There is no doubt that in the case of Irene Escolar, life does not imitate art, it literally is. From a very young age, she joined the film industry with astounding ease under the direction of greats such as Carlos Saura and Christopher Hampton. Decades later, she has become one of the most respected actresses in Spain with a long list of awards, including the Goya Award in 2016 for Best New Actress. But now, Irene is feeling restless and wants to make a statement. While savouring the box office success of Las chicas están bien (The Girls Are Alright), a new film she stars in alongside her friends Bárbara Lennie and Itsaso Arana (who is also the director), the Madrid-born actress is looking to start a new chapter marked by different roles that transport her to universes far removed from her own reality. In this issue, we talk to Irene about the future she faces with optimism while photographing her in some looks from the Dior Autumn/Winter 2023-2024 collection. 
Interview tak­en from METAL Magazine issue 49. Adapted for the online version. Order your copy here.
Las chicas están bien is not her last successful work. She has also been performing in the play Finlandia by Pascal Rambert for one year. The chronicle of the raw and violent end of a marriage has been a kind of metamorphosis for Irene, a turning point that has served her to reflect on her own existence. Now, with things clear in her mind, Irene knows exactly what she wants and how she wants to achieve it. And it is that for her, life comes with a lot of pleasure and little guilt.
This is the first day I feel like summer is over.
Yes, it’s much colder today.
Sometimes in Madrid you can feel it coming. Everything is always in transition in cities like this; sometimes, even when summer has just begun, you can already sense that autumn is approaching.
I haven’t had a summer like this in a long time. It’s been a lot of fun, I’ve laughed a lot. I’ve spent time with many friends, I’ve been able to make great plans and visit places I’ve never been before. I’ve discovered places and I really love them.
It sounds like you had a memorable summer.
Yes, I did. I went to two wonderful festivals. One of them was in the Czech Republic, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, one of the oldest in the world. We were able to present Las chicas están bien in its official selection, and of course, being all together there for several days was the best way to start the summer. People from all over Europe come to Karlovy Vary, many of them sleep in the countryside, outdoors, and it’s super beautiful. There is a very interesting selection of films in some beautiful cinemas. We were able to see them and then go out to dance at the concerts that were taking place. What I especially liked is that it is a film festival, but it is not based on the glamour and shine that we always associate with this type of event. There, the important things are the films, their content, what they want to tell, and what can be considered later in the discussions. There is a very special atmosphere. We were also lucky enough to take Las chicas están bien to Mallorca, to the Atlántida Film Fest. Thanks to this film, I have been able to travel a little bit and it has made me very happy. Beyond all these festivals, I traveled to Greece for pleasure as I hadn’t been to the country, despite loving it.
I love Greece. The food is to die for.
Yes, I thought it was a wonderful country.
You mentioned the glamour and glitz of festivals. How do you prepare for these types of events?
I’m at a point in my life where the most important thing is to feel super comfortable and not overthink things. It’s true that, when it comes to a specific event, such as the premiere of a movie or a festival with a red carpet, I do feel the need to accompany the movie in that special moment. One way to do this is through clothing. The world of fashion has something artistic about it. There is beauty in it. For the photos that accompany this interview, I was lucky enough to wear pieces from the house of Dior, a brand with which I have collaborated on many occasions, and which has been present in very important moments in my life. Their designs are always a combination of precious fabrics, special colours and textures that convey all the delicacy and care with which the garment has been made. When you put on one of their creations, you know for sure that you are wearing something that has taken time to make, that has been cared for to the smallest detail. Dior is a true craft.
Here we can see you in some looks from the Autumn/ Winter 2023-2024 collection.
I wasn’t familiar with the collection yet, and honestly, I’m fascinated. All the pieces are very, very special. The fabrics are amazing, real jewels. I felt very comfortable in all the looks. I’m really delighted with the work that the House of Dior and Maria Grazia have done in this latest collection. I’ve been lucky enough to have lived through very exciting moments in which Dior has accompanied me. I remember one in particular that was a fantasy for me. It happened one year during the San Sebastian Film Festival. I don’t remember what I was presenting that time, but I do clearly remember the dress I wore that night. It was a midi dress in black and green silk with a fabulous neckline. It was obvious that it had been sewn with great care and delicacy.
