Friday, July 12, 2013

Archive: Ivana Baquero Steps Out of Pan's Labyrinth

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Ivana Baquero Steps Out of Pan's Labyrinth

(from 12/30/06)

Before meeting the young actress Ivana Baquero, I had read a bunch of her quotes in the production notes for Pan's Labyrinth,  Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro's extraordinary picture that mixes grim (as in Grimm) fairy tale elements and brutal imagery of Post-Civil War Spain. I was positive that some talented publicist had enhanced Baquero's words about her character and the film while making the translation from Spanish to English because the 12-year-old came across as wise and mature as an actress three times her age and with infinitely more experience. 

As it turned out, Baquero spoke excellent English and was even more impressive in person. Walking into a room of reporters, she boldly walked up to each one and offered her hand. When fielding questions, if asked for one explanation, she generously gave two or three. There was no ego, no airs, just a genuine eagerness to share her enthusiasm and ideas. There was little wonder why she was a media darling at the New York Film Festiva.

In "Pan's Labyrinth," Baquero plays Ofelia, a smart, rebellious girl whose ill, pregnant, widowed mother has married and come to live with a monstrous fascist soldier, Captain Vidal (a terrifying performance by Sergi López). She ventures through a labyrinth and into a fantasy world, but, oddly, it's populated by hideous creatures and is as frightening and cruel as the world she hopes to escape. It's a complex film for adults, but the young Baquero has no trouble explaining its mysteries.

Director Guillermo del Toro and Ivana Baquero
Doug Jones as Pan and Ivana Baquero as Ofelia
 Ofelia eats a forbidden grape, which awakens the truly frightening Pale Man
Ivana, accompanied by her father, were in town to promote the film at the New York Film Festival

Q: What is your background?

IB: I'm an only child, and I live in Catalonia, where my mother is from. My father sells machines. In addition to acting, I love biking and I love rock, like Nirvana, Pink Floyd and Genesis. I love soccer and football, any kind of sport. I don't know if I'm good, but I got an A in gym. I read books and comics, and love all movies, especially ones like "Lord of the Rings," "King Arthur," and "Troy," and thrillers.

Q: You speak English very well, with only a trace of an accent. When did you learn it?

IB: I started when I was three-years-old. I have attended an American school in Barcelona. I think my parents made the decision to have me learn English because they thought it would help me in the future. They had no theatrical background so they weren't thinking about it helping me as an actress, but doing any kind of work I chose. However, it definitely has helped me with movies. In fact I did my first movie because I knew English.

Q: When was that?

IB: I started the summer I was nine-years-old. Before I did my first movie, I didn't have much interest in being an actress. I didn't care if I was a psychologist, doctor, or anything else. My first movie was "Romasanta" starring Julian Sands. I went to the audition to see how it felt being in front of a camera. A week later they called and told me they wanted me for the movie. I didn't expect that. I did that movie and two others with the director, Paco Plaza. I learned from him and other people on the set, and I learned from my characters. I love learning, so that was one of the reasons I decided to be an actress.

Q: How have your classmates reacted to your becoming a movie star?

IB: Well, I don't tell them I do films. I don't go into school and say, "I just did a film and it's going to play in all the theaters in Spain and all the theaters in the world." But they end up knowing because they see the movies in the theaters or on TV.

Q: Were you familiar with Guillermo Del Toro before making "Pan's Labyrinth?"

IB: I knew who he was, but I'd never seen anything from his filmography. I liked his script for "Pan's Labyrinth" and when I was told I was going to be in it, I saw all of his movies. I do that before working with any director to see what kind of films he makes. I liked his movies. I liked how he could fuse two genres—as in this film with the Spanish Civil War and the fantasy. So I called him and said yeah, I want to do the movie. I wanted to learn from him. He was like my mentor during the whole movie.

Q: Did your parents object to the violence in "Blade II" or his other films?

IB: Before I see a movie, they usually watch it first, unless it's playing in the theaters and it's okay for kids. They let me see all his movies and didn't object.

Q: At your age, did you know about the Spanish Civil or did you have to do research to understand the situation Ofelia is in?

