Nationality: Spanish. Born: Madrid, 1945; greatniece of the politician Antonio Maura. Education: Attended University of Madrid. Family: Married, 1965 (marriage annulled), two children. Career: From mid-1960s—actress in Madrid and on tour, becoming leading actress of the Maria Guerrero Theatre; presenter of TV show Esta noche, 1980s. Awards: National Prize of Cinematography, Spanish Ministry of Culture, 1988; Goya Award for Best Actress, and European Felix Award for Best Actress, for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1988; European Felix Award for Best Actress, 1990, and Goya Award for Best Lead Actress, 1991, for -Ay, Carmela!. Agent: c/o Agence Myriam Bru, 80 avenue Charles de Gaulle, 92200 Neuilly sur Seine, France.
Films as Actress:
Tigres de Papel (Paper Tigers) (Colomo) (as Carmen)
Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón (Pepi, Luci, Bom, and Other Girls on the Heap) (Almodóvar) (as Pepi); Aquella Casa en las Afueras (That House in the Outskirts) (Martin)
Entre Tinieblas (Into the Dark; The Sisters of Darkness) (Almodóvar) (as Sister); Sal Gordo (Garbage) (Colomo); Chi Trova, un Amico, Trova un Tesoro (Who Finds a Friend Finds Treasure) (Corbucci)
¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto? (What Have I Done to Deserve This?) (Almodóvar) (as Gloria)
Extramuros (Picazo); Se infiel y no mires con quien (Trueba)
Matador (Almodóvar) (as Julia); Tata Mia (Nanny Dear) (Borau) (as Elvira)
La Ley del Deseo (Law of Desire) (Almodóvar) (as Tina Quintero)
Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) (Almodóvar) (as Pepa Marcos); Baton Rouge (Moleon) (as Isabel Harris)
¡Ay, Carmela! (Saura) (title role)
Como ser Mujer y no morir en el intento (How to Be a Woman and Not Die Trying) (Belen) (as Carmen); Chatarra (as Zabu); Extramuros (The Outskirts) (Picazo) (as Sister Ana)
La Reina Anonima (The Anonymous Queen) (Suarez) (as Ana Luz)
Entre el cielo y la tierra (In Heaven as on Earth; Sur la terre comme au ciel) (Hansel) (as María García); Louis, L'enfant du roi (Louis, the Child King) (Planchon) (as Queen Anne of Austria); Sombras en una Batalla (Shadows in a Conflict) (Mario Camus) (as Ana)
Cómo Ser Infeliz y Disfrutarlo (How to Be Miserable and Enjoy It) (Urbizu) (as Carmen)
El Rey de ríp (as Carmen Costa); Una Pareja de Tres (Verdaguer) (as Ana); El Paloma Cojo (De Arminan); Amores que matan (Chumilla); Le bonheur est dans le pré (Chatiliez)
Tres Desejos (Luis Galvao Teles)
Tortilla y cinema (Provost) (as Carmen Maura, movie star); Alliance cherche doigt (Mocky) (as Geneviève Lechat); Elles (Women) (Teles) (as Linda); Vivir después (Galettini)
Alice et Martin (Téchiné) (as Jeanoine Sauvagnac); El Entusiasmo (Enthusiasm) (Larrain) (as Maria); Superlove (Janer) (as Teresa); El Cometa (The Comet) (Buil, Sistach)
Lisboa (Hernández) (as Berta)
Le harem de Mme. Osmane (The Harem of Madame Osmane) (Moknèche) (as Madame Osmane)
By MAURA: articles—
Interview with Elliot Stein, in Village Voice (New York), 15 Novem-ber 1988.
Interview, in Films and Filming (London), June 1989.
Interview with Dominic Wells, in Time Out (London), 8 May 1991.
"'Taisez-vous les canaris!' Entretien avec Carmen Maura," inter-view with P. Piazzo, in Jeune Cinéma, September/October 1991.
On MAURA: articles—
Lida, David, "Comic Chaos," in Connoisseur, March 1991.
Current Biography 1992, New York, 1992.
Bloom, Phillipa, article in Empire (London), no. 62, 1994.
Lafarga, Rafael, "Cómo ser Carmen Maura y no morir en el intento," in Cinemanía (Mexico), vol. 2, no. 16, January 1998.