Dress in creased-effect silk radzimir DIOR.
I remember that look! The dress had a v-neckline and itlooked like an amazing galaxy!
Yes, that was it! What a memory!
I’m passionate about fashion. For many of us, it’s a guilty pleasure, something we have a feverish relationship with, almost like true worship. Do you see it that way?
For me, fashion is not a guilty pleasure, it’s something I pay attention to, it’s undeniable, I would be lying if I said otherwise. Every day, when I open my closet, I ask myself: which of all these clothes do I feel best in? Everyday I try to feel more and more comfortable and more satisfied. That’s why I can’t tell you that I don’t pay attention to fashion, since I do and I do it intentionally, because I feel like looking good.
And when you build a character, what role does their costume play? Are you involved in its creation?
A lot, I get really involved. It’s something I pay a lot of attention to. I’ve always been interested in the physical aspect of a character and everything that makes up their appearance, because it’s something that says a lot about a person. What we wear when we go out every day speaks volumes about ourselves, about you, about me, about everyone.
Is there any particular part of clothing that you pay particular attention to?
Shoes! Shoes are incredibly important! But, in general, all clothing is important. The way you wear it and how you make it your own. It is essential not only when becoming a character, but also in your daily life.
Throughout your career, you have played a wide variety of characters. Is there any one in particular whose costume you still remember?
Damn it, a lot! I’ve been lucky enough to play characters whose costumes were very important and special, and that made the process of becoming them also very special. Now comes to mind when I played the role of a Russian performer in the play Robbery, Beating and Death in Agbanäspach, directed by Nao Albert and Marcel Borrás. 
Directors who are now triumphing with Falsestuff. The Death of the Muses at the National Dramatic Center.
Yes, that’s right! The play we did was also performed at that center, but in 2021. It was a very special experience! I loved being able to play that unusual role, inspired by a kind of Marina Abramovic and named Maria Kapravox, the standard-bearer of a new artistic movement called (re) productivism. It was very difficult to find the right look and it was very complicated, because it was a character who needed to be defined almost completely during her first appearance on stage. We had to work hard and think a lot, since Maria was unpredictable. In the end, we opted for an outfit consisting of military boots and a dress in the style of Alice in Wonderland, over which I put on a Bayern Munich jersey. On top of all that, I was wearing a long coat and my hair was tied back in a very long braid. It was something very crazy that I loved!
It sounds very eccentric!
It was! I’ve also done much more conventional roles. When you play a woman living in the present day, it may be easier to build her wardrobe, as it’s a completely different type of work from what I’ve told you about. One project where fashion played a big role was the period drama Tell Me Who I Am, based on the novel by Julia Navarro. The wonderful costume designer did an amazing job of bringing clothes from the 1930s and 1940s directly from Paris. I was able to wear real clothes from that era that even sometimes felt like they were crumbling when I wore them on stage.
Nearly thirty plays and more than twenty films, not counting television series. You’ve lived many lives since you started. Is there any one in which you would have liked to stay alive?
Oh, sure, a lot! I’ve really been lucky to be able to live the exciting lives of many women. Right now I can’t tell you one in particular, but I can assure you that, when the camera turns off or the curtain closes, the energy of all of them, which is very different from mine, remains with me, inside me, even when the project is over. In general, it is difficult to imagine actors playing roles that are very different from themselves, with vibrations that have nothing to do with them. This means that most of the time you are called for projects in which the character shares certain traits with you. I don’t like that at all, I find it boring. A person can give the impression of being one way and then being someone completely different. I like to break with the established and do roles that are different from me. That is something that I have been able to do a lot thanks to theatre, which has given me the opportunity to be someone who has nothing to do with me. Lately, in terms of audiovisual, I am also getting those opportunities to give life to women who are not at all like me.
