Goya's Ghosts starts off in Spain in 1792 and tells the story through the eyes of the great Spanish painter Francisco Goya of a group of people caught up in a time of political convulsion and historical change. The action takes place from the later years of the Spanish Inquisition through the invasion of Spain by Napoleon's army to the ultimate defeat of the French and restoration of the Spanish monarchy by Wellington's powerful invading army.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
The idea to make a film about the great Spanish painter Francisco de Goya and the Spanish Inquisition first occurred to Milos Forman more than 50 years ago when he was a student in Communist Czechoslovakia.
"It didn't really start with Goya at all," Forman recalls. "It started when I was in film school and read a book about the Spanish Inquisition and an incident in which someone had been falsely accused of a crime.
"I thought this could be the heart of a wonderful story. There were a great many parallels between the Communist society we lived under and the Spanish Inquisition. I knew, of course, a story like this could never be done in Czechoslovakia because of such similarities. So I forgot about it. For the time being."
But good ideas don't die even if they fade away temporarily. They endure in the recesses of the mind, and this idea was no exception. Thirty years later it resurfaced, not surprisingly in Madrid, where Forman and independent producer Saul Zaentz were promoting Amadeus, their second Academy Award winning collaboration that followed nearly ten years after their first triumph, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
"Milos and I were staying across the street from the Prado Museum in Madrid when he remarked to me he had never seen the famous Hieronymous Bosch painting Garden of Earthly Delights, one of the Prado's greatest holdings," Zaentz remembers.
"But the Prado holds many other masterpieces, including the greatest collection of Goya paintings, and we looked at those. We'd seen them, but never live, in person. They were marvelous. One struck us, the painting of a dog. When you see it reproduced in a book you imagine it must be movie-screen size because it's so wonderfully done. In person you discover it's not big at all, maybe a meter and a half, but you're not disappointed. The dog is very touching and you carry the image with you."
Goya fascinated Forman. "I was overwhelmed by his paintings and couldn't stop thinking about him," he says. "I was convinced Goya was the first modern painter. More than ever I wanted to make a picture about him."
During the Prado visit Forman related to Zaentz the incident about the Inquisition he had read so many years before, and he discussed his idea of making a film that dealt with the Inquisition in combination with Goya. Zaentz understood it could be a wonderful movie.
"But I told him it was necessary to come up with a story that could support the idea, a story we had both confidence in and were passionate about in order for us to move ahead," the producer said. Forman agreed.
As time went by, producer and director continued to talk over the idea for the film, and even considered a particular writer to draft a screenplay. But, in fact, Forman had a favored collaborator in mind, the renowned screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, with whom both he and Zaentz had worked successfully in the past.
"Jean-Claude is like a spiritual brother to me," the director says. Forman and Carriere first met forty years ago in 1966 at a film festival in Sorrento, Italy.
By then Forman had directed several features, including Black Peter and Loves of A Blonde, and Carriere had collaborated with the great Spanish director Luis Bunuel on the screenplay for Diary of A Chambermaid, and with Louis Malle on the script for Viva Maria.
Forman and Carriere stayed friends after Forman left Czechoslovakia, and throughout several collaborations (Taking Off, Valmont). Over the years they were always in contact.
"Yes, I was intrigued by Milos's idea - well I wouldn't call it an idea - it was, rather, a desire to do a film not exactly about Goya, but about Spain during Goya's time," Carriere says. "And Goya would enter into the story naturally because it was the time period in which he lived, a turbulent period.
"This is a very interesting time frame. The end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th is probably one of the most important periods in European history because of the French Revolution and the advent of Napoleon. France was the center of Europe at the time and it's interesting to see all the consequences of what was happening there, and how they affected Spain, especially once Napoleon invaded the country.
"Spain at the end of the 18th century was probably, despite a certain modernity, the most backwards nation in western Europe. It was Catholic, conservative, ruled by a monarchy whose King belonged to the same family as the French King. The works of the great 18th century philosophers and the Enlightenment had almost no influence there. The Inquisition was still in operation, still capable of inflicting terrible damage on the populace. Milos was fascinated by the era, and the Inquisition."
