Pain & Glory ranks among Pedro Almodóvar’s most personal movies, and sometimes the process of filming it left him totally emotionally overwhelmed.
That’s at least according to Antonio Banderas, who plays an alter ego of Almodóvar in the film: an aging, revered Spanish director named Salvador Mallo. Visiting EW and PEOPLE’s TIFF video suite, the actor recounted one moment in production where Almodóvar was too affected by the content to stay in the room. So he left the set entirely.
The film follows Salvador in reflection, late in life: on his relationship with his mother, his coming to terms with a tattered friendship with an old collaborator, and an affair with a man from decades ago that he’s never forgotten. The scene that most deeply affected Almodóvar, per Banderas, is a quiet heartbreaker between Salvador and his mother, in which he apologizes for not being the son she expected, or perhaps wanted. “Pedro normally comes to the set and just says the lines for the actors, just for the last syndications before we start shooting,” Banderas said. “He read the [dialogue for] the character [of my mother] and then he was going to read mine, and he couldn’t. He just couldn’t say those lines.”
Banderas, who won this year’s Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance as Salvador, gets a little emotional just recalling it. “Pedro couldn’t read that. It was so emotional for him,” he says. “He tried and he couldn’t.” So Almodóvar let Banderas and the movie’s team film the scene without him present; he approved it from afar.
Pain & Glory is intensely autobiographical. Banderas, who made his film debut in an Almodóvar film over 30 years ago, said he recognized things from their past in the script, and also learned things about the man who helped launch his career. The actor calls the film Almodóvar’s “confession.” There’s even one scene in the movie that Banderas took, in good humor, as an apology from the director to him. Safe to say, things get pretty meta. “An emotional charge was around the set all the time,” Banderas adds.
Perhaps that’s why the movie feels so true to life. As Banderas puts it, “We all go through life with pain and glories, and miseries and greatnesses.”
Watch the clip above. Pain & Glory hits select theaters on Oct. 4.
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