I get the feeling that you’ve felt typecast at some point. Is it difficult to break out of that?
Yes, it’s very difficult. You have to fight for yourself and go out and find your own projects to break out of that. In my case, it’s been through theatre and opportunities that have come up. I recently shot a series with Clara Roquet, Las largas sombras (The Long Shadows). It’s a job that I’ve been really proud of for getting into the skin of someone who is totally opposite to me, an extremely tough inspector, with a lot of internal violence; a very cerebral woman, with whom I share no traits.
How was it?
I enjoyed it a lot, I liked being able to explore that path. I mean, damn it, that’s what I want to do, those kinds of roles.
I’m sure, especially after playing a cop, that you come home and need to do something to help you disconnect. I believe you must have some guilty pleasure that you can indulge in when you're finally alone.
Oh, sure. I dance a lot. I love going to dance classes. I’ve been going to a few where I dance absolutely everything.
And what’s your favourite music to dance to?
I love Afro-Brazilian music.
Yes! It’s so much fun. You move your whole body, but your whole, whole body. I laugh all the time and it’s very liberating. When I go to those classes, I dance to whatever they put on with pleasure. Listening to music and going to concerts is also something I really like. Lately, I can’t stop listening to Rita Payés, a singer-songwriter who plays the trombone. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, it’s something inexplicable. Every time I hear her or see her in one of her performances, I go crazy and think, damn, I love her! I’m also a big fan of Florence + The Machine. When I saw them live, I thought they were amazing. I went crazy, it was very intense.
I would dare say that their concerts are like a religious experience.
Beyond music and dancing, I can assure you that one of my favourite guilty pleasures, and one that I’ve been indulging in a lot lately, is sweets. I’m obsessed with sweets. Every time I get the chance, I go out and buy some.
Really? Well, I’m more of a savoury person myself.
Oh, it’s the opposite for me! I love sweets! I’m currently acting in a play, and on my way to the theatre, I always stop at a pastry shop and buy something to treat myself before I go in. It gives me a real boost! (laughs).
You seem like someone who always saves room for dessert.
I always do. I even have a list of the best cheesecakes in Madrid.
Eating cheesecake reading a good book in one of these typical Madrid cafes sounds like a great plan.
Yes, it does. I also love reading poetry. It’s something I’ve always loved. I’ve been reading a lot of Idea Vilariño lately, because a friend gave me an anthology of her work and I loved it. I also really enjoy Alejandra Pizarnik.
Speaking of poetry, I’m reminded of something a friend of mine said recently. She told us she was dating a guy who kept reading poetry to her and she couldn’t stand it (laughs).
I confess that in that situation, I would rather be the one reading poetry to someone else and not the other way around.
Have you ever read poetry to a date?
Well, I haven’t done it many times... but yes! I’ve recited a few poems in situations like that.
Really? And it worked?
Yes, it worked. And I think it worked because it’s something you don’t expect the other person to do. It’s not very common for someone to start reading poetry in that context nowadays.
I would be embarrassed... I wouldn’t be able to do it! Maybe to a friend, but on a date, I don’t see myself being able to do it.
Well, you never know (laughs).
Did you read a lot of poetry on the set of Las chicas están bien? You were in such a bucolic setting!
Yes, it was a beautiful shoot! Everything that comes across in the movie is because we really lived it that way, in that village in Castilla y León. We spent fourteen days shooting at the Viejo Molino Cela, where all the actresses lived together with the technical team, which was also made up mostly of very young women. For some of them, it was their first movie where they had a relevant role. Among all of us, an atmosphere was created that was very marked by the desire to get the project off the ground. The shoot was very relaxed and fun. I think those sensations manage to get through the screen and reach the viewer.
It seems like the five actresses are really friends.
It’s because we had a lot of chemistry from the start, something I really value. In my life, having good friends is very important, because they're always there for me. They’re essential, and I prioritise them a lot.
