Nationality: Spanish. Born: Victoria Merida Rojas in Madrid, 14 July 1959. Education: Began studying dance at age eight, focused on ballet at Conservatory of Madrid until age 14. Family: Married Gustavo Lauve, 1976 (divorced 1981); two sons by current companion the cinematographer Gerard de Battista. Career: 1974—host of Spanish TV game show at age 15; 1976—English-language debut in Robin and Marian; 1978—in TV mini-series The Bastard; 1980s—top box-office attraction in Spain; 1990–93—international stardom via Almodóvar films; 1994—Hollywood debut in Jimmy Hollywood. Lives in France. Awards: San Sebastian Film Festival, Best Actress, for El Lute: Camina o Revienta, 1987; Berlin Film Festival, Best Actress, for Amantes, 1991; San Sebastian Film Festival, Best Actress, for Nadie Hablara de Nosotras Cuando Hayamos Muerto, 1995. Agent: Sandy Bresler, 15760 Ventura Boulevard, #1730, Encino, CA 91436, U.S.A.
Films as Actress:
Cambio de Sexo (Aranda) (as José María/María José); Robin and Marian (Lester); El Puente (The Lost Weekend) (Bardem) (as Lolita)
Doña Perfecta (Ardavin)
Mater Amatisima (Salgot)
The Girl with the Golden Panties (Aranda) (as Mariana)
Comin' at Ya! (Baldi) (as Abilene)
Asesinato en el Comite Central (Murder in the Central Committee) (Aranda); J'ai Espouse une Ombre (I Married a Dead Man; I Married a Shadow) (Robin Davis) (as Fifo); La Colmena (The Beehive) (M. Camus)
Le Batard (van Effenterre) (as Betty); Las Bicicletas Son Para el Verano (Bicycles Are for the Summer) (Chavarri); La Lune dans le Caniveau (The Moon in the Gutter) (Beineix) (as Bella)
L'Addition (Amar) (as Patty); Le Voyage (Andrieu) (as Veronique); La Noche Mas Hermosa (The Most Beautiful Night) (Gutiérrez Aragón) (as Elena); Rio Abajo (On the Line) (Borau) (as Engracia); Padre Nuestro (Our Father) (Regueiro) (as Cardenala)
L'Addition (The Bill) (Amar) (as Patty); After Darkness (Othenin-Girard) (as Pascale); Rouge Gorge (Zucca); La Hora Bruja (De Arminan) (as Saga)
Tiempo de Silencio (Time of Silence) (Aranda) (as Dorita); Max Mon Amour (Max My Love) (Oshima) (as Maria); Ternosecco (Giancarlo Giannini)
El Lute: Camina o Revienta (Lute: Forge on or Die) (Aranda) (as Consuelo); El Juego Mas Divertido (Martínez-Lazardo) (as Ada Lasa/Sara); El Placer de Matar (The Pleasure of Killing) (Rotaeta); Barrios Altos (García Berlanga)
Baton Rouge (Moleon) (as Ana Alonso); Ada dans La Jungle (Zingg) (as Carmen); Sans Peur et Sans Reproche (Without Fear or Blame) (Jugnot) (as Jeanne)
Si Te Dicen Que Caí (If They Tell You That I Fell) (Aranda) (as Menchu/Ramona/Aurora Nin)
¡Atame! (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) (Almodóvar) (as Marina Osorio); Sandino (Littin); A Solas Contigo (Campoy); Amantes (Lovers: A True Story) (Aranda) (as Luisa)
Une Epoque Formidable (Wonderful Times) (Jugnot) (as Juliette); Tacones Lejanos (High Heels; Talons Lejanos) (Almodóvar) (as Rebecca)
Demasiado Corazon (Campoy)
Intruso (Intruder) (Aranda) (as Luisa)
Kika (Almodóvar) (as Andrea Scarface); Jimmy Hollywood (Levinson) (as Lorraine); Casque Bleu (Blue Helmet) (Jugnot) (as Alicia)
Gazon Maudit (French Twist) (Balasko) (as Loli); Nadie Hablara de Nosotras Cuando Hayamos Muerto (Nobody Will Talk about Us When We're Dead) (Díaz Janes) (as Gloria)
Libertarias (Aranda) (as Floren); Trois Vies et Une Seule Mort (Raúl Ruiz); French Twist (Balasko) (as Loli)
La Femme du cosmonaute (Monnet) (as Anna)
Enre las piernas (Between Your Legs) (Gómez Pereira) (as Miranda)
By ABRIL: articles—
"The Pain in Spain," interview with D. Wells, in Time Out (London), 4 May 1992.
