it, although I really wanted to and knew that it existed and that it was in production. In fact, Alejandro came to visit us one day, a very nice detail because we were in front of his house and then he explained it to us, he told us that he was with a series that was about something very similar. Then they have premiered before. I know they are very different, they start from the same concept but it goes the other way.
Espinof: There is something that is really impressive to see now in ‘Way Down’ which are the scenes with many people gathered in the street. I do not know if you have filmed again after the pandemic began, I do not know how you have lived all this.
FH: We shot this before and now we couldn’t have repeated it with the thousands of extras that are in many scenes. I have since returned to work in ‘The Good Doctor‘in Vancouver and it’s a very different setting. I feel lucky to still have a job, and the measures are not a nuisance although sometimes they do delay everything. Now it seems that we return to a period of relative normality and I hope ‘Way Down’ encourages people to go back to the movies, because it seems to me that it is made to see on the big screen.
SR: I have not really returned, but I have been comfortable at home, I do not want to sound frivolous but I have finally enjoyed my wife and my son. I’m closing something to shoot in Rome next year, but we need an excuse to go back to Spain, maybe to Barcelona.
ABF: I have never shot anything that needed so many people at the same time, what you see on the screen is a special effect that is now impossible.
AS: It’s quite sad because this shoot was especially warm and fun. It is not easy to repeat it right now.
Espinof: How was the experience of bringing together a cast from such diverse countries and the communication between colleagues and the team?
JB: The casting process for a film like this is complex and laborious, it must be consensual at all times with many parties involved, but once this happened, everything was fluid. The moment Freddie came we saw that Thom had always been him and could not be another.
SR: Chaos! It was a lot of fun, it was a bit of a tower of Babel, sometimes Jaume would say something to Freddy, he would translate it for me, then I would translate it into German for others. It was cool, true European spirit.
FH: We would repeat with Jaume, he is truly talented and qualified for this. The big set pieces, the action scenes and at the same time he is able to play just the right thing in the dynamics of the characters.
ABF: It’s like a big European cast meeting, we come from very different countries, it’s what makes the film something special.
AS: It was exhausting for me for my first time in Spain and in a great production, I had a great time despite being difficult, because of the mixture of words but it was great.
SR: It would be nice to do ‘Way Down 2’, get the team together and repeat the experience.
Espinof: Astrid, how did you approach your role as the only female character within a group of men?
ABF: For me it was very important that Lorraine’s presence was not limited to being “the girl” and I tried to make her a member of the team itself, to give more weight to her role within the team, as one more than being a woman, something that I especially focused on.
Espinof: Jaume, we have known that you are going to adapt Lovecraft in ‘The Fear Collection’ here in Madrid, I do not know if you can tell us something about her, your approach to face an author so important for the culture of terror and more in Spain .
JB: Actually, it’s only slightly inspired by ‘The Dreams of the Witch’s House’, it’s not an adaptation, what you’re going to see has nothing to do with Lovecraft’s Provicence universe. It is a film that takes place today, on the outskirts of Madrid in rather sordid environments that it does have to do with the text but maybe not how you expect. We are about to start filming and we are very happy and eager.
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“We learned that in ‘La Casa de papel’ the Bank of Spain was going to be robbed a month after filming. It was a shock.” Jaume Balagueró (‘Way Down’)