Do you make many plans with them?
We do everything! We’ve been playing football lately. We also like to get together for drinks, chat, and gossip. We love sharing everything we experience. But, the most striking thing I can tell you we do now is play football, where I have an incredible time. We organise it in such a way that each of us brings another friend so we can form two teams. Our current goal is to start a small league, but we need to train a little more. I think seeing these great and successful girls from the Spanish national football team has motivated us so much. I try to enjoy those moments because, sometimes, due to work, I don’t have much of a social life. It’s happening to me now with the play I’m working on. I’m free on Mondays, sotell me which friend is going to be free on a day like that when the rest of the world is working.
Even more so living in Madrid, which is a city that encourages you to make leisure plans constantly.
Yes, but I think that affects actors depending on the work we are in. When you shoot for many hours and then you have to do promotion and interviews, maybe you have the weekend and the nights full and you can’t do anything or you come home super tired without the desire to go out. The intensity of the role you play also has a big influence, as that means you have to take better care of yourself to do your best. The play I’m in right now (Finlandia) forces me to take good care of myself, and being such a dramatic character, I don’t think I feel like going out much. I just prefer to be on my own without anyone bothering me. Once it’s over, I’ll go back to my life, to normal life. Actors, when they leave behind a project, may go three or four months without getting involved in another, and that’s a long time with a lot of free time.
But you’ve been able to combine work with friendship on many occasions, like in Las chicas están bien with Bárbara Lennie and Itsaso Arana.
I love working with my friends. When you get along with someone, you understand each other and share artistic references, it can’t be a better situation for a beautiful project to emerge. There’s nothing better than sharing creativity, even more so with people who know you very well and who can help you grow, improve, or try new things.
It’s clear that you’ve made great friends in the industry.
Yes, I’ve made many friends.
You’re so lucky to have those moments captured and in such a beautiful way.
That’s right! Las chicas están bien is a movie, but it’s also a letter to the future. Something happened at that time and we were able to live it all together, as friends, and that will remain forever in the movie.
It also allows you to remember how you were in that period of your life.
Of course. Making these films means going back to see who I was and how I’ve grown over time. When you play so many characters, some of them with very high levels of intensity, you can start to feel lost, and having these films, shot with friends, helps me not to forget.
It must be difficult to navigate between so many other people’s lives and not lose your way.
Yes, because when you’re working on a project, you try to connect with it, understand what it’s about, and get involved. Acting is a very unconventional profession. You have to learn the specific dynamics of the industry to understand how it works. One of the biggest challenges is dealing with the uncertainty that everything always depends on the opinion of others. We all spend a lot of time not working and on our own, even though it seems like a very collaborative job.
In Las chicas están bien, the main cast consists of three veteran actresses, Itsaso, Bárbara, and you, and two younger actresses, Itziar Manero and Helena Ezquerro. Have you been able to give them any advice on how to face the challenges of this profession?
One of the most beautiful things about this film is that Itsaso chose each of us for many reasons, and one of them was the horizontal relationship that could be established between us. It is clear that Bárbara and I have more professional experience, but they have had a series of personal experiences that we have not.
I assume you are talking about the death of their mothers at a young age.
Yes. I think our different backgrounds and experiences helped us to connect with each other on a deeper level. We have all learned a lot from each other over time.
I understand then that the stories told by the characters of Itziar and Helena in the film are based on their own lives.
Yes. The film plays with fiction and reality. There are some things that are true and others that are not. The fun is to confuse the viewer so that they don’t know what’s what on the screen. Some people think that we improvised the whole film and that it’s all true, others that it was all planned and that it’s absolute fiction. If you look closely, the characters have our real names so that we can’t be distinguished between us and Itsaso’s creation, between the actor and the character.
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In the movie, your character takes a risk and confesses to a boy she likes. Have you ever done anything like that?
No, no, never! I’ve never dared to do that!
