Exclusive: Pedro Almodóvar on Why He’s Always Put Queer Characters in His Movies

"They are part of my films like they are part of my life," says the "Pain and Glory" director.

Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria) is a return to form, having garnered a slew of accolades and critical acclaim, including two Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Antonio Banderas) and Best International Feature.

Manolo Pavón/Sony Pictures Classics

Chosen by Time as the best film of 2019, Pain and Glory tells the story of Almodóvar surrogate Salvador Mallo (Banderas), a film director in his physical decline, through a series of reunions and flashbacks.

Among the cast, Almodóvar mainstay Penélope Cruz plays Salvador’s mother when she was younger and Argentine actor Leonardo Sbaraglia plays his former lover Federico, whom he met in Madrid in the 1980s.

As with all of his films, Almodóvar doesn’t shy away from the queerness of his characters, which he says has always been his approach.

“Ever since my first film, I’ve always shown naturally all the sexual orientations I was aware of,” Almodóvar says in an exclusive clip from the bonus features from the new Blu-ray and DVD release of Pain and Glory. “To be a transvestite, gay, heterosexual, transsexual, or bisexual has never been a dramatic problem in my films. They are part of my films like they are part of my life.”

Almodóvar’s first feature film, 1980’s Pepi, Luci, Bom, followed the titular Bom, a lesbian punk-rock singer, while his second film (and his first of many collaborations with Banderas), 1982’s Labyrinth of Passion, included a gay Middle Eastern prince. From the beginning, his work confronted the real lives and situations of queer and gender nonconforming people because that was what was familiar to him.

Says Almodóvar, “…[in] the ’80s and ’90s, it was so important to have them in the films, to make them visible and normal. But even more so because, when you put into a story a transsexual, then you are adding a dynamic component. It triggers a reaction from all of the other characters. That leads to new situations, which was also my interest as the narrator.”

Pain and Glory is out today, January 21, on Blu-ray and DVD.

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat