Being a daughter, mother, grandmother, can shape the cycle of life in three dimensions. A circle where innocence enters in a first layer, fear and the fragility of maturity in the second and the wisdom of stoicism in the final stage, when you leave behind your own history and face death.
Laia Costa (Barcelona, 37 years old) has felt and experienced all of this when she got into the skin of Amaia for Cinco lobitos. The first film by Alauda Ruiz de Azua has struck a chord with the public in Spain because it talks about the changing dynamics of care. Also of the successive identity crises that plague us at each unknown stage. Of those catastrophes that disrupt the priorities of one love for another or of the distance and complicity of the tribe. But, above all, of the essence of motherhood:
Laia Costa is the center of gravity of this explosive and tender emotional device. A lullaby in images that has achieved 11 nominations for the 2023 Goyas within the magnificent creative harvest of Spanish cinema and already triumphed at the last Malaga Festival as best film, best screenplay and recognition of its two female leads: Costa and Susi Sanchez. His success has not stopped growing. The word of mouth that she produces has magnified her vocation as a film without box office pretensions, but with the solidity of what she has hit the nail on the head. With a crucial issue: “Something that I would like to see transferred to the public debate,” says Costa. “To the political, economic and social sphere through the awareness of knowing that if you don’t have an environment to pull from, someone must take care of us. The room for improvement that lies ahead is enormous. Care is at the center of public debate. It must be placed among the essentials”. The film, according to her, opens that melon: “Unpretentious, with sobriety, elegance and in a very contained way. That is the strength of the audiovisual: it provokes debates and unleashes the power of culture to transform”.
Laia Costa, pictured in Barcelona, where she was born 37 years ago and where she currently lives. Here she is wearing a jersey, shirt and skirt, all from Sportmax, and sandals from Jimmy Choo. Adria Canameras
Much of the secret that attracts in Cinco lobitos is embodied by Costa. His truth, his raw tenderness of a mother overcome in search of serenity and a new place in the world, amazes. And that, in large part, is explained by his sense of smell and success when it comes to finding good roles. “I read the script and thought: ‘This, at least, deserves a coffee with Alauda.” He knew that he could bring his own experience of first-time motherhood to the table. She was also scared after 13 months away from the cameras and entrusted to parenting. In the midst of a pandemic and, as she says, in Miami, where she has lived, “far from the tribe.”
She was vulnerable, but at the same time sure of all the truth that she could convey to the protagonist on the screen. “Like Alice in Wonderland, I let the rabbit lead me down the rabbit hole…”, she says. “It was risky, but my life and Amaia’s exchanged very profound winks. Sometimes I think: if the film hadn’t been this successful, I would have also felt happy, because those winks would continue to accompany each other”.
He says it before undergoing a photo session in Poblenou in Barcelona, a city to which he has returned after almost two decades away. His case is curious in Spanish cinema. The viewer hardly recognizes her as a popular actress within her country, despite her secondary appearances in series such as Bandolera, El tiempo entre costuras or Carlos, rey emperador, among others, or with a more leading role in Tell me a story and Polseres vermelles. However, Costa is already a figure in Europe and within the indie circuit. That air that recalls the mischievous elegance of Audrey Hepburn or the initial innocence of Geraldine Chaplin captivated Germany when she starred in Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria. With the trail of this Spanish girl lost at night in Berlin, she won a Lola Award, the highest German award, in 2015; also a Gaudi, and was a candidate for a British Bafta. She continued the streak of her out of it with titles like Newness, Only You or Duck Butter, until Isabel Coixet placed her in the Hispanic orbit as the protagonist of the series Foodie Love (HBO). There, Costa, together with the Argentine Guillermo Pfening, embroiders an exhibition of pleasurable attractions between gastronomy and sensuality, within a brilliant and provocative twist on romantic comedy.
It was the Barcelona director who pointed her out as a future star of Spanish cinema. Costa considers her a kind of mentor to her. “Waste that innate curiosity that is contagious; at all times you want to know what she reads, what she listens to, what she eats, what she watches. She is always up to date. She freaks me out. She is up to date in everything, ”says the actress. Not to mention watching her shoot… “She does it with a camera in hand, she is very clear about what she wants and what she saves with that skill. With her you always find yourself at the expense of the magic of the accident for that constant freshness. She is a born worker, every time I am with her I want to absorb everything”.
They see each other more often since the interpreter returned to Horta, her neighborhood. “In the end, we decided to go back to the place where I grew up.” Not much has changed, she says, and she has the basics: “One trade of each. I am rediscovering it. It is the one with the least population density in Barcelona, many parks. I soon realized that I wanted to come back.” She has also recovered the echoes of her childhood: “I lived through that of the children on the street and I enjoyed it. I had a very busy childhood, with little room for boredom between English, basketball, theater… My sister and I could not get bored, although we also knew how to do it, when we were looking for games or fights”.
One then imagines Jose Maria Costa, his father, and Cristina Bertran, his mother, trying to make peace. He was the manager of the Niza dance hall, and she, a taxi driver: “One of the first women who dedicated themselves to it in Barcelona,” says her daughter. But she hardly remembers getting into her vehicle. “We did not frequent it, she began to tell scares at work when many years had passed. Protecting us from that kind of thing has been a very typical way of behaving for my parents. I don’t know if I will do that with my daughter, educating is very complicated. The reproaches that I have made to them my daughter will throw at me: we will always be one step behind, even if our will pushes us to put ourselves ahead”. She often thinks of that, as part of the cycle that Five Wolves also portrays. One of those winks, as she says, that bind her to her role. “Motherhood brings me closer to the man and woman who are my parents. To the people. Not to the figure or the role they embodied. It is essential for me to separate both things ”.
As he also melts the spheres that his sister Noe touches. “I am so proud of the aunt my daughter has…”. Shortly after starting to speak, before we got down to business, Laia Costa began to talk about her. She denoted genuine admiration and a lot of complicity. She “She is an architect, but she has been able to bring her field to theater and cinema, where she now works as a set designer and in art direction. She is doing very well; in fact, we will share nerves at the Goyas because she is part of the team of Los renglones torcidos de Dios, nominated in her section ”.
She prefers to speak well of everyone before of herself. The case, she says, is “to play down.” An attitude that Costa claims to value in many established actresses. To prove it, she develops that argument and denotes a deep previous reflection. More when everything tends to run over you. “Many people around me want to stop, they suffer from panic attacks. In my case, having started at almost 30 years of age has given me tools. At 20 you don’t know what you want or what you don’t want, especially in this profession, with the spotlight on you. Everything revolves around haste, but I try to walk prudently ahead. You have to step aside to know what you want to do. Put on the brake: move slowly, play down importance, I insist. Internationally successful artists, now older, talk about it to laugh a little at themselves. Filter the essentials and manage everything that happens to you from enjoyment. I tell you this because it sounds very nice in theory, but putting it into practice seems very difficult to me”.
In all of this, Costa also applies the rules of collective effort since her days as a basketball player. “The childhood friends I keep come from that time.” She started at the age of six or seven at the Hispano Frances. “She has provided me with many values that I have not found elsewhere, at least in such a pure form. Teamwork, for starters. Also that sometimes you eat bench for reasons you don’t understand, that if you don’t train, you don’t play. Of course, a constant feeling of sisterhood, to the point that if one of us got injured, it hurt you, it hurt all of us.” They are ties and principles that she has applied to almost all spheres of life and work. “The friendship that I have with them I have not forged with anyone, then it came out of the physical and ended in the emotional and the collective. We were very good We won the championship for three years, but we also knew how to lose. Sport protected me from many things”.
Another crucial stage was the university. She studied Advertising and Public Relations at Ramon Llul, until she started a doctorate on qualitative trend research, what in marketing they call cool hunting. He worked in agencies. First, no scheduled hours at Mr. John Sample. From there, to a German company, yes, with strict entry and exit times. And that’s why he also changes his life. “When I finished at six in the evening, I had free time, so my sister and I signed up for theater classes at Nancy Tunon’s school.”
Thus their priorities radically changed. He began to enroll in small roles, a movie, several series… Until, through a casting, he ended up in a strange experiment that catapulted him. They were looking for an actress for a non-leading role in an independent German production. “They weren’t clear on the narrative. That was interesting to me. We moved to rehearse in Berlin and in 12 days they found it”. At first, the plot centered on a group of kids who go all out in the early morning in Berlin. But finding Laia Costa transformed the plan. Sebastian Schipper understood that the actress would drag the audience from the first camera movement on the club dance floor until the end of the footage. She changed her title to that of the character that Costa would play and was renamed Victoria.
The film dazzled with its cheekiness, a not inconsiderable audacity and its ability to portray a generation. But also because of the actress’ magnet, that she never leaves the 140-minute sequence shot that makes up the action. “Two days before the casting I had a motorcycle accident, I ate the car in front of me. I did the test with the effect of a bunch of painkillers. All weird. I had no idea what they were doing. I lived that process wildly because we all created. When we were shooting it, I thought it would end up being something our parents, friends and two others would see. Then everything that happened happened…”.
With Cinco Lobitos he had a similar feeling. That of participating in a collective construction process based on risks not contemplated, but justified. This task of contagion shines through in a round result. In the staging and for the interpretations of a quartet that together with Costa and Susi Sanchez make up Ramon Barea and Mikel Bustamante. Everything oozes care and dedication around a modest project that hits the mark because it speaks of something that challenges our society today. More in a world that has just emerged from a trauma like the pandemic and feels extremely fragile, anxious and aware that it needs a change in collective priorities. Costa, in both parts of the film, has had a harder time with the second than the first. Being a mother came naturally to her. The role of daughter that she goes on to take care of her parents, less. “I feel like it is a step in my life that will come sooner rather than later. I had a really hard time getting into character during those weeks. It is something that I have not lived yet and with which I have not faced ”, she confesses.
Without this implying a negative reaction to the entry into maturity. In this sense, Costa exudes a healthy serenity that shines through in the emerging gray hair that the camera makes shine in his dark hair. Few, but allergic to the dye, with its own visible silver light. “I am very proud of them. I would like to have the hair of Angela Molina, she is a beauty, ”she proclaims.
This shows his respect for the experience. And especially with the courage of a group that fascinates her: “When I go to any event in our world, I try to sit at the producers’ table,” she says. He considers them the origin of everything, not always well recognized. “Above all, the small and independent ones. They go without net. I imagine them in a park attraction, with their adrenaline. If the safety barrier is released, instead of deciding to get off, they stay, hold on with both hands and whatever God wants. They are not willing to lose the opportunity to do what they believe in, even if they are 10-year projects. For me they are heroes, they risk everything for what they believe in, movies like Five Wolves don’t get off the ground if it isn’t for them. They are the door that opens, although on the way they must fight against many dragons.