That’s unfinished business for you then.
That’s why Itsaso gave me that monologue where I confess my love to the guy! She wants me to muster up the courage to make a move!
Aren’t you tempted to do it?
The truth is, I am (laughs). If I do it, I want it to be like in the movie, without fear of rejection, just naturally. A lot of people have told me that they’ve felt the same way after seeing that scene, that they want to go for it and confess their love to someone they like. It’s crazy that we have this block when it comes to love, that we’re so afraid to say how we feel and can’t find the words to do it.
How else has this film changed you?
Thanks to it, I’ve been able to let loose my inner joker. Itsaso knows that I’ve rarely been able to show off my comedic side in my career, which is something I’d love to do. She also thinks that one of my favourite topics is love, which is why she wanted my character’s storyline to have a romantic edge.
Why is love your theme?
Friends always talk about their personal lives. I’ve talked a lot about love with Itsaso, and she’s always given me great advice.
Do you consider yourself to be romantic?
Of course!
Well, tell me about a romantic gesture you’ve made with someone.
Damn, I can’t think of anything right now (laughs). But I’m really romantic, I promise! I’m not the type to make grand gestures, but I do like to be a bit of a romantic movie buff and plan out special dates. I really try to surprise my partner, and sometimes it works out great, and sometimes it’s a bit of a disaster (laughs).
One thing I’ve learned is that love is the biggest guilty pleasure of our time. A lot of people, especially younger people, feel it but never express it. I rarely hear a friend say that they’re in love, they might say that they like someone but never talk about love in a serious way.
Do you think so? Maybe it’s just that love is now being analysed from a different perspective, in a much less idealised, less romantic way. I think that’s okay, as it brings a certain realism to this feeling, which is very interesting. I have friends who have all sorts of relationships and they are learning little by little. I think everyone should do what makes them feel good. You say that love is a guilty pleasure, but I don’t want to feel guilty for loving, I want to love well and in a healthy way. And I’m not talking about loving a partner, I’m talking in general. One can love many people in life, I do. Being romantic is a very different thing, as it is built through details and gestures. It can even be considered a way of understanding life. Romanticism is born from creativity, and that’s why I consider myself romantic. When I’m with someone, I try to keep the flame alive and keep my relationship going, make things happen. Let’s forget about romance for a moment, and talk about life and routine. I try to add a touch of creativity to my life, and I do the same when I’m with someone. I know it’s not easy, but when I spend time with someone I love, I try to do something fun, something special. The truth is, I try to do it with everything. I try to apply creativity to many aspects of my life. I don’t like routine, to be honest.
But, I imagine, you also like to lie on the sofa and do nothing.
That’s my jam! But once a week I try to make some cool plan. Nothing too crazy! Go to dinner at a cool place, take a nice walk, or see an exhibit. I treat myself with those little things.
Are you a difficult person to please?
No, I'm not really a difficult person to please. Well, actually, I don’t know. I like to be with someone who wants to do things.
Now that we're talking about relationships. You are currently starring in the play Finlandia, directed by Pascal Rambert, which tells the story of a relationship that is pushed to the limit. How has this extreme role influenced you?
We’ve been doing Finlandia for a year now, and this season has been easier because the show is already wellrehearsed. But I remember that the first season was very intense, because Pascal’s work puts you in a very difficult situation, I would even say that it takes you to the edge of the abyss. His works are only rehearsed for eight days.
Only eight days?
Just eight days. He wants you to go on stage with fear in your body, because he wants to push the characters to the limit.
You had already worked with him before in Hermanas, where you fought with Bárbara Lennie. Was it the same?
Of course, do you remember the story? It was about two sisters who were also in an extreme situation. Pascal likes his actors to feel like they don’t have control, and that’s why the first performance is always very strong.
Why did you want to do this with him again?
The day of the premiere, I asked myself the same question. I thought, what the hell am I doing here again?
Finland is another one of your guilty pleasures!
Yes, it is!! (laughs).
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