* * *
Simply put, Carmen Maura is Spain's most popular screen actress, and one of her country's most famous and acclaimed international movie stars. But her career remains inexorably linked to that of the director who cast her in some of her best roles, Pedro Almodóvar. If, cinematically speaking, Almodóvar is the prince of La Movida (The Movement), a term referring to Spain's burgeoning pop culture in the post-Franco era, then Maura is its undisputed queen.
Maura began her screen career a decade before she first was directed by Almodóvar. She had roles in various films that barely were seen outside Spain, made by such directors as Javier Aguirre, Pilar Muro, Miguel Angel Diaz, and Jaime Bayarri, who are familiar only to the most ardent aficionado of Spanish cinema. She also appeared on Spanish television, for a year even hosting a weekly talk show, Esta Noche.
Maura's career was to be inexorably altered upon meeting Almodóvar, then an aspiring director, around the time that both were cast in a stage production of Sartre's Dirty Hands. Because of her age—Maura was close to 30 at Franco's demise, and 35 when she first worked with Almodóvar in Pepi, Luci, Bom, and Other Girls on the Heap—the director could not cast her as young, self-assured women reaching their prime in a censorship-free society. Her most typical characters came to maturity in a prefeminist, Franco-influenced era, a time in which passion—especially for women—was considered antisocial. The claws of fascism and chauvinism have entrapped them, causing them to be "on the verge of nervous breakdowns." But it now is the time of La Movida. Franco is dead. It is the destiny of women to break free from bondage, to defiantly thrust off their shackles, to learn to live for themselves and become their own persons.
While the Maura/Almodóvar heroines struggle with liberation, to the point where they are driven to commit murder or change their sexual preference (or even their sex), they also are deliciously sexy and charmingly off-kilter. And Maura is a perfect presence in Almodóvar's best black comedies, most especially Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, in which she plays a desperate actress who responds in a most outrageous manner upon learning, by a message on her telephone answering machine, that she has been abandoned by her lover; and What Have I Done to Deserve This?, cast as an off-the-wall housewife who undergoes various trials and crises in a contemporary Madrid that is depicted as a repressive hell of pavement, bricks and stones, and prisonlike apartment buildings.
Sexuality, and a woman's reaction to the sexual brutality of men at a time of sexual and political liberation, is at the core of most Maura/Almodóvar characters. In What Have I Done to Deserve This?, the frustrated heroine's ultimate response to her boorish husband is a murderous whack with the handiest nearby object. In Pepi, Luci, Bom, and Other Girls on the Heap, her character becomes a lesbian after her husband rapes their neighbor. Finally, in Law of Desire, Maura offers a bravura performance as a free-spirited, man-hating transsexual, formerly named Tino but now called Tina.
None of these characters are staunchly political, nor are they dictated by doctrine. They simply respond to their life situations; their ideology manifests itself in their actions. These women have come to feel passion, the only emotion that can give meaning to their existence. And for them, passion quickly transforms itself into anger at the manner in which they have been treated by society, and by men. That anger eventually transforms itself into revenge, as they evolve from repressed, passive victims into autonomous individuals who think and act freely—and, often, outrageously.
While shooting Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Maura and Almodóvar had a falling out and did not speak for two years. His most recent film, the well-received The Flower of My Secret, features Almodóvar regulars Marisa Paredes, Rossy de Palma, and Chus Lampreave—but not Maura.
But this did not slow down Maura's career, as she has been a star presence playing a wide spectrum of roles in her non-Almodóvardirected films. They include Baton Rouge, in which she plays a wealthy, married middle-aged woman who has an affair with a duplicitous younger man; Extramuros, chronicling the secret endeavors of two nuns, who also are lovers, at the time of the Spanish Inquisition; Louis, L'enfant du roi, as Anne of Austria; Shadows in a Conflict, as a rural woman who becomes lovers with an ex-con; In Heaven as on Earth, playing a globe-trotting television journalist who becomes pregnant and whose unborn child speaks to her, informing her that all fetuses have decided not to be born; and especially ¡Ay, Carmela!, cast as a tempestuous, highly principled—and, ultimately, heroic—vaudevillian who gets lost behind enemy lines while entertaining the partisans during the Spanish Civil War.