INTERVIEW: Actor: Elena Anaya

Interview with Elena Anaya courtesy of Optimum Releasing.

Nothing is more terrifying than our own worst nightmares coming true. That’s the starting point of Hierro, a chilling tale of psychological suspense that probes the unsettling questions of who we can trust and what we most fear.

The film is about those inner demons we carry around with us but cannot quite see. In exploring fear as a primal human emotion, Hierro stresses the idea that the most chilling and startling horrors are generated in the human mind itself, where both our own personal demons and ancestral nightmares still lurk, rather than from events in the outside world.

Hierro marks the debut of acclaimed commercials director Gabe Ibanez, who also directed the multi-award winning short film Maquina. Written by Javier Gullón, screenwriter of El Rey de la Montana, Hierro brings together a solid cast headed up by Elena Anaya in a role which sees her push the depiction of mother’s heart-wrenching devotion to its very limits…

María is the most mature character you’ve played up until now, a mother who loses her son. How did you prepare for the role?
Gabe told me that we were going to make sure María had the full weight and maturity she required, because this is a woman who’s grown up very quickly. She lost her parents when she was young, and lived with her sister. One way or another, she has organised her own life from a very early age, living alone with the person she adores so much, her son, who doesn’t have a father and around whom she creates a very particular micro-universe.
   Gabe had every single scene in his head, and he explained very clearly to me what story he wanted to tell. After almost two months of preparation, the character begins to breathe of its own accord. It’s a kind of gestation period, an evolutionary process where you have more options, a greater range of possibilities available, to convey who the character is and who you want the audience to see in her. My job was to breathe in time with the character, to maintain the same state of tension she has to bear: a highly charged emotional state. I lived in María’s world. This very personal and peculiar universe is centred on her son, on her relationship with her son, to such an extent they almost feed off each other. Maria is so attached to her son that without him she feels like she’s dying, she can’t breathe, she can’t accept this new reality, it’s just too harsh for her to take in.
   We saw many children during the casting sessions, and many of them were fantastic, but I especially connected with Kaiet. He looked me in the eye, and if he got scared, he didn’t show it, he lived through it, and when he smiled, he smiled with his eyes. I felt like he could have been my son. Shooting the film with him has been fantastic. It’s always a bit difficult with children, because everything is up in the air. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the next take, you just don’t know how they’re going to react... and this kid has been just great, incredible.

What was it about Hierro that attracted you most?
To begin with, I was simply very interested in telling the story, but once I met Gabe I began to get really enthusiastic about the way it was going to be told, which is just as important as the story itself. I was practically living at Gabe’s house for a month-and-a-half as we prepped the character. We went through the screenplay for about a month, not only to take the story apart bit by bit, but also to look at every aspect of the film.
   In Hierro the atmosphere is just as important as my character, and that atmosphere is created by all of the departments: production design, cinematography, wardrobe... All films come down to teamwork of course, but in this one specifically I’ve felt nourished each day by the work of everybody on the set. I needed that during prep, it was very gratifying and a great experience. It had to be that way; it would have been tough to make the story believable with just my performance.

What working method did you and Gabe use?
Gabe is maybe one of the directors who’s given me most - information and affection, too. He’s been very precise throughout the process regarding how he wanted the two of us to tell this story... with the help, of course, of an extraordinary crew. It makes no difference if a director comes from the world of commercials or of theatre, if he’s shooting his first film or if he’s already directed two dozen. The very first day he told me: “Filmmaking is very difficult," and I answered back: “You’re so right, and it’s great you realise that.” There are people out there who think they know everything and instead of making the job easier, they make it more complicated. One of Gabe’s greatest strengths is that he left absolutely nothing to chance.
   It’s true we were lucky during the shoot, everything went just as planned, but above all there was lots and lots of work, loads of planning, lots of homework to be done, and that makes things flow in a very special way every day. It’s been such a beautiful experience, and I always very much felt that everybody was by my side, which is a very good feeling when the time comes to do your thing in front of the camera.

How do you think Hierro has contributed to your career?
Hierro is the film I’ve enjoyed doing the most. For me, it was just like a gift. I lived through the creative process on a daily basis, and that’s a great opportunity for me as an actress. And I’ve also made lots of friends. Given that it’s such a long and tiring creative process, it’s not always easy to come away with the kind of kindness and affection I’ve received every day here. OP

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