“I can tell you the beginning of the series. May l? ». Alex de la Iglesia looks and asks Jorge Guerricaechevarría, co-author of 30 coins, which both have written for HBO Spain. His regular collaborator gives him the green light with a resigned air. « Imagine what would happen if, in a village, a cow, instead of giving birth to a calf, gave birth to a child. » He says it without thinking about it anymore and is pending the reaction of his interlocutor. At the next table, a group of extras with a very bad face because of their makeup rushes their plates of food. The team of the series consumes its minutes of rest before continuing to record a black mass in the church (“deconsecrated”, points out De la Iglesia) of the Sacro Convent and Castillo de Calatrava La Nueva, in Ciudad Real.
In a coronavirus-free September 2019, without masks or social distance, 30 coins was approximately halfway through filming when EL PAÍS visited a recording of whose content little, or nothing, can be revealed. Very little was known then about the series, the second Spanish production announced by HBO Spain. Now, the platform has already facilitated a promising first preview and the 77th Venice Film Festival has announced that it will host its world premiere in a special out-of-competition screening. To see it on the platform we will have to wait until the end of the year.
Eduard Fernández, Megan Montaner and Miguel Ángel Silvestre is the main trio of the eight chapters that tell the story of Father Vergara (Fernández), exorcist, boxer and ex-convict exiled in a parish in a remote town in Spain. The mayor of the place (Silvestre) and a veterinarian (Montaner) will try to find out why, since their arrival, strange phenomena have occurred in the town and the meaning of the coin that Vergara keeps hidden: one of the 30 coins for which Judas sold to Jesus Christ. A dangerous sect wants to get her. « The plot starts from the fact that there are biblical texts that have not been released, who controls them and who really controls the world of religion, » adds De la Iglesia about the argument.
Official statements about the series describe it as an epic horror story. « Epic terror … » laughs De la Iglesia. “It’s actually a suspense story but from an unusual point of view. But deep down, it is still a suspenseful story, with elements of horror, adventure… It is very difficult to explain ”, continues the director. “It’s like trying to find a Gothic point in a town in Spain. The customs that really exist, the slaughter, the bulls, and those things, have a Gothic middle ground. The series mixes very traditional things and things that scratch in all that ”, continues Guerricaechevarría. « We are not inventing anything, we are only taking out what is underneath life in a town and the fears posed by the great concepts that concern us all, such as religion, betrayal, love … The things that anguish you » , Tercia De la Iglesia, which cites the most varied references for its series, from the Spanish series of the seventies Chronicles of a people to the film The Exorcist.
Time to go back to work. « Let’s roll. What could be more beautiful than shooting? ”. Alex de la Iglesia’s optimism turns into despair when he has to face a group of Japanese extras who do not know Spanish and with significant deficiencies in interpretive matters. « It’s that he moves like Godzilla, no one believes this, » shouts the director, who demonstrates over and over his good voice giving directions from his director’s chair. Later, he will play with a megaphone that one of the extras has given him and that he will use to direct Miguel Ángel Silvestre in a scene that rolls in just a couple of takes. There is no time to lose. To make things easier and to let everyone know what De la Iglesia expects of them, their printed script is full of illustrations as a storyboard, an authentic storyboard made on the fly by the director himself that shows everything he has in his imagination , including monsters that will appear in the series. Because yes, there will also be monsters. The volume, which the director has under surveillance at all times, is completed with some ideas for a possible second season.
30 coins is a project in which its authors have been working for five years. “We started writing then. At one point it was going to be filmed in the United States for Sony, and we started working until, while we were finishing the writing, HBO was interested and in the end we did it with them ”, De la Iglesia reviews. “What you notice with HBO is that they are focused on the writing and dramaturgy of the series. They don’t want to step forward until they have all the material and are happy with it and it makes sense to them. That makes the difference. They have always sought something of transgression, to go beyond conventional television ”, adds Guerricaechevarría.
Of the 27 weeks of filming, two months were in the Segovian town of Pedraza. « It is perhaps the most beautiful town in Spain, a hard, stone town, very dry », describes the director. Madrid, Salamanca, Ciudad Real and Toledo were other stops on this shoot, which also moved to Rome, Jerusalem and New York for some exteriors. The castle of Calatrava La Nueva also served to recreate Aleppo. “Filming here is an adventure. It is a bet that a normal producer would not have accepted, it is an aesthetic bet ”, explains the Basque filmmaker about a place that is usually open to tourism but that was closed for the occasion. “It is a very ambitious shoot, very big. But the feeling of joy that comes from being able to say ‘oh my god, we did it’ is enormous. Before, they were all questions that made you ask yourself if we could handle the shoot itself. It was a physical test of endurance ”, he completes.