"What was so attractive for me about this particular period," Forman says, "was, with so many paradoxes and so many changes going on, it reflected the times I had lived through, first a democratic society, then the Nazi society, then the communists, then democratic again, and then the communists again and then democracy once more.
"And that's very similar to what the situation was in Spain at the beginning of the 19th century. King Carlos represents the old guard when suddenly Napoleon invades and brings progress, the ideals and values of the French Revolution. But what is that? It reminded me of the time in my own life when the Soviets brought 'liberty' to Czechoslovakia.
"Instead of real liberation in Spain, Napoleon installs his brother on the Spanish throne until the British, under Wellington, invade, chase out the French and restore the repressive Spanish monarchy. Very interesting period."
Carriere and Forman were convinced that Goya was the perfect figure though which to tell the story of those times. Goya was born long before the French Revolution and died long after.
"I don't think Goya was politically involved consciously. He was just an incredible observer, like a journalist," Forman says. "He was commenting, recording what he witnessed. As he says in the film, 'I paint what I see'."
Carriere says, "Goya painted the kings and queens of Spain, their children, the whole family, and was admitted inside the Royal Palace, also painting the people at court.
But at the same time he knew about ordinary life. He walked the streets, went to the taverns and he did sketches and engravings, many of which, Los Caprichios and the Disasters of War are so famous, and rightly so. He even did a portrait of one of the Inquisitors, and also the brother of Napoleon who was installed on the Spanish throne, as well as ordinary citizens and soldiers. He understood the heart of everyone."
In terms of the film they wanted to make, Forman, Zaentz and Carriere understood that a simple Goya bio-pic or a didactic depiction of the Inquisition would not work. What was wanted was a fresh approach, and the filmmakers continued to mull over the project, steeping themselves in the history of Spain, concentrating on the period, reading everything they could find on Goya and the Inquisition.
Forman and Carriere, who speaks Spanish and knows the country, even spent several weeks driving around the Spanish countryside, making a second trip with Saul Zaentz, trying to deepen their understanding of the country and its culture.
In 2003, nearly 20 years since Forman and Zaentz first discussed their idea in the Prado, the filmmakers got down to work on the Goya project in earnest. Forman and Carriere retreated to Forman's home in Connecticut which provided the proper solitude and discipline for writing and, working ten hours a day, were able to come up with a first draft of a script.
"One characteristic of Goya which Milos and I felt fit our purpose was his commitment to his art," Carriere says. "He'd paint anyone, an inquisition minister, or the Duke of Wellington who freed the Spanish from the French. He was basically apolitical.
He didn't want to be involved in politics, in action, in social improvement. He just wanted to paint.
"We thought it would be interesting in the film to oppose this character of Goya with another man who is his acquaintance, his opposite in temperament and philosophy, an intelligent man who is devoted to changing the world and very much involved in the political movements of his time. And this man, Brother Lorenzo, became the main character of the film, a priest of the Inquisition, an Inquisitor himself who fanatically believes in building a better and more human world based on the teachings of Jesus.
"He believes that the moral decline of Spain is due to the fact that the Inquisition has lost its severity in the guarding of those teachings. He wants to revive the power of the Inquisition and restore it to its original force and influence. At the same time, he's learning about tendencies making their way into Spain from revolutionary France which contradict prevailing religious doctrine because they are trying to establish the principle of man as the creator of his own destiny based on the philosophy - liberty, equality, fraternity."
The third principal character in the story is a woman acquainted with both men, Ines Bilbatua. She starts out in the story as Goya's teenage muse but later becomes involved with Brother Lorenzo when the Inquisitor becomes her only hope of fighting the accusation of heresy against her.
"Ines is a young Spanish girl from a well-known family. Her father is a wealthy merchant, and the Bilbatuas are good Christians," Carriere says. "But because one night when she's out with her brothers and friends in a public tavern, she's spotted by Familiares who spy for the church and suspect her of hiding Jewish practices. This sets the story going because the innocent young woman is called up before the Inquisition and questioned. And then the horrors begin."
Forman and Carriere, with Zaentz's guidance and encouragement, worked intensely on several drafts of a screenplay before they completed a script that met everyone's approval. Once this was accomplished, Zaentz arranged the financing and gave the go-ahead to make the film. Pre-production began with the filmmakers moving forward on two fronts: they began the process of choosing locations, and also started to assemble a cast.
