Gael Garcia Bernal Talks About The Challenges of Filming ‘Old’

Lead Photo: Gael Garcia Bernal attends the premiere of "Old" at Jazz at Lincoln Center on July 19, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Gael Garcia Bernal attends the premiere of "Old" at Jazz at Lincoln Center on July 19, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Read more

There is an old Latin proverb that states, “Make good use of your time. It flies fast.” Those words ring true in the newest film Old from director M. Night Shyamalan. Old is a cryptic thriller that follows a family on vacation and their trip to a secluded beach. But it isn’t the seclusion or scenery at the center of the plot — it’s the mysterious unfolding of the characters aging at such a rapid rate on this beach. So much so that their entire lives are reduced to a single day. 

Old stars Golden Globe-winning actor Gael Garcia Bernal as ‘Guy.’ He is father to Trent (played by several actors due to the film’s aging storyline: Emun Elliott, Alex Wolff, Nolan River, and Luca Faustino Rodriguez) and Maddox (played by Thomasin McKenzie, Alexa Swinton, and Embeth Davidtz) and husband to Prisca (Vicky Krieps). 

Old faced enormous challenges during its production alone. It was one of the few movies filmed during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. If that wasn’t enough of a hurdle to get through, a hurricane passed through the filming location in the Dominican Republic and affected production. Director M. Night Shyamalan spoke more on the hurricane’s effects at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, as reported by EW. “It took the sets and just destroyed them,” he said. “The biggest concern was that the beach had been eroded away. There was no beach for our beach movie. We had been rehearsing, and then three days before we got there, I got word there was no beach. I was like, ‘Well…’ I didn’t know what to do. Making movies is an act of faith, and that’s what makes it magic. There’s so many things that can go wrong.” Eventually, some of the beach returned before production began. 

For Garcia Bernal, these incidents come with the territory of shooting movies. “Every film represents a big challenge in its own different way. We had an accumulation of challenges that sparked from the basic premise, no? So, we have to shoot everything there on a beach, and therefore tides become something to consider,” the actor told Remezcla ahead of the film’s release. “Rain is something that you always consider with films. And that is where the creativity comes forth. In this one, we had to consider all of those things and the aging process as well.”

But it’s a challenge he prefers over a computer-generated production. “I would prefer a challenge like this one, shooting in 35mm on a beach in the timespan that happens in the film is one day. I would much prefer to do that than shooting on a green screen. My point of view is that it is even more complicated.” 

Being ever so careful not to ruin any plot points — a must with M. Night Shyamalan movies — Garcia Bernal shares his one wish for the audience. “I hope that the film carries the same questioning that we had while we were making it, which is time and what we do with it,” he tells us. “I hope that kind of poetic tangent is reflected on the audience… There is no simple answer or message. We don’t like messages in films. We like open questions, you know?”

There will also be many questions in Garcia Bernal’s next upcoming project, that’s debuting in September. The actor is set to star in the Playboy interview podcast, the recently-announced podcast reenactment of some of the most memorable interviews ever done by the magazine. Gael is the voice of famed Spanish artist Salvador Dali. 

“That was very fun to do. I have not listened to it, but I know that it’s been announced. Let’s see how my Catalan-speaking accent goes along. I hope it’s good,” Garcia Bernal shares.

As we wait to see how his Catalan accent measures up, be sure to catch Old, which hits theaters Friday, July 23, and is rated PG-13.