Maria Granizo, 16 July 2021
Imagine that there are no countries. It is not hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for. No religion either. Imagine all people living life in peace. You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one. I hope one day you will join us. And the world will be one.
Maybe because he got so used to looking at the Mediterranean that the hopeful blue of the sea is projected in his eyes: “I have a dream: a United States of humanity without borders”.
Perhaps because he believes that equality comes through ”the educational, formative and informative revolution: I consider myself a person of the internationalist left, in my ideology there is no place for any human being to have fewer rights than another”.
Perhaps because he believes that ”the great intellectual, moral and emotional development is to overcome confrontation and hatred”.
Probably because he belongs to the lineage of those who dream of a better world, proclaim it and in their daily lives work to make it a reality: ”The only revolutions that have lasted are those that began in a peaceful way”.
Without ever having played John Lennon or had the opportunity to shake his hand, if they had met without knowing each other, they would have recognised each other. Like the man from Liverpool, the man from Malaga, in order to imagine and see clearly, knows how to change the direction of his gaze: ”Everything has a reason, a causality and I believe that delving into the roots of that would allow us to have a world with more peace, even if it is a utopia, but humanity has advanced thanks to those madmen who believed in that utopia”.
Since he was a child, Antonio de la Torre worked so hard on his that, from being a real realist, he became a visionary. An orphan, with little more than the clothes on his back and ”the poor man’s syndrome”, he came to Madrid, studied, showered at the Pensión García for 75 cents a day and bombarded his friends to go to the cinema so that the films he appeared in would last longer. In the meantime, he became a sports journalist. And, with a great deal of emotional intelligence, he learned ”much more from failure than from success”. One day he worked his hard-earned magic and achieved ”the great opportunity to be someone else”. Success did not confuse him. Climbing to the top, he shook off prejudices and began ”to judge less and understand people more”.
Never disguising himself in front of or behind the camera, like the man loyal to his principles who never lowers his gaze and always keeps it humble, he has lived as many lives as characters he has played. With the wisdom of a Malacian who knows that the wind can change course and that there are many failures that come from not realising how close success is, celebrating his career he has eaten up the screen and everything that came his way as Cannibal. He has gained 33 kilos to become one of the Fat Ones and has lost 17 to get into the skin of the former president of Uruguay. He has transformed his natural campiness into a terrifying revenge when it was Tarde para la ira. He has sung Balada triste de trompeta, he has revealed that he and Raúl Arévalo were a pair of Primos who could become Amantes pasajeros, in La gran familia española and even take us to Isla Mínima, so that God forgives us by saying Abracadabra and discovering El autor, El invasor and Grupo 7.
With his name already firmly in the firmament of AzulOscuroCasiNegro and El Reino de los Goyas, the man of a thousand faces, with his head always in the right place, only holds the historic record of having been nominated 14 times at the Goyas and taking home two Goya nods. He has also received the highest recognition from the Actors’ Union on five occasions, six awards from the Cinematographic Writers’ Association, the Medal of Andalusia, and an infinite string of other honours. However, vanity does not even touch him: ”The key is to learn to live with little because, as José Mújica points out, ‘when you pay for something, you don’t pay for it with money but with the time you invested in earning that money”. And that is irretrievable.
Life in the hands of work, never of destiny
Curiosity, risk, and sincerity are the hallmarks of those who find what is important in the gaze, not in what they look at. In twenty-eight years of work, Antonio has seen a lot. In fifty-three, peering into life, he has seen even more.
In a third floor flat in the working-class neighbourhood of Ciudad Jardín, he got to know the close-up views of the affections of those he learnt that ”one is educated by living”, even if they only had time to work themselves to death. From a father, an administrator by profession, who spent his life, too short, earning a day’s wage from the age of 12 until he was 56; then death, disguised as illness, knocked on his door and with it he left without having achieved any more luxury than his heartfelt passion for Málaga CF. She also had a mother, an ”almost illiterate housewife”, who knew as little about books as she did about living without the fears of a childhood hijacked by the post-war period; six years after her husband’s death, the same illness forced her to follow in his footsteps, and the youngest of her children was no longer called ”Antonio Jesús” from the kitchen window to come upstairs for lunch. Of two older brothers, to whom he gave his first passes with the ball, and of two other widowed grandmothers, also narrators of calamities. Stories of hunger” that make him ”anti-Franco because I saw in them a lost generation: my father was orphaned at the age of three and as a child he had to start working. Do you want to destroy people’s ideology? Force them to survive and that is the end of ideology”.
