Spain's Iglesia trying new direction


MADRID, Spain -- Alex de la Iglesia has chiseled out a name for himself with colorful Spanish-language films laced with dark humor and biting satire. After reaping commercial and critical success, notably with "Ferpect Crime," de la Iglesia is poised to break away from the pack of young Spanish directors who made their names abroad in the '90s. His next pair of films, both shot in English, take him into new territory.

"What I want is to learn and grow and not bore myself. And the way to not bore myself is to try new things that are a stretch," de la Iglesia says at his production company, Panico Films, in Madrid's historic center.

First up is "Oxford Murders," which sees the 40-year-old de la Iglesia step outside the black-comedy genre that made him a cult figure. The reflexive whodunit scenario relies on logic and dialogue as opposed to imaginative juxtapositioning of violence and comedy.

The $10 million film, scheduled to shoot in early 2007, will star Elijah Wood and John Hurt, with other international cast being finalized.

"'Oxford Murders' is not humorous at all. In fact, it's tragic. It's the first time I've done something that is not a black comedy," says the director, framed by location photos on a bulletin board behind him. "It's more important what is said than what is seen. I have to conceive things in a different way than I have before. For me it's an excellent exercise."

Meanwhile, de la Iglesia is gathering financing for what he calls his most ambitious project yet, "Think About Disney." This will bring him back to the more familiar territory of demons, pacts with the devil, infidelity and insanity -- but ramped up to the 10th power and in English.

Budgeted at about $15 million, "Disney" tells of a man who goes insane because he discovers the true essence of the world around him and lives a hell of his own creation. The only salvation he finds comes through thinking about cartoon characters. The film is co-produced by Panico and France's La Fabrique de Films.

But while some in the industry shy away from bold projects of this sort, de la Iglesia is drawn to them and says they are the secret of his success and his sales abroad.

"If you don't want to offend anyone, you make a flop," the director says. "It's like Styrofoam: Nobody really likes it but people accept it, and that's what those who finance films really want, an acceptable film."

So while the Bilbao-born director is ready to branch out into new areas, don't expect him to sacrifice his trademark voice. "People are always telling me, 'Don't make that joke,' 'Don't include that,' but they're wrong. The audiences eat it up and love it. Audiences want something different and something with character."