Daysi Granados, The Face of Cuban Cinema
By Idania Machado, Photos: Courtesy ICAIC
This revered actress recalls her visit to Montreal in 1967 during a tour with a musical review. She would never have imagined that so many years later and in the very same city she would be awarded the Grand Prix Special des Amériques for her work in Cuban cinema.
She is one of the few actresses who, at the age of 64, has not undergone plastic surgery. She says she is afraid of operations but deep inside she must think she does not need it. She still has a beautiful and enigmatic face - one of those faces that you don't know why it is beautiful. It may be the eyes or the whole ensemble of features.
Daysi has a sense of grace but she can be a Cuban in the full sense of the word when among her closest friends. To Cuba, she is Daysi Granados, the actress of Teresa, and to aficionados she is the "face" of Cuban cinema.
And from this year on she may add another prize to her long list of awards and recognitions: the National Movie Award 2007. S he is currently starring in Gabriel García Márquez's Love's Diatribe Against a Seated Man, a play she hopes to present in US universities.
CubaPLUS Are you returning to theatre because you like it or because there is less work in movies for actresses your age? Daysi -Apart from liking it, theatre is a fundamental school no matter how many years of experience you might have. It is hard but it gives you the chance to experiment, test your voice, your body. I return to it every two or three years so as to stay in touch with the audience and it is better than movies to keep myself in shape.
What do you demand from a director? - That he or she knows what to do or has experience. Whenever I work with a director full of insecurities and indecisions, it makes me feel bad.
Are you the kind of actress that imposes herself, contributes, or just wants to be guided? -I read the script carefully so as not to be blind to what I do but I like to pretend I don't know much, that I am like a little child even when I know things. I think of myself as a malleable person and I can't have an idea of what the movie would be because that is the work of the director. I don't like imposing ideas on people.
You can reach a state of being complete/y natural, acting in a way that seems that you are not actually acting. How do you prepare your characters? -After reading the script there comes a period during which I centre myself on the relationships that I have with the other characters. But I also like practicing spontaneity. Despite analyzing and having an opinion I like improvisation to come from a basis of some guidelines.
Not to come just like that but from a clearly established reason and delivering a performance that is similar to real life. Shirley MacLaine once said in an interview that she sometimes used artificial tears because an actor could not tear herself apart all day on the set. The important thing is not that the actor cries but that the audience thinks that he is crying.
Do you do the same thing? -Her way to reach her audience is very commendable but I like, even when one has to repeat the scene a thousand times, to reach a climax and if one has to cry, one cries, and if you have to turn ugly, you do it, and you scream if you have to. Anything to reach your goal. I would feel fake if I didn't do it that way. And as an audience I am telling you that you feel it when you fake things. Although there are actors who cry their hearts out and are apparently giving their life to the scene, nobody believes them and they don't move people.
You started at a very young age with a major role. Did you have any idea of what movies were? -I started out in an unusual way. I used to perform in an amateur group at my workplace and was chosen to act in my first movie, La Decisión. After that, I started to attend an art school. I was a complete novice in acting and in some ways I was a little irresponsible because I didn't realize how important it was to be a movie actress. I was 19 and I didn't value that there was a team working to achieve an artistic end. Now it is something extraordinary tome. When I worked on Memorias del Subdesarrollo, which was my third movie, I had a completely different idea.
How do you get along with young actors and actresses who may have the same level of inexperience that you once had? -I understand them because one should never forget that you were young once and thought you were better than everybody else. I don't like giving advice. I think life will teach them as it did with me. Each one of us must find our own path and way to achieve our goal in work. I don't mean to say that if someone approaches me and asks for my help I would not help, but I don't like to call people and tell them ''don't do this."
You are in Memorias del Subdesarrollo and Retrato de Teresa, two movies very famous in Cuban cinema. Would you have liked being in Strawberry and Chocolate also? -Of course, since I only worked with director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea once. I also don't feel bad because he did not call me. Now, I am very glad that there is a movie like that one and that it was so successful so the audience can understand one or two realities of Cuba.
It is said that actors put their own experiences into their characters. To what extent are there points in common between Daysi and Teresa, your character in the first Cuban movie dealing with the problem of mal e chauvinism in Cuba that started a whole controversy at the time? You, who had four men in your house, your husband and kids, who are in the movie. -All of us actors have the potential to develop any kind of character. I have been a worker, prostitute, doctor . . . lf you don't know where to grab on because it is not a character that you know, you have to do some research but if it is someone as ordinary as Teresa, it is not easier since you have to work hard to give authenticity back to the audience. Actually, after being away from the big screen for some time, because I decided to have children and was completely dedicated to their upbringing, it is with her that I came back. lt would not have been the same if I had been single. The kind of fuel I had as a human being and being involved in her type of reality gave me an understanding of her.
Three of the most regular women in Cuban movies are married to directors and participate in their husbands' movies. So far, in your case, do you consider it was a good thing and what limited you as an actress to always work in Pastor Vega's movies? -Every time he would write a script he would think of me. He once said in an interview that he liked creating characters that would fit me as fashion designers makes dresses for their models. He knew me more than anybody else; he knew how far I could go. There is even a movie that I am not in because there was no character for me and I wanted to have a part even as an extra and he did not let me.
How are you handling the lack of roles for people of your age? -For many actresses that is a defeat. Almost all the stories are around young actresses. But it does not affect me because I have lived a full life. Aging for me is not a burden or a kind of misfortune. I have reached a very pleasant age. Whenever there is a character I like, I will do it.
Is it true that acting is scary? - That fear consistently exists in life. Even to shoot the first scene you are nervous. lf someone tells you the opposite, they are lying. For instance, for me theatre means constant fear.
How do you handle fame? It is kind of a mixed feeling. It is not that one works to become famous, it is because of a spiritual need, but that leads to fame. lf no one praises you, you feel bad, but if they do and it is way beyond what you deserve, you also feel bad because you have no privacy. I have a friend who says that actors struggle to become famous and then when they do become famous they wear dark glasses to not be recognized.
Fortunately, in this country the people are very respectful and it does not bother you when people say nice things to you. There are no paparazzi. Here you can live a normal life.
Well, it has been said recently that you are the "face" of Cuban cinema. Do you think it is fair or is it too pretentious? - Why wouldn't I like it? It is part of m y effort and many other people's efforts. lt does not mean that I am the only one. I have participated in key moments of Cuban movies and it is the face that is something symbolic. lf someone feels bad for that, I am sorry. I like it, yes, I love it.
You told me that you have no bigger desires. Not even a new love? -I don't know now but maybe when I get to be 79 years old. Love is not just sex. I have many friends that now have become closer to me. I have love, lots of strength in my children, in my grandson, in my audience. I had lots of love. I don't know if l will find another one like that one and I don't want to look for it. What for? Besides, I feel free. Love is also binding. It gives you happiness but also deprives you of many other things. And, as I told you, I am living a very full life with my little crack in my heart. I miss my husband with all my heart. Two of my children do not live in Cuba and I miss them, but I have one here . . . he is my support. So, I have my sad moments ... these tears, not like Shirley MacLaine, are because I lack some things, things I have been deprived of suddenly. They are also tears of happiness because I have had lots of love, 42 years of love.