Aside from winning the Best Director Oscar for ‘Gravity’, Alfonso Cuarón has the best Harry Potter movie (‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’), a dystopian classic (‘Children of Men’) and an indie road-trip gem (‘Y Tu Mamá También’) on his mercurial CV. He’s definitely earned the right to spend some time reliving his own past with ‘Roma’, a masterful kinda-memoir set in the 1970s Mexico City of his childhood. It’s a loving tribute to the women who raised him that will move all but the stoniest-hearted.
‘Roma’ is inspired by your childhood, but it’s not about a ten-year-old Alfonso Cuarón. Why not?
‘I’ve never been interested in exploring my childhood. I was trying to come to terms with this bond I have with one of the people I love the most [his old nanny ‘Libo’] and the recognition that we come from two completely different microcosms. It was a period that included the divorce of my parents, and I wanted to approach that somehow.’
What was it like filming in Mexico again?
‘Intense, because [Mexico City] has grown out of control. I’d describe places in the script but when I went to them, they weren’t recognisable. That was my confrontation with visiting the past: that contrast between who you are and who you were.’
How did it feel to hear Guillermo del Toro name ‘Roma’ as one of his five favourite movies?
‘The other ones are “Y Tu Mamá También”… [laughs]. At first I thought he was saying it as a friend, but he hugged me and said, “You described my house, I had the same car, the courtyard was the same, and the rooftop was
the same.” I am absolutely flattered.’
Talking of Guillermo del Toro, is it true he told you you’d be an idiot not to direct ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’?
‘He has told me that I am an idiot for many different reasons, but yes, this was one of the reasons he told me that.’
Is it true you hadn’t heard of the Harry Potter books when you were offered the film?
‘No, I had heard about them, but [it] was so far off my radar. It was after “Y Tu Mamá También” and I’d just read “Children of Men” and my head was in all these predictions about what would happen [in the world] in the immediate future. So I was like, “Not interested.” That’s why he told me I was an idiot – and he was right.’
Did you get him anything to say thanks?
‘Well, now you say that, I feel like an idiot again.’
You’ve been living in London for many years. What are your favourite hangouts?
‘I live in Notting Hill – well, North Kensington – and I like my local bookshop, Lutyens & Rubinstein. I like the restaurant Ducksoup [in Soho] and The Prince of Wales on Kensington Church Street. That’s a good pub. Taqueria in Westbourne Grove is good for Mexican food.’
Have you picked up any London slang?
‘Can you hear my accent?’
Interview by Mark Salisbury
‘Roma’ is in cinemas from Thu Nov 29 and on Netflix on Dec 14.