Pedro Almodovar Talks About Capturing the Sexiness of Air Travel in ‘I’m So Excited’

Thelma Adams
The Reel Breakdown

With an Oscar behind him for the screenplay of 'Talk to Her," writer-director Pedro Almodovar is widely considered one of the world’s greatest living directors. His string of international hits including "Volver," "The Skin I Live In," and "Broken Embraces" has won Almodovar an international following of critics and audiences alike.

Just last week, "Hairspray" director John Waters told Yahoo! Movies: "Almodovar is the best filmmaker in the world. He writes and directs and you can never predict what he’s going to do.'

Now, with 'I’m So Excited,' a high-flying comedy set aboard a Spanish jetliner on the verge of a mechanical breakdown, Almodovar returns to his ‘80’s flamboyant comedy roots, and takes Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas along for the ride.

You cast Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, two Spanish actors that became international stars after working with you.

Penelope and Antonio deserve their success. They worked hard to get it. Yes, their presentation was in my movies and they are very good friends of mine, part of my artistic family and emotional support.

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"I’m So Excited" has a different title in Spanish, "Los Amantes Pasajeros," or the amorous passengers. Why change it?

In Spanish, there is a double meaning. Someone that is traveling also means something that is ephemeral, that is fleeting. There’s also the double entendre of "I’m So Excited" that in Spanish and English means enthusiasm but also implies sexual arousal. To be excited is to be horny, and it represents that the characters are living in a very horny state.

This is an ecstatically funny comedy taken from a very sober situation – the plane may not land, all the people may die, this may be their last hour on the planet. And yet the situation is surprisingly liberating for the characters.

It has this kind of liberation for all of us and for me when I was writing it. We didn’t have limits to talking about the dirty things that you don’t usually talk about in a movie. That ends up being good for comedy because there’s something funny in the scene in the cockpit where they are living in a situation that is full of danger – life or death – that makes them free to talk and behave candidly about their sex lives. {And that gave me a thrill as well.}

You touch on serious subjects along the way – sexuality, fidelity, politics – but the point is more unabashedly humorous than in your last movies.

Yes. I’m heading for a laugh. The movie is a comedy so it has to be diverting, but you can’t force the laughter. It has to emerge from the situation. Comedy needs to have this kind of lightness yet it demands that the actors be very precise. Comedy is exacting by nature. It’s fragile. It needs more precision than other genres.

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Did American comedies like "The Front Page," where the dialog is so swift, influence you?

Yes. Movies like "The Philadelphia Story," "Monkey Business" and "Easy Living." "Midnight" is one of my favorites. And I am very present that it all depends on the actors: Good actors but also good comedians.

On the plane, a virgin decides if she doesn’t want to die without experience, it’s now and never – and so it’s now.

Yes. She’s a virgin and she doesn’t want to keep on being that. It was clear for me since the beginning I didn’t want to see flesh. It’s not part of comedy to show genitals. I don’t need that. It’s much funnier to talk about what is happening from the point-of-view of a virgin, which is candid, innocent, and almost childish, and trying to get funniest part of that without showing any kind of genitalia.

Since you set most of this comedy on a plane, do you have a fear of flying?

No. I don’t have a fear of flying any more than I have a fear of being in a car, The sense of speed, of velocity, makes me feel like vertigo but in a plane you don’t really feel it. It’s more pragmatic just to feel that you give your destiny to the pilots, to trust in them. In a plane, I don’t have any fear. I feel comfortable being with myself, thinking writing, reading. Time and space disappear.

Do you find flying sexy?

I think sex and death are two feelings or sensations that one experiences in the inside of the plane. When you travel many people are passing by and it’s not abnormal to evaluate them. Some are more attractive than others and that’s what I mean when I say that sexual desire is implicit in those situations. The idea of death is present in my movie because there is a threat, but "I'm So Excited" is also a celebration of life.