"Queen Victoria," interview with Pedro Almodóvar, in Interview (New York), April 1994.
"Victoria Abril: la vengeance d'une femme," interview with Élie Castiel, in Séquences (Montreal), May/June 1995.
"Victoria Abril," Stars (Mariembourg), Spring 1994.
On ABRIL: books—
Besas, Peter, Behind the Spanish Lens, Denver, 1985.
Schwartz, Ronald, The Great Spanish Films, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1991.
Kinder, Marsha, Blood Cinema, London, 1993.
Deveny, Thomas G., Cain on Screen: Contemporary Spanish Cinema, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1993.
Monterde, José Enrique, Veinte Años de Cine Español (1973–1992), Barcelona, 1993.
On ABRIL: articles—
Marinero, F., and V. Ciompi, "Victoria Por Si Misma," in Casablanca (Madrid), February 1984.
"Victoria Abril, Varier Les Roles de Composition," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), June 1984.
"El Cine Como Pasion," in Semana Internacional de Cine Valladolid (Valladolid), 1991.
Millea, Holly, "Victor, Victoria," in Premiere (New York), May, 1994.
* * *
For those who only know Victoria Abril from her stunning Almodóvar troika, it may come as a shock that the classically trained dancer has been a working cinema actress since the age of 15. Unsurprisingly, given her background, her physicality and wanton body language are essential components of all her roles. She moves like a panther prowling to a flamenco beat. Burning up the international cinema with a sensuality that is not the by-product of cosmetic enhancement or Hollywood glamour, Abril possesses an animal magnetism that will deepen with the years like the appeal of Moreau, Magnani, or Ava Gardner. Abril attacks her parts with the same natural abandon with which she often sheds her clothes on screen; it is as if she wants no barrier between the reality of her characterization and the audience. You do not just watch an Abril performance, you experience it through your pores.
When you consider her wide range of roles, you realize that her sexuality is a gift of personality, a force of nature that she savvily uses to communicate as an actress. From her first English-language film appearance as the woodsy diversion for the King of England in Robin and Marian, she has made love to the camera as well as to her on-screen partners. From the mid-seventies, Spanish directors clamored for her services until she became that nation's top box-office attraction long before Almodóvar tied her up or down. In Cambio de Sexo, she portrayed a transsexual with a virtuosity well beyond the capabilities associated with a 16-year-old actress. In Mater Amatisima, she heartbreakingly enacted the mother of an eight-year-old autistic child despite being only 20 at the time. Despite her ebullient persona, her eyes suggest a familiarity with pain that has enabled her to tackle mature roles from her teenhood. During her ascent to superstardom espagnole, she played a free spirit inadvertently entangled in an incestuous affair in The Girl with the Golden Panties, subtly shaded three different whore roles in If They Tell You That I Fell, and limned another prostitute part with uncommon power in On the Line. Moving to France with her lover, cinematographer Gerard de Battista (with whom she has two sons), she spent her Abril in Paris years escaping the scathing reviews meted out for The Moon in the Gutter and impressing American audiences as one of the few causes for celebration in the star-deficient nineties. In the orgasmic film noir, Lovers: A True Story, she unleashed the sexual licentiousness that Hollywood femmes fatales of yesteryear could only intimate. Although the controversial Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! played like an awkward blind date between director Almodóvar and his game-for-anything star, High Heels, their next collaboration, showcased Abril's unique blend of reckless vulnerability and murderously intense passion to dazzling effect. In this combination salute to Lana Turner's real-life excesses and acidic parody of women's films, Abril sent up all those resentful daughters of Melodrama who are content to pillory their mothers for their own frustrations. Following up her delicious roast of a television reality-show hostess who would sell her own soul (if she had one) for a scoop in Kika, Abril played sexy second banana to Joe Pesci in Barry Levinson's unwieldy show biz satire Jimmy Hollywood. Lighting up a gimmicky script with refreshing candor, she stole the film.
Although Levinson changed his mind about using her as the defense attorney in Disclosure, one hopes American moviemakers will divine the combustibility she could bring to Lotus Land and that her assets will be used more wisely than those of other emigrée casualties such as Lena Olin and Emmanuelle Béart. Whether in drama or comedy, what sets this off-the-wall temptress apart from other Euro-goddesses is that she takes Passion seriously, but not herself. Far beyond her awesome pliability as a screen presence, there is an Abrilian life force that rattles viewers out of complacency and makes every Abril performance seem as if you are discovering her for the very first time.
—Robert J. Pardi