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Everybody Knows 2018

Everybody Knows | Todos lo saben | Tutti lo sanno

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A family. A kidnapping. A mystery.

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About the Everybody Knows 💬

Two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi's latest film Everybody Knows is Farhadi's eighth feature film.

  • Someone kidnapped her daughter. Who did it?

Laura and her children travel from Buenos Aires to the village where she was born, on a Spanish vineyard, to attend her sister's wedding but unexpected events lead this gathering towards a crisis which exposes the hidden past of the family.


Q: How did this project come about?

Asghar Farhadi: 15 years ago, I traveled to the south of Spain. During this journey, in a town, I saw several photos of a child fixed to the walls. I asked, ''who is it?'' and was told that it was a child who had disappeared and for whom the family was searching. At that moment I had the first spark for my intrigue and I kept it in my mind over the years. I wrote a short story on this subject and I developed it later, four years ago, just after the filming of THE PAST. I thought about starting this project then. So, I have been working on the screenplay these past four years. But you can say that the project really started at the time of that trip to Spain. There were two main things that attracted me: firstly, the atmosphere of the country and the culture, and then also this event form which the idea originated. These two elements have ensured that, for all these years, I was only every thinking about Spain.

Q: Why did you choose to set the story in a small village rather than in Madrid?

Asghar Farhadi: This story had to take place in a village. It's about human relations between villagers. Their relationships are not the same as those of city dwellers. Moreover, for a long time, I had wanted to film in a small village, in the heart of nature. I was looking for stories that took place far from the city and its hubbub. Subconsciously, that played on my mind so as to guide the story towards a place close to nature where there would be a farm, a village... something which inspires a certain nostalgia in me. In a village people are closer. Like everywhere in the world, given that village populations are limited, people know each other. And that has fueled my story. If it had taken place in a city, people would not have come together so easily. The would not have these relationships with each other. It would have been another film. So, from the start, the intrigue and my desire to film with nature, in a village, led me to work in this setting. One of the pleasures of this project was filming in the middle of all those farms. That village world where people gather on the main square in the afternoon. The other point I want to stress is that the characters of the film, whilst being caught up in a complicated situation, are simple beings. And so, placing the protagonists in a village reinforced this simplicity.

Q: Did you write the screenplay in Farsi before it was translated into Spanish?

Asghar Farhadi: Yes, I wrote the screenplay in Farsi from the beginning. I took a lot of time over its drafting. For years I kept going back to it, I made notes and carried on writing. Four years ago, I put my mind to it more seriously. The translation was done simultaneously with my writing. Since then, the story has changed a lot over these last years. I've made several trips to Spain. I've talked with my friends who lived there. And all that has influenced the narrative. But during all that time I wrote in Farsi and, fortunately, with a colleague (Massoumeh Lahidji) who was well acquainted with my style of writing, the translated version became very close to the one I had written in my own language. The goal was to convey in Spanish what we felt through the Persian words.

Q: How did you manage to give a Spanish touch to this screenplay?

Asghar Farhadi: When I finished writing the screenplay in Farsi I gave it to some friends living in Spain. Friends who didn't work in cinema, but who were movie fans, and also cinema professionals: directors, actors, etc. I gathered all their opinions. The first question I asked them was whether they felt that the story was being told by a non-Spaniard. And the closer we got to the final version the more they thought that the story was becoming completely Spanish. Later, during filming, all the crew and the actors helped me to make the film reflect as closely as possible a Spanish, and notably a village, lifestyle.

Q: You had already shot THE PAST in France and in French. Is it more difficult to work with a foreign crew and in a foreign language?

Asghar Farhadi: When I am filming in my own language and country there are some things which are simpler but also others which are more difficult. It's hard to explain. When you speak the same language it's easier to communicate, especially with the actors. When the story takes place in your own culture you can get your bearings more easily. When you don't know the language and culture of your film very well you become more vigilant so as not to let this affect the quality. For example, if I want to ask something of an actor during filming in Iran we'll talk a lot and I'll give him lots of explanations. But in a foreign language, since I have to go through an interpreter, I try to be as precise and clear as possible in order to help the actor understand more quickly. So, there's both simplicity and complexity. But it's still a pleasant experience. It's like entering into a game which requires more energy and effort, something I enjoy. In any case, I shoot most of my films in my own country. But filming abroad offers me new experiences, challenges me and enables me to discover new cultures. In short, the two experiences each have their own advantages. Outside of my own country I don't have many practical difficulties when filming, and within my country, I've been working with the same crews for a long time and we know each other well.

Q: How did you choose your actors?

