Newcomer Natalia de Molina on Winning a Spanish Oscar for Her First Major Film Role

Brimming with charm, Natalia de Molina is a promising Spanish actress who has reached a high level of success at the young age of 24. Her performance in David Trueba’s Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados — Spain’s Oscar candidate for Best Foreign Language Film — merited her the Goya Award (Spain’s equivalent of the Oscars) for Best New Actress.

After having acted in a handful of shorts, plays, and in a mobile app film series, Vivir es facil was her first feature film. Now, with the success of the movie, she is drowning in job offers. It’s a pretty incredible achievement when you consider that she is making her living as an actress in a country where public subsidies for the arts and culture have suffered drastic cuts, and unemployment for young people is at 50 percent.

We caught up with de Molina to talk about her newfound success and what is was like to work alongside Spain’s biggest names in her first movie.

It’s your first film and you ended up working with some of the biggest names in the Spanish cinema: David Trueba, Javier Cámara, Ramon Fontseré, Jorge Sanz, Ariadna Gil… It must have been amazing!

When David Trueba called me and told me I got the part at first I thought he was joking. It wasn’t until I saw myself being filmed on the first day of shooting that I said to myself, “It’s true, I’m here and this is happening.”

“When David Trueba called me and told me I got the part, at first I thought he was joking.”

I always thought that at some point everything would fall apart all of a sudden, that they would say, “Look, we’ve thought it over and you better not…” When I began shooting with Javier and the whole crew, people who had been working in this for a while, with a lot of experience… I found myself with a lot of responsibility, as I was the newcomer who knew nothing.

But from the very first moment, it was that responsibility I had on my shoulders — I kept saying to myself, “I have to be up to the standards” — to do well and to give everything, that helped me. And my work ended up being good and recognized by the people in the industry.

How did you start acting?

We are four sisters in my family. The two oldest are lawyers and the younger two are actresses. I’m the youngest. My sister studied acting in Málaga. She was the pioneer who paved the road for me and have my parents accept it.

I started studying musical interpretation in Málaga because I liked to sing, dance and perform. Then I went to Madrid, where I focused on textual interpretation and memorization — in an academy called Corazza, where Javier Bardem studied.

Tell us about Belén, your character, a single 21 year-old woman who is pregnant.

“It wasn’t until I saw myself being filmed on the first day that I said to myself, “It’s true. I’m here and this is happening.”

She struggles to be able to decide by herself in life. After the pregnancy she does not know what to do and her mother sends her to a shelter. She feels guilty for what happened and lets her family decide for her future.

She does not know whether she wants to have the baby, but she wants to be the one with the yes or no decision. So she runs away, because she needs to pause in her life and think things out for herself. It is her own life and someone else’s gestating inside her.

How did you prepare for this role, in light of the fact that it is set in the 60s during the dictatorship?

I had many conversations with my mother, because she lived at the time and knew of many cases like Belén’s. She helped me a lot. David also gave me as a reference the female character in a movie, The Loves of a Blonde [Milos Forman, Czechoslovakia, 1965]. He told me to watch it because that character reflected what he was after in Belén, a young girl who is starting to mature and is part innocent and fragile, but is also a strong woman with character.

Tell us about your future projects…

I am very happy. After Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados I already shot three films, and in November I am shooting another one.

The first is Cómo sobrevivir a una despedida by Manuela Moreno a very funny, rowdy comedy about a women’s bachelors’ party that takes place in the Canary Islands. The other is Sólo química by Alfonso Albacete, a romantic comedy in which I have a minor character, a dancer obsessed with cakes. And a week ago I filmed Pozo amargo with Mexican director Enrique Rivero something totally different, very poetic, auteur cinema. I have a secondary character. His first film Parque vía won an award in the Locarno Film Festival.

And in November, I start shooting Techo y comida, Juan Miguel del Castillo’s directorial debut, a social drama about a mother with an 8-year-old, who is unemployed, has no money, and is evicted from her apartment. A very rough film. My character is the mother. As an actress it is a luxury to get these types of roles.