IB: Well, before doing the movie I knew the Civil War had happened and that it was bad and people really suffered. But since I didn't have anyone in my family or know anyone else who went through it, I didn't quite know what was going on. So, before doing the movie I told Guillermo that I didn't understand some things that Ofelia was going through. So he really taught me lots of things about the war, about the many widows, and about Franco, and he explained to me what was going on with Ofelia and what was going on at the same time in the war. He also gave me books and pictures about the Civil War.

Q: Did you read fairy tales in preparation for the film or had you read them when you were younger?

IB: When I was young I read lots of fairy tales, and though my school tells us to read more about history and stuff, I still read fairy tales whenever I can. And I did this especially when I was doing the filming. Guillermo sent me lots of scary, gothic stories, but he also sent me lots of fairy tales such as "Alice in Wonderland" and "Peter Pan," which I always have totally loved. These were in Spanish, and they definitely helped me a lot. He also sent me comics, which we both love. One was Japanese and had all these insects and focused in some way on war. He wanted me to get more into the world of Ofelia and more into what she felt.

Q: In the film's press notes, you say that you talked a lot with Guillermo of things about Ofelia that aren't in the script. Can you elaborate on that now?

IB: Ofelia is a very complex character and there were some things I didn't understand about her. So before shooting the whole movie, I talked with Guillermo about her and what she is going through. What I usually did was take a piece of paper and write "'Ofelia" as the title, and then I started writing about her roots, and about what was going on with her parents, and about the sicknesses she must have had when she was five years old.

It was really interesting for me to be able to develop this very interesting character. I decided lots of things, such as that her father didn't actually die. Instead, he was lost in the middle of the war and never was found, so they took him for dead. And I decided Ofelia had chicken pox and all the normal sickness kids have. Stuff like that.

Q: In the notes you're quoted as saying you think Ofelia is "even braver" than her evil stepfather Captain Vidal, who seems to be fearless.

IB: I discussed with Guillermo that Ofelia was braver than Vidal because she could confront him. She would even hurt herself before allowing her baby brother to be harmed. Another reason I think she is really brave is that she's not selfish. She doesn't create and live in this magic world to make herself happy. Instead, she creates that world to make other people happy, and to make the world peaceful, and to make her mother believe again in fairies.

Q: You said director Guillermo del Toro was your mentor during the making of the film. What did he teach you once shooting started?

IB: Guillermo taught me very well to develop my actor's instincts and to share my scenes with other actors and to learn from them. I learned from everyone. For example, I loved sharing a scene with Sergi López and Maribel Verdú because it was really fluid. They taught me and at the same time I shared with them. Guillermo also taught me to have the right emotions for my character. I think that one of the points of being an actress is being able to use your feelings and to interpret them, and I think Guillermo helped me a lot to use my feelings and to be able to use my fears and my sadness.

We considered breathing very important because it can help you shout, it can help you laugh, and can help you cry. You can do anything when you breathe properly. So he made me do breathing exercises. He would say, "Breathe softly, breathe normal, then go really quickly and then breathe normal again. Quickly, normal, slow…" When I had to do a crying scene he told me, "The rhythm you have to take with your breathing is normal to a bit up." I really understood what he was talking about, which helped me a lot. 
Ivana Baquero in "Pan's Labyrinth"
Director Guillermo del Toro coaches Pan, played by Doug Jones
Doug Jones as Pale Man
Baquero gets down and dirty in "Pan's Labyrinth"
The costumes and scenery in "Pan's Labyrinth" are stunning.

Q: You cry a lot in this movie. How did you make yourself cry at the right moments?

IB: There's not a specific thing that made me cry, but the whole atmosphere that was surrounding Ofelia, the whole sad atmosphere, really helped me get into character and be able to shout or cry or be happy. For example, for the moment when [someone she loves] dies, Guillermo told me, "Imagine how Ofelia feels. How bad would she feel? And how scared would she be that moment?' So I really got into the character and I thought of all these sad events that were happening to Ofelia. I felt really sad and I did cry.

Q: Despite all the crying, did you have fun making the movie?

IB: Once I was filming it was fun, but at the same time it was really tough because I had to imagine fairies and I suffered sometimes because it was raining and muddy. So it was hard work, but I really was having fun.

Q: How hard was it acting with fairies that you had to imagine?

