Luis Tosar: an Actor among Actors

Although his film career is still relatively young, Luis Tosar is one of Spain’s most important actors, thanks to his profound talent and a collection of solid performances. In an exclusive interview with Panorama of the Americas, he shares the secrets of his success.

By Roberto quintero
Photos: Carlos E. Gómez.

Luis Tosar is just forty-three years old but he is already being hailed as one of Spain’s greatest actors. This is an enviable, and far from simple, achievement considering the number of truly worthy and renowned actors there are in the country. How did he manage it? Without a doubt, he was born to act and has an undeniable talent for bringing characters to life, something he seldom mentions in interviews, choosing instead to project his humble, uncomplicated side. Still, it’s obvious every time he steps onto the screen. And, of course, there’s his great respect for the craft and talent for choosing the right roles. Finally, or as a result of the above, in the last ten years he has turned in several truly amazing performances that will remain forever etched in the history of cinema, such as his roles in Los lunes al sol (2002), Te doy mis ojos (2003), and Celda 211 (2009), each of which earned him a Goya Award, Spain’s highest film accolade.

He began in television in the late 90s, but now confesses that the medium holds little appeal for him. He also admits that he is very demanding of himself, he has rarely been offered a comic role worth taking, he has no desire to direct, and he’d love to make more films in Latin America. He revealed all of this and more in an exclusive interview he gave to Panorama of the Americas during his recent visit to Panama.

You’re considered a dramatic actor because you’ve done so little comedy in your career. Do you not like the genre, or do you just not get offered comic roles? 

I’d love to do more comedy, but if a script doesn’t make me laugh when I read it, I find it very difficult to play the part. And most of what I read doesn’t seem very funny. A lot of comedies get made in Spain, but I find very few of them amusing. I prefer finer comedy, the kind that ventures into less obvious territory, rather than obvious parody, and that’s harder to come by. This is why I tend more toward drama, because I’ve been offered more exciting projects there. And it’s true that I lean more towards social cinema, films with commitment, and there’s not that much room for comedy there either. It can happen, but it’s not very common.

What does it take to get you excited about a project? A good script? A juicy role? How do you choose your projects?

A good script. Generally speaking, the story is most important. Or it may be that the role being offered is very seductive and even though the script isn’t perfect, at the time I’m offered the part I feel like I want to work with it and I take the risk. Things come along and I accept them when you feel like I really have to. I never have anything particular in mind that I want to do… nothing I’ve always wanted to do or anything like that. But suddenly something comes along and I say: “Yes, I want to do that.” It’s also good to recognize when something comes up that I’m not prepared for, or to which I have nothing to offer.

What if the story is good and the director is inexperienced?

I don’t care. It’s not a problem. Unless it looks so risky that I say: “I’m not sure if this film, in the hands of someone so inexperienced, can actually get made.” But even this can be resolved or seen from a different perspective, depending on the project, or the director’s talent and desire, or the crew he or she is working with.

What about writing and directing? Have you ever tried? Would you ever consider it?

Not really. I co-directed a documentary thing… I enjoyed the experience and I think I’ll probably do something else. I have one of my own little projects in mind. But fiction…the truth is it’s hard for me to think like a director, much less a screenwriter. I don’t have the writer’s drive. I’m not driven to sit down and tell a story. I make up stories in a different, more active way. What can I say? I’m too antsy.

That’s just fine. You’re an actor.

I try to do my best, within the boundaries of what I know how to do. And I think I still have a lot of work to do. I still see a lot of my work as being not quite there. I always fantasize that someday everything will be perfect. Of course that will never happen.

Is there anything you miss from your early days as an actor? About the way things were, perhaps, or the way you thought about acting? 

Not much actually. I’ve kept that same spirit. I try to keep it. That’s the illusion. Especially the sense of wonder, which is something that actors have to hold on to. As well as the feeling that nothing is complete. This, if you look at it as something healthy, is very interesting because you never cease to amaze yourself and you never stop learning. So everything is new and the challenge is never ending, you know? There’s always something new to discover in every project.

What do you think about what’s happening today in Latin American cinema?

It makes me very envious, actually. In Latin America, although there is a history of established cinema, there’s this sense of constant searching and a kind of guerrilla cinema in general. And the socio-political reality of those countries is producing films that are super powerful. This makes me think that one of the advantages of the crisis we’re going through in Spain is that it has allowed us to get back to reality. We’ve realized that there are very powerful stories out there that we’d forgotten because we’ve been living so well in recent years.

You’ve made films in Latin America. Operation E, for example. Have you gotten any other offers?

The truth is I’ve started getting more and more. Especially from Colombia, Chile, and México, which are the countries I visit most. From Argentina as well, but mostly co-productions with Spain. It’s just so difficult to pull it off, especially the scheduling, crossing the pond and being away for so long. But I try. I really enjoy Latin America.