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Actor Camara focuses on cutting edge

Friday, February 07, 2003

Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Over his salad at Mallorca on Carson Street, Javier Camara smiles as benignly as Benigno, his character in Almodovar's "Talk to Her," at the recollection of a favorite line -- when Benigno tells Marco he plans to wed the unconscious Alicia.

"You're crazy!" explodes Marco. "She's in a coma!"

Benigno's quiet reply: "We get along better than most married couples."

Camara, the soft-spoken young Spanish actor who was recently in Pittsburgh for about 10 minutes to promote "Talk to Her," has a certain similarity in persona and temperament to the early Dustin Hoffman. For the film's leading role, he spent months studying and mastering nursing, hair-cutting, manicuring and embroidering, among other traditionally "feminine" arts. But he and his character are decidedly heterosexual -- to a wry fault. Benigno's amorous attentions to Alicia land him in a jail whose euphemistic spokeswoman says: "We don't have 'inmates' here. We have 'interns.' "

"What an incredible opportunity it is to work with Pedro," he says of Almodovar, whose perfectly plotted script and lyrical dialogue made for a midwinter night's actor's dream.

Camara finds himself on the cutting edge of Spanish film these days. Prior to "Talk to Her," he co-starred in Julio Medem's controversial "Lucia and Sex," and recently wrapped shooting of Pablo Berger's "Teremolinos."

Otherwise, his field of acting action extends beyond film to embrace theater (Pinter's "The Homecoming") and the enormously popular Spanish television show "Seven Lives."

In real and screen life alike, Camara manifests a naive, slightly surprised delight in everything around him -- particularly women and movies. One is as easily charmed as seduced by his ingratiating habit of interviewing his interviewers.

There is hardly time to plumb his depths: Camara must be off to catch a plane and meet his director for a promotional gig in Philadelphia.

"Javier is Benigno," Almodovar has said of him. "I fear Benigno will accompany him as his shadow for a long time."

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