From his family, in that small social housing in Malaga, he also learned to believe more in hard work than in destiny: ”Life is a journey, it’s not a path that they put there for you”. With a strong step, because tiptoeing did not guarantee survival, before dreaming of becoming an actor he had already begun to act. He first foreshadowed his obsession ”with storytelling” by challenging his own credibility with the one who rocked his cradle: ”At school I became good friends with a boy in a higher grade and I, who was in first grade, told my mother a joke telling her that I could go on to second grade. She went to talk to the teacher, and she told her that yes, I was very clever and that I was ready. So, I spent my whole childhood a year ahead, although I do not really know what it was for. Later, at the age of 12, he once again showed his talent for acting, this time on stage: ”At school the Arlequín company appeared, which did activities with children. I remember rehearsing the play La historia de Pituchín y Pituchina. I will never forget it. It was very clear to me what I liked”. However, the almost inescapable weight of his friends’ opinions, in the middle of puberty, were more powerful than his vocation and he turned away from the theatre.
He camouflaged his emptiness with the films he rented, without rest, at Mrs. Barbara’s video club, opposite his house. With some of them, Alfredo Landa became his idol, ”the actor I always wanted to be”. With others, he also acquired cinematographic culture, and discovered films that he would watch again and again: ”The Exorcist, which terrified me when I was a teenager and which has not aged at all, and The Godfather for the performances, for the time, for the cinema in its pure state”. When the summer came, year after year, he replaced those marathons with football championships, in La Cala del Moral, in which he left his breath and his will without going unnoticed: ”I have very beautiful memories with all that this sport entails. It is difficult to explain, but the passion we feel, the solidarity, the fun, the feeling of belonging to a group that wins, that loses, it’s amazing”. Over and above the distortion generated by time and the memory that idealises memories, he keeps in his heart ”glorious afternoons at La Rosaleda”. Also ”the smell of the moragas that we made in summer in La Cala, in that place and in that time in which I was happy”.
Football, the journey to journalism and the power of vocation
When he looks back at the boy he was, he remembers several trains until he was able to get on his own. The first one had Madrid as its destination, 1986 as its date, and journalism as its subject.
In the private literature of Antonio’s memories, there are many linked to sport that have survived the passage of time because they include his father: their first match together in the first stadium in the city, ”a Málaga-Burgos match in which we won by a goal that I didn’t see because I was looking at the stands at the time”, the excited faces and the heartfelt hugs celebrating victories such as ”when Málaga beat Sporting and qualified for the Champions League”. He has never been able to abstract himself from those moments that wrapped his childhood in wrapping paper. Much less so when, shortly before finishing high school, a cancer in his father’s stomach put an end to the possibility of repeating them.
Just as his father had brought him closer to football, the ball brought him closer to sports programmes. Listening to the radio night after night, Supergarcía, he had dreamed of ”growing up to be a sports journalist like Butanito”. With interviewing and narrating ”beautiful stories” like that of his admired fellow countryman Juanito, ”the kid from the neighbourhood who later triumphs in a big team. I would love to make a film, a biopic, about him”.
With a grant of 20,000 pesetas, half of what it cost him to sleep each month in a shared flat in Madrid’s Argüelles neighbourhood, and ”a black job for which I earned 30,000”, he survived in the capital for the five years of his university career ”working in the mornings and studying in the afternoons”. He also read with an avidity he had never had before. Gabo’s pen writing the Buendía’s One Hundred Years of Solitude was the culprit: ”I remember reading it in college and I couldn’t wait to get home, like a boyfriend in love, to find the book again and devour it”.
