Tilda Swinton Says Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘Room Next Door’ Is a ‘Natural Successor’ to ‘Pain and Glory’

Long-time friends Tilda Swinton and Pedro Almodóvar are reuniting for the Oscar-winning director’s first English-language feature, “The Room Next Door.”

It’s hard to believe the Scottish high priestess of playing women unmoored from the people and places around her (see 2021’s Colombia-shot “Memoria,” just for one) had never collaborated with the Spanish filmmaker before his proper English-language debut, “The Human Voice.” In that sharp shock of a 30-minute film, based on a Jean Cocteau play, Swinton starred as a woman going through a breakup over the telephone, surrounded by expressive Almodóvarian set design on a soundstage, and eventually a fire.

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In “The Room Next Door,” also being released by Almodóvar’s perennial North American distributor Sony Pictures Classics, she’s a woman named Martha grappling with a strained relationship with her mother, and helped by a friend named Ingrid (Julianne Moore, making her Almodóvar debut).

Swinton was embargoed from saying too much about the film, now in pre-production and shooting in Madrid next week, while in conversation with IndieWire about her new film “Problemista” (out March 1). But we took a breath from talking writer/director Julio Torres’ art world satire, in which she plays a toxic and tyrannical New York art groupie named Elizabeth, to catch up on all things Almodóvar.

“We really love each other and always wanted to make a feature,” Swinton said of Almodóvar over Zoom from her hotel bed in New York City the day after the hometown “Problemista” premiere. “This particular feature has been bubbling along in the skirting board ever since we worked together on ‘The Human Voice,’ and it’s really exciting.”

“The Human Voice,” which also shot in Spain, premiered at the 2020 Venice Film Festival before playing in select theaters after the pandemic reopening of U.S. cinemas in March 2021. At the time, Almodóvar shot “The Human Voice” as a primer for making his intended English-language feature, “A Manual for Cleaning Women” with Cate Blanchett, before he set that project aside and made the English-language Western short “Strange Way of Life.” Now, he’s ready to properly shoot in the English language on a feature-scale with “The Room Next Door,” co-starring John Turturro.

“I’ve been in Madrid. I’m living in Madrid at the moment. I’ve been there for the last two months. And Julianne Moore is there with us, and we are really enjoying ourselves. We start shooting on Monday [March 3],” Swinton said. “I’m going back, in fact, this afternoon. It’s really thrilling. For me, as just a film fan, I’m just so thrilled for all of us that Pedro is making another movie, and it’s going to be a real Pedro movie. I’m happy for him that he’s shooting in Spain because that’s his sweet spot, and we can do that.”

She added, “It’s a beautiful thing, and I can’t say that much more about it, but I can tell you it’s a real Almodóvar film. What I can tell you is that it’s about mature friendship in a way.”

Swinton said “The Room Next Door” is “a natural successor, strangely, to ‘Pain and Glory,'” in that it’s about mature friendships and how they sustain us and what we need them for at this stage in our lives. So it’s going to be meaty.”

Almodóvar’s autobiographical “Pain and Glory” starred Antonio Banderas as a filmmaker looking back on his life and career, and the relationships that stood in his way or abetted him. The film was nominated for Best International Feature at the Oscars, and Banderas earned Best Actor at Cannes and a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards.

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