Actor Eduardo Lloveras and executive producer Tiffany Ruoz tell DQ about dramatising the little-known story of great Spanish surrealist painter Joan Miró, why he rebelled against traditional art and filming the telemovie in Barcelona.
In the year that marks the 130th anniversary of celebrated Spanish artist Joan Miró’s birth, and the 40th anniversary of his death, Spanish broadcaster TV3 aired a telemovie dramatising the little-known life of the surrealist painter.
Simply titled Miró, the film opens with the artist as a shy young boy living in Barcelona under the roof of his domineering father. His passion for art is quickly established, and he enrols at the Barcelona School of Fine Arts. But after a string of failures, Miró moves to Paris, where he finds that his style and creativity can flourish surrounded by peers such as Picasso, Breton, Matisse and Hemingway.
The arrival of the Second World War in Europe and his own insecurities meant Miró kept a low profile, but when he was commissioned to paint a mural for UNESCO, his art dramatically entered the spotlight. A museum dedicated to his work was later opened in Barcelona in 1975.
“This is the first fictional drama about Miró, because he was a really discreet man,” executive producer Tiffany Ruoz says of the film, which debuted in Spain in April this year. “He wasn’t eccentric like Dali and Picasso. There are several documentaries about Miró, but there had never been a drama, so we contacted his family. We were speaking to his grandsons and grand-nephews and they gave us permission to shoot the film. They were behind the project and it was wonderful because when you have the participation of the family, you are really relieved.”
Produced by CCMA and Ruoz’s Set Màgic Audiovisual, and distributed by CCMA, the drama charts Miró’s life in just 84 minutes, following him through his childhood and his difficult family life, to his failure to fit in among the artist community in Barcelona and finding his feet in Paris.
Squeezing everything into such a concise running time was “difficult,” Ruoz admits. The plan was always to follow Miró’s life in chronological order, but the film is bookended by the moment an older Miró receives an award from US president Dwight D Eisenhower.
“Then we go to the past and we see him as a young kid, the conflicts with his family and his father and their fight about him wanting to be an artist,” explains Eduardo Lloveras, who plays Miró on screen. “Then when he decides to get away from Barcelona, because for him the art scene was not evolving in the way he sees art, he goes to Paris to meet Picasso.
“I didn’t know it before, but Picasso was like a big brother to him, introducing him to poets and other artists and being a guy who provides security and reassurance to him. It’s also interesting to see him during the Second World War and, as an artist living in Europe, having to move around and not being welcome in Spain because of [Spanish dictator] Franco – Miró was more on the left, republican side, fighting against fascism. It’s a story of overcoming.”
Screened for international audiences at this year’s Monte-Carlo Television Festival, the film also establishes Miró’s rebellious nature, from choosing to go against his father’s wishes and pursue an art career, to the way he felt in his own country. Lloveras uses a Catalan saying, “seny i rauxa,” to describe the artist’s personality, which he says has conflicting traits of common sense and rebelliousness.
“He’s absolutely that. He also felt really Catalan, more Catalan than Spanish,” the actor says of Miró ’s fondness for the Spanish region that includes Barcelona. “He even says when he’s in Paris that he felt more like Parisian people than people from the south of Spain. He was a republican, and he would probably fight for [Catalan] independence now.”
That Miró is a relatively unknown public figure, coupled with his political standing and difficult rise to artistic prominence, meant he became the perfect figure for producer CCMA to explore on screen.
“We love to tell stories about figures who are unknown to the public,” Ruoz says. “We wanted to do something about an artist, and we were looking for fascinating stories and histories. We could have done a series about his life. We thought this was an opportunity to talk with the family and they were open to sharing his story.”
Lloveras describes taking on the role of Miró as an “honour and a responsibility.” During his research into the artist, Lloveras began to learn more about him and discovered they were both from Barcelona.
But the modest amount of video material of Miró, particularly as a young man, meant the actor had a certain amount of freedom in his portrayal, rather than slavishly trying to adopt his mannerisms and accent to create an authentic representation.
“It was a little bit scary because he’s an icon,” the actor says. “With accents and movements, it has to be a close approach but never an impression. Also, as an actor, I had space. It’s not [like playing] the Picasso everyone knows, with his eccentric manners. With Miró, no one would have noticed [how I played him] because they don’t know how he speaks. The paintings are famous but not him.”
However, there was one thing Lloveras did have to learn – how to paint like Miró.
“They gave me a painting coach, because I had never painted in my life, and he coached me in the way Miró approached painting, which is really meticulous, very slow,” he says. Miró’s paintings shown close-up in the film are reproductions, while those in the background of scenes were prints of the real artworks.
“He was really conscious of the small things,” Lloveras continues. “And when you know how an artist works, it also tells you about their behaviour, which helps you as an actor. It’s the same with accents. When I changed my accent, I sounded more like a reserved person. The words, especially when he was young, were struggling to come out. So when I changed accent, it was like, ‘Oh, that’s Miró.’ That helped me a lot.”
Production called for recreating period Barcelona and Paris, but Ruoz’s first obstacle was overcoming the Covid pandemic. The day before shooting, two actors fell ill, but filming was able to continue for three intense weeks on location across Barcelona, where the majority of the telemovie was shot. One additional day captured locations in Paris such as the Eiffel Tower.
“When we are inside in a bar in Paris, we are for sure in Barcelona,” jokes Lloveras. “Even Mallorca is in Barcelona.
“And you don’t shoot chronologically. In one day, I was playing [Miró at] 40, then 50, then 26. They made me older, made me younger, and there were clothes changes. When you’re shooting a period drama, it’s slower in the way you work. There was a lot of time in make-up and costume.”
While the make-up and costumes have long since come off, it’s clear Lloveras has taken more than a few art skills from his experience playing Miró.
“It’s the way he lived his life. The small things,” he says. “This gave me a really good creative energy, a positive energy. After this movie, I don’t see nature the same as I did before. I give it more importance. I can feel better in the world. That was a beautiful lesson for me.”
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