Director, producer and writer were of one mind on each of these issues. As for locations, each man believed it was essential for the spirit of the film and for its authenticity that Goya's Ghosts be made on location in Spain, with as many Spanish actors and crew members as possible. Forman and Zaentz's previous collaborations were all made on location. This film would be no exception.
With this in mind, long-time Milos Forman collaborator, production designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein, Oscar winner for her work on Amadeus, was brought in to discuss Spanish locations. Von Brandenstein had worked with a local production company in Spain several years earlier that she believed could help find the proper places to shoot and to set up facilities for making the film there.
In fact, producer Zaentz was acquainted with the very same organization, having produced his animated version of The Lord of the Rings with them in Spain in 1978. The head of the company, now called Kanzaman, was an English-born production executive who had been living and working in Spain for many years, Denise O'Dell.
Zaentz traveled to Spain to meet O'Dell and discuss the Goya project with her and Kanzaman co-director Mark Albela.
"I was thrilled when I heard from Saul about the project," O'Dell says. "Here were two legends of cinema planning to come to Spain to make a Spanish film, Zaentz and Forman. I was so eager to become involved.
"And then when we met and they told me that they weren't interested in bringing a big crew from abroad but were interested in using Spanish talent, well that for me was just wonderful because it's been what we've been trying to do for years."
With Kanzaman on board, and location scouts being arranged and organized, Forman and Zaentz addressed the crucial task of casting.
From the start Forman and Zaentz were eager to have Javier Bardem appear in the film, convinced he would be perfect for the role of Goya.
Bardem, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2002 for his role as the Cuban poet, novelist and dissident Reinaldo Arenas in Julian Schnabel's Before Night Falls, is one of Spain's most popular, charismatic - and accomplished - young actors.
"Javier is definitely without question one of the major screen actors working today," Zaentz says. "In the beginning, we pictured him as Goya, and we made plans to meet in the Ritz Hotel across from the Prado. We were thrilled to see him in the lobby, even happier when he walked up and said, 'I want to make a movie with you guys!' I put my hand out quickly and said, 'We want to make a picture with you'.
Bardem recalls the incident with pleasure.
"When my agent called and said Milos Forman and Saul Zaentz wanted to meet me I thought it was a joke at first. But when I met them I understood it was real, and I was thrilled. And of course, because I'm Spanish, I assumed I'd be playing the role of Goya. It seemed the natural thing.
Unknown to Bardem, the conception of the character of Goya was changing in the script. The fictional character Lorenzo, not Goya, had emerged now as the film's protagonist.
"We all understood after many discussions that our story wouldn't work with Goya as the main character," Zaentz says. "He was all important and crucial to the story. But he wasn't the main protagonist."
Father Lorenzo was the role he and Forman wanted Javier Bardem to play.
"When several days later Javier asked us how the film was going, we told him something had come up that was going to affect his part but not do anything at all to the impact he would make in the film," Zaentz says. "He was intrigued. But instead of over explaining what we wanted, we said we would send him the completed script so he could see for himself the changes and understand the logic of why we thought he should play Father Lorenzo."
Within hours of reading the script, Bardem phoned Forman and Zaentz with his reaction.
"Lorenzo has my heart," he said, and he agreed to play the role.
The role of Lorenzo fascinated the actor.
"I understand it's a challenge not to be playing the character people expect. It's an even greater challenge playing Lorenzo. He's a man of hard and strong beliefs. I would call him a fanatic. But he's not a villain, not a mad guy, just a man of passion, sometimes uncontrollable."
Casting the role of Goya came next and presented the filmmakers with a particular challenge: Forman believed that the actor who was going to play Goya needed one attribute above all.
"I didn't want the actor playing Goya to be someone recognizable," the director says. "For the fictitious characters, Lorenzo, Ines, it didn't matter to me if a famous face fills the role. But Goya. Goya will come out of nowhere. Unexpected. We shouldn't recognize him from anywhere else."
Early in the process it appeared that Goya had been found.