His first professional job came in 1990, at Canal Sur, as producer of a radio programme. Two years later, his mother fell ill, while he ”pulled on any acquaintance to make her feel better”, but nothing saved her. It was 1992. Alberto San Juan, one of Antonio’s best friends in college, went to Madrid to study acting at the Cristina Rota School. With no one to wait for him at home, and not knowing where to turn, de la Torre asked himself: ”When I am 40 and 40 years old, am I going to forgive the 24-year-old for not having tried?” A single ticket to Madrid was his immediate answer.
The Kingdom of the Goyas
”If someone had told me that years later, I would win a Goya and I would be called Almodóvar, I would have saved myself a depression, but it is true that what you don’t do, you will never do again”.
He took the risk, and he did it. For five years, until he was almost 30, he played roles ”in which I was hardly seen. I aspired to something more and I did not have the guts to put up with that”. Necessity led him to an audition for presenters, again on Canal Sur, and chance and his self-confidence led him to start working as a sports journalist in Seville. With the lentils already covered, he resumed his career: ”My colleagues helped me a lot to be able to change shifts and go to castings”.
Without giving up and extracting all the good things, even those that to other eyes would go unnoticed, he made his first appearance in a film, in 1994. Playing the role of ”journalist 3”, The Worst Years of Our Lives marked the beginning of the best times in her career: ”It will always remain in my memory as the first kiss, for that virginal feeling of seeing you on a film set, it’s unforgettable”. Eight years later, he felt like a fully-fledged actor working on Chus Gutiérrez’s Poniente. But the film that changed his future, ”the one that made him leave journalism for good”, came in 2006 with a colourful title presaging the triumph, AzulOscuroCasiNegro (DarkBlueAlmostBlack). It also came with the promise of its director, Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, with whom he had already worked on several short films: ”Nobody has ever written a role for you that matches your talent and I’m going to do it”. In his first feature film, the filmmaker put the script in Antonio’s hands. The actor, who never repeats a scene because his self-demanding nature means that every take is different, ended up winning his first Goya in 2007. He was nearly 40 years old.
Diving again into the complexity of the human being, the recognition as best leading actor was celebrated in 2019 by entering The Kingdom of our cinema. On this occasion he was guided by the direction of Rodrigo Sorogoyen, but also by his conversations with Rubalcaba, with Eduardo Madina and with several active politicians, with the accused, with El Bigotes, with Francisco Correa and with Cristina Cifuentes, with judges and even attending the Gürtel trial. Listening to them, he opened his ears and his mind. Without letting anything human be alien to him, he got into the impeccable suit of a provincial politician involved in a corruption plot almost as real as the triumph he dedicated ”to those who get up every morning wanting to change the world” and to the pride of his roots: ”This Goya stays in this land of passion and talent called Andalusia, a multicultural people that always embraces those who come from outside. If it has been like this, it will continue to be like this”.
The man who, when he plays a role, aspires ”to be someone else” and always succeeds, who we do not recognise from one film, play or TV series to another, wrapped only in curiosity and talent, honours the memory of his parents and his fellow men: ”Fear kills life. The real revolution is when you don’t need power to relate to others. Europe’s handling of the refugee crisis has reflected our failure as a model of civilisation. A single life is infinitely more valuable than any border, nation or flag. And one life with all the basic resources that a decent life requires and needs”.
Like the curious child inside him and the tenacity of someone who always finds a way and avoids excuses if he wants something, Antonio Jesús de la Torre Martín, to the rhythm of El trato que tiene con Mala Rodríguez, says goodbye to his Playlist, putting music to his conviction that ”when we grow as human beings, in a more universal and generous way, we will get closer to a new time”. Persuaded by a dream ”that is possible”, he imagines again and smiles hopefully like the most rebellious beatle.
Imagine there are no possessions. I wish you could do it. No need for greed or hunger. A human brotherhood. Imagine all people sharing the whole world. You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one. I hope one day you will join us, and the world will be one.