IB: It was hard and it was not hard. It was hard when they told me, "You have to imagine a fairy here, and then it goes there and then it goes there." But then it was easy because Guillermo and the whole crew told me, "There's the fairy." Before filming they told me exactly where the fairy was. And I ended up loving this because I had to use my imagination. Then, when I saw it on screen it was really worth it because of all the marvelous effects. It was outrageous.

Q: What it scary to be with actor Doug Jones on the set while he was dressed in his scary faun costume?

IB: I had to get used to working with a Pan, because out of four months of filming I filmed with him two months. So I really had to get used to seeing a two-meter man dressed in a Pan suit in front of me. Before every day of filming I talked with him about the scene we were going to do and we practiced it. He's a great actor and when he was in the scene he acted scary. So he was definitely scary, but I wasn't scared because I had the whole crew surrounding me.

Q: The scariest fantasy creature in the film is the Pale Man, who awakens when Ofelia eats one of his grapes. She seems so sharp and aware of things that it's a surprise when she eats the grape despite being told very specifically by the faun to not eat anything. Why do you think she yields to temptation and eats the grape?

IB: I talked with Guillermo about why she ate the grape and there were two reasons. First: I don't know if you noticed but before she goes to the Pale Man, her mother punishes her by telling her not eat anything, to not have supper. So she's totally hungry, starving. And second: The grape is her favorite food, so she definitely wants to eat it. It is so juicy and it is so good, so she can't resist. I like grapes, too.

Q: Although people who haven't seen the film should skip over your answer to this question, do you think the ending of the movie is sad or happy?

IB: I think it's totally dazzling. I love how Guillermo can fuse the death of Ofelia with the prettiness of that she's not really dead. I say it's really pretty because only her body dies. Her spirit is really alive, so she's not dead at all.

Q: When you watch "Pan's Labyrinth," do you watch it as an audience member or do you relive making it?

IB: I see it both ways. I think I see it as a normal person who sees the movie for the first time, and I also see it as, "Look, I've been through this sequence, and it was really, really tough doing it."

I do both. I've seen it so many times and every time I see it differently. The first time I watched the movie I really wondered how it looked and if I did it good, so all the time I focused on me and on the other actors. But then, the second time, I was focused on the music.

The third time, I watched Sergi López. I think it's marvelous. At the same time it can bring you pain and sadness and scariness and happiness. So you can experience lots of feelings at once.

Q: There is a lot of shocking, adult imagery and ideas in the movie, so do you think your friends should see it?

IB: I wouldn't tell them to see it because it's kind of tough. But if their parents would let them see it, it's up to them. I think all adults, even if they like thrillers or gothic, should see it, even though it's not scary.

Q: You don't think the movie is scary?

IB: I do think it's scary in some ways, but it's not a horror movie. I think it's more a fantasy about Ofelia and it's about a brutal civil war and the politics of it.

Q: "Pan's Labyrinth" is Mexico's entry for the Oscars. So are you looking forward to going to the award ceremony?

IB: I would be really, really excited. For a 12-year-old girl, it would be a great experience.

Q: What is next for you?

IB: Now I'm concentrating on the promotion of the movie. After New York, it's Mexico and Los Angeles, which is quite hard, and then I have to go back to Spain. My biggest project at the moment is school, which is really important for me. But I really hope that this summer or even before I have another project going on.

Whenever I read a script that inspires me I want to do it. So there's no specific movie I want to do now, but at the same time I want to do every movie so that I can learn a lot. I want to get inspired. My parents definitely help me a lot in my career and personally. Ofelia has no one who is constantly with her, who helps her, who believes in her, who trusts her, so she has to make decisions, which are usually not correct. I have my family and I also have my friends. So when I have to take a decision I usually make it right because they help me make it.

Q: Is there any actress who inspires you?

IB: I admire Natalie Portman. She's a very good actress, but she didn't forget about her studies. She went to college and only recently ended her studies. I want to be smart and at the same time do movies. So first I'll finish my schooling. I want to be a psychologist when I grow up, while I continue my acting. I'm not sure that I will become a psychologist, but for the moment that's what I want. For now acting is kind of a hobby.


  1. Hi, any updates of Ivana for 2014? I have been digging the internet for 5 days all I found were 2007 - 2013 articles.

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