Chilean Soap Star Shines In 'Gloria'

Paulina Garcia plays a divorced older woman looking for love in the new critically acclaimed film. NPR's Rachel Martin speaks to Garcia from her home in Santiago.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Chilean soap actress Paulina Sanchez is another performer who understands that success can take a long time. Ms. Sanchez has worked on stage and appeared in soap operas in Chile since the 1980s. This year, she stars in the title role of her very first feature film. It's called "Gloria," directed by Sebastian Lelio. The director keeps the camera close on Sanchez as she portrays this hardworking divorced mother of two in her late 50's, who's trying to navigate her life, a life full of unmet expectations.

The movie opens in a nightclub where Gloria gets up the courage to reintroduce herself to an old friend as if to signal it is time for something new.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "GLORIA")

PAULINA GARCIA: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: (Foreign language spoken)

MARTIN: "Gloria" opens in U.S. theaters this week. I spoke with Ms. Sanchez from her home in Santiago. And she explained why her character is looking for change.

GARCIA: She is not totally happy. But she is not depressed, as she knows life can be brighter, so she's looking for something. She has the idea that it may be love, as everybody thinks that is what is missing.

MARTIN: She does eventually meet someone. She meets a recently divorced man named Rodolfo and they immediately begin this love affair. We should say there are some pretty sexy scenes in this movie.

GARCIA: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: You one particular have several nude scenes. What was it like filming them? Were you at all hesitant to do those scenes?

GARCIA: Well, there are always tough scenes but we work with Sebastian in trust. I talked to very clear from the very beginning. Look, I'm not Kate Blanchett. I'm a Chilean actress who has three children and I am what you see. And he told me, look, I know how you look and that is exactly what I want. And we have fun.

MARTIN: So, Gloria is trying to figure out who she is in this new stage of her life. As you say, her kids are all grown and they are literally and metaphorically moving away from her. We're led to believe she doesn't exactly love her career , it's just a job for her. And then she gets burned by this guy, Rodolfo. It doesn't work out with him. What does she learn from that affair, from that romance?

GARCIA: I think it's very simple to say that she learned that you cannot get involved with stupid guys.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: Yeah. And then maybe you can also say that there are a lot of stupid guys so you have to take care. That's very simple to say. But I understood that she was making a big decision about happiness. Whatever happens with Rodolfo, I'm going to choose this path because it's what I want to do. And that is the biggest idea of Gloria's way of thinking. She's choosing life even though life is asking for a price.

MARTIN: There is a lovely scene at the end where we witness Gloria's rebirth, essentially. She's at a friend's wedding and this song that becomes her anthem of sorts comes on. Everyone is dancing and she has this amazing dance scene. Can you describe how that was filmed, because you have some great moves, Paulina, in that scene?

GARCIA: We began the scene at 1 o'clock, morning, and we finished at 5:30, morning.

MARTIN: Oh, my.

GARCIA: I was dancing for four hours.

(LAUGHTER)

GARCIA: And it was raining. There was a lot of water coming into the place that we were shooting. Everybody was wet and we were reduced to use just a little place - they only place where it was dry and also it was my last scene. So it was a certain moment for me and sometimes the frames of that moment come into me like something that I lived so deeply.

MARTIN: Why is that? Why did it leave such a strong impression on you?

GARCIA: Probably because it was like I went to Gloria's country and then I came back. And when I came back I was feeling strange and I miss her. It was a very special film, you know. And it's not common to be in every frame, so I was in every, every scene in every, every frame. And so, as I was all the time there - 11 hours a day during five weeks, you know, you became friends, you became something very special.

MARTIN: Paulina Garcia, she stars in the Chilean film "Gloria." Thank you so much for talking with us, Paulina. It's been a pleasure.

GARCIA: Thank you very much - a pleasure, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GLORIA")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Singing) Gloria, Gloria (Singing in foreign language)...

MARTIN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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