Asghar Farhadi: First, I look for a story to build the narration and then the characters can emerge. After, I try to give form to them and develop different aspects of these characters. from there I choose my actors. When you are getting ready to film something that you've written yourself you already have an image in your mind. So, you look for actors who are the nearest to this image. When I arrived in Spain I watched lots of Spanish films, either in full or just extracts. I chose several actors for each role, finishing with the selection of those who you see in the film. I find that one of the great assets of Spanish cinema comes from its actors, who are so talented, and it's really exceptional. That gave me a lot of scopes to choose those who suited the roles, both the leads and the minor ones.

Q: Were you thinking of the actors when you wrote certain characters?

Asghar Farhadi: The two main characters were written for Penélope and Javier. I've been speaking to them about the screenplay for four years. We had already agreed that they would play these roles. So, whilst I was writing I already had these two actors in my mind, but the others were chosen once the screenplay was finished.

Q: So why did you choose Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem?

Asghar Farhadi: That goes back to THE PAST, which I directed in France. One of the candidates for the main role was Penélope. But she was already taken by another project... she was giving birth to her child. We weren't able to work together, but it was the beginning of our friendship. I spoke to her about this story, and later to Javier when we met in Los Angeles. For the last four years, we've kept in touch and they’ve been following the project. But after THE PAST I ended up deciding to go back to Iran and to direct another film, which meant this project being put back two years. But we didn't lose sight of each other. Above and beyond their performances these two actors have contributed a lot to the production of the film. Throughout the project, they have been generous in responding to my questions about other actors or other subjects. They are both very gifted actors, but also profoundly human. And our relationship now goes beyond our professional collaboration.

Q: And what about the choice of Ricardo Darín?

Asghar Farhadi: In the beginning, Ricardo's character was not meant to be Argentinian. He was an American character traveling in Spain. But, if we'd gone with the American character, the film would have been in two languages: English and Spanish. I preferred using just one and that the characters share a common language. So instead of North America, I thought rather of South America, and more particularly of Argentina. And Ricardo is one of the best South American actors. When I got to know him, I understood better why the whole crew appreciated him. He is an honest and simple man who gives you the impression of having known him for years. So, Ricardo came over from Argentina and helped us with everything to do with Argentinian culture so that we were as close to reality as possible.

Q: How did you come up with the main characters?

Asghar Farhadi: I don't conceive the main characters first. I simply try to give importance in the story to elements impacting the different characters. Without having to defend them nor justify one of them more than another. The main characters must all have the same opportunities to express themselves. This then gives the audience - and not the director - the freedom to choose to become attached to one of these characters right through the film. It's the principal method I've followed for this film as well as for previous ones. In fact, I invite the audience to judge for themselves. Some people think that I would prefer the characters not to be judged, when on the contrary I try to suppress any critical view on the part of the director in order to leave the initiative to the audience.

In conclusion...

What I'm always looking for when writing and directing a film, and which is uppermost in my mind, can be summarized in one word: empathy. I don't necessarily intend to transmit a message through my films. If the audiences from anywhere around the world, from any culture and language, with very diverse traits, manage to feel empathy for my characters without knowing them, if they can imagine themselves as one of them, then I will have achieved my objective. That's what I always emphasize the most in each film, what I need myself and what today's world needs: this empathy for one's fellow man across borders and cultures...


Q: What did you think when you read the script?

Penélope Cruz: Asghar first told me the story almost five years ago. It's true that over the years it's really evolved in his mind, and he's shared it with us bit by bit, as Javier and myself had already accepted to do the film with him. It was what he wanted to tell through this story that was interesting.

In one way this family is a sort of metaphor for what is going on around us. Like in the poem by Djalal al-Din Roumi which I came across a few weeks into filming thanks to another Iranian friend. It says that if one member of a family is suffering then all the others suffer too. For me, the essence of the film is in this poem. Indeed, when I spoke to Asghar about it he told me that this same poem meant a great deal to him and that he had in fact been thinking about it the previous day. There were a lot of moments like that during the film.

Q: Who is Laura?

Penélope Cruz: Laura is a very special woman who's been through a lot. She has had to make some difficult decisions involving other people. And that weighs on her. We all carry the burden of our experiences and traumas, some of us more than others. Laura is a woman with a secret and suddenly she finds herself faced with a crisis. This situation leads her into revealing her secret and thereby unleashing a host of things that she'd struggled to keep buried. This no doubt explains why the character was the most complicated I've ever had to play.

Q: Did you identify with Laura at times?

Penélope Cruz: I never thought about it. I don't have to agree with her, nor like her as a person, her temperament, what she does or doesn't do. I don’t need to justify her actions, just understand her one hundred percent. And I think I managed that because her role is so well written. All the characters are complex, subtle and multi-faceted. There are no good guys and bad guys: it's like in real life, things are never as clear-cut as they seem.