"I remember that Milos and I were returning from Europe to America by plane," Zaentz says." Milos was watching a movie, not a good one, one of the Exorcist installments, when he turned to me and said, 'There's our Goya.' And I said, 'Where?'
Milos pointed to the screen and to Stellan Skarsgard who was a lead in the film.
"'I know him,' I told Milos. He had a role in The Unbearable Lightness of Being which I produced. I thought it was a great idea."
A Swede, Stellan Skarsgard is best known to US audiences for his roles in Good Will Hunting and Breaking the Waves, but he is definitely not a household name.
"Skarsgard is the kind of actor you remember not as Stellan Skarsgard but as the character he plays in each particular film," Zaentz says. "He's a marvelous actor."
Skarsgard was delighted to be approached for the part.
"I'm physically different from Goya," Skarsgard says. "But of course it's not Goya as he was in real life that we're depicting. This is fiction film."
Natalie Portman, Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee for Mike Nichols' Closer, was cast in the role of Ines Bilbatua, Goya's youthful muse. Strange to say, Forman wanted the young star for the role without knowing exactly who she was.
"I didn't know Natalie Portman at all," Forman says. "I had bought a copy of Vogue or a similar fashion magazine and was reading it to relax when I was struck by the photo of the young woman on the cover who turned out to be Natalie. And as I'm looking at it, I open a book about Goya's last painting in Bordeaux called A Milkmaid in Bordeaux, and I see they are the same face.
"So I started to make inquiries about the qualities of this actress and I saw how much people like her. And then I saw the film Closer and saw how good she is and knew that I wanted her. Her range is amazing, big, surprising, and that was very important here.
Basically she plays three different characters in the film."
"When I went to Paris to meet with Milos and Jean-Claude, I was surprised to discover that they wanted me in the film at first not because they'd seen my work but because the saw a photo of me and decided I looked like a young woman in some of the paintings," Portman says.
"I was interested and intrigued to meet them, and a little intimated, too, because I love Milos's films. I was ready to read or test for the role, whatever they wanted. When they offered the part I was very excited. Ines figures in a part of history I never knew about. It was something terribly different from what I'd done before."
Two other important roles were cast with well-known international actors. Randy Quaid, who recently appeared in Ang Lee's Academy Award winning Brokeback Mountain, co-stars as King Carlos IV of Spain. And distinguished French/English actor Michael Lonsdale was signed to play the role of the Grand Inquisitor. Lonsdale's notable career includes films by Fred Zinnemann (Day of the Jackal), Francois Truffaut (Stolen Kisses), Louis Malle (Murmur of the Heart), and most recently Steven Spielberg (Munich).
Other key roles were filled by some of Spain's most gifted actors, including Jose Luis Gomez (Rowing in the Wind), Mabel Rivera (Sea Inside), Ramon Langa, Blanca Portillo (Volver), Unax Ugalde (Alatriste), and many others.
As the casting process moved along, O'Dell, Forman and Zaentz staffed the film with some of Spain's most talented and creative technicians.
Director of photography is Javier Aguirresarobe whose credits include two films by the Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar, The Others starring Nicole Kidman, and The Sea Inside. Aguirresarobe is a six-time recipient of Spain's Goya Award (the equivalent of the Oscar) for cinematography.
Academy Award winner Patrizia Von Brandenstein (Amadeus), one of Forman's most valued collaborators reunited with him for the fifth time on Goya's Ghosts, is production designer. Von Brandenstein's recent credits include Harold Ramis's The Ice Harvest and Steven Zaillian's upcoming All the King's Men.
Academy Award winner Yvonne Blake (Nicholas and Alexandra) is costume designer. Ms. Blake's distinguished career includes some of Spain's most notable film productions. She was also nominated for an Oscar for her work on Richard Lester's The Four Musketeers.
THE ART OF ORIGINAL FILMMAKING
READ MORE ABOUT SHOOTING THE FILM
READ MORE ABOUT THE COSTUMES
READ MORE ABOUT FRANCISCO DE GOYA AND THE SPANISH INQUISITION
READ MORE ABOUT MILOS FORMAN (Director/Screenwriter), SAUL ZAENTZ (Producer) AND JEAN-CLAUDE CARRIERE (Screenwriter)