Q: What was your first impression on reading the treatment?

Javier Bardem: Asghar works on ideas, concepts, stories. He'd written twenty or thirty pages, to which he'd attached a very detailed summary. Like a script without the dialogue. I really liked the story, the atmosphere and particularly the relationships between the characters.

Like in his previous films, EVERYBODY KNOWS deals with the relationships between people and the way in which they interact, and it's about the past which resurfaces and can impact our present lives. It was also an extremely accurate portrayal of Spanish manners. And coming from a foreigner I thought that was brilliant.

Q: Tell us about your character, Paco.

Javier Bardem: He's a man living in a village, even if he has contact with the city. He's worked hard to get to where he is. He was born in the house where Laura's family lives. Bit by bit he started to farm the land and to look after the vineyard. At the opening of the film, he feels fulfilled in his personal and professional life. But then something happens which makes all sorts of demands upon him: psychological, emotional, physical, as well as ethical, and causing his life to change. Suddenly his past resurfaces and clashes with the present. Paco's character is full of nuances, in the way it's written and, I hope, in the way, it's played.

Q: Did you identify with Paco?

Javier Bardem: I really like the character. As the great Victoria Abril said, as actors we have to defend our characters rather than judge them, otherwise we're not doing our job. That said, sometimes there will be characters who make you uncomfortable. But that's not the case here. It's like Ramón Sampedro in THE SEA INSIDE or Reinaldo Arenas in BEFORE NIGHT FALLS: characters I remember fondly. Paco is like that. There's a light about him, a glow, a simplicity which is akin to a certain type of wisdom. He's a down-to-earth soul, full of common sense.

Q: Which is your favorite scene and the one you found most complicated?

Javier Bardem: I think that it's a complicated film, but so is every film for one reason or another. Here, the subject matter makes for great emotional intensity. No scene was easy. In fact, Asghar would suggest a scene, see how it worked, and change details if he wanted to try other things or emphasize something else. Nothing was set in stone, and he never said <that's how it has to be>. On the contrary, Asghar loves life and wants every scene to be true to life.

Looking back, I would say that the group scenes were the most complicated. There were a lot of us and each actor had his own approach. For example, any given emotion, fear, for example, will be portrayed in different ways. In the end, it's up to the director to bring harmony, but it requires a huge amount of concentration on the part of the actors. You have to be attentive to others, as always, but when there are ten of you it's important not to lose your concentration.


Q: Tell us about your character, Alejandro.

Ricardo Darín: Alejandro used to be well-off, but things have changed. He's lost his job and is as good as broke, but it seems that when he did have money he did a lot to help the village where his wife, Laura, is from. He can't go to the wedding of Laura's sister and stays in Buenos Aires to look for work, go to interviews, and try to find a way out of this dead-end. When he hears what happened on the evening of the wedding he heads to Spain to try not only to help but also to keep control. He then has to face up to a series of unexpected situations which, I think, reinforce the dramatic framework of the story.

Q: Were there times when you identified with Alejandro?

Ricardo Darín: We do have some things in common, but what sets us apart are his religious convictions. He's a believer, I'm not. So, to play a man like him was a kind of challenge. His past is rather dark because of an alcohol problem, and he attributes his ''healing'' to his faith in God, who as he says once, saved him. He believes that God imposed this ordeal on him, so he could be saved. And I think that the turmoil that is now affecting everyone's lives is unbearable for him. His faith is put to the test. It's also put to the test by other characters in the film.

Q: How did the filming unfold?

Ricardo Darín: Filming is never simple. Techniques such as the permanent cutting of takes and shots have an adverse effect on an actor. It's hard to maintain the continuity of emotions for different shots. But when you see that you've got it right it's very satisfying. It gives you a boost and you forget how you've suffered.

We met some open, amiable and warm-hearted people in this wonderful village, even if there was a little tension on market day when we needed a bit of quiet. But I can see why it's not easy for people to understand that we need that silence. On the whole, people were receptive, delighted and open to the idea that we were making a film in their village. When you know all the potential hazards of filming, it's fair to say that things worked out very well.

Everybody Knows Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Asghar Farhadi

Writing Credits

Asghar Farhadi


Penélope Cruz

Javier Bardem

Ricardo Darín

Eduard Fernández

Bárbara Lennie

Inma Cuesta

Elvira Mínguez

Ramón Barea

Carla Campra

Iván Chavero

Sara Sálamo

Roger Casamajor

José Ángel Egido

Sergio Castellanos

Jaime Lorente

Music by

Javier Limón

Cinematography by

José Luis Alcaine

Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Countries: Spain, France, Italy

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