MILOS FORMAN’S GOYA’S GHOSTS FILMED ON LOCATION
Production began in Spain on September 5, 2005, on Milos
Forman’s historical drama Goya’s Ghosts, starring
Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside), Natalie Portman (Star Wars,
Closer) and Stellan Skarsgård (Good Will Hunting). Milos
Forman directs and Saul Zaentz produces.
Goya’s Ghosts starts off in Spain in 1792 and tells
the story through the eyes of the great Spanish painter Francisco
Goya of a group of people caught up in a time of political
convulsion and historical change. The action takes place
from the later years of the Spanish Inquisition through the
invasion of Spain by Napoleon’s army to the ultimate
defeat of the French and restoration of the Spanish monarchy
by Wellington’s powerful invading army.
JAVIER BARDEM is Brother Lorenzo, an enigmatic, cunning
member of the Inquisition’s inner circle who becomes
involved with Goya’s teenage muse, Ines (NATALIE PORTMAN),
when she is falsely accused of heresy and sent to prison.
STELLAN SKARSGÅRD plays Francisco Goya, the celebrated painter
renowned for both his colorful court paintings and his grim
depictions of the brutality of war and life in Spain.
Goya’s Ghosts, a Xuxa Production S. L., in association
with Kanzaman Films is directed by Milos Forman and produced
by Saul Zaentz from a screenplay by Forman and Jean-Claude
Carriere (Birth). Paul Zaentz is executive producer. Co-producers
are Denise O’Dell and Mark Albela.
Forman and Zaentz previously collaborated on the Academy
Award winning films One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
and Amadeus. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest received
nine Oscar nominations, winning five statuettes include Best
Picture and Best Director. Amadeus was nominated for 11 Academy
Awards and received eight Oscars, including Best Picture
and Best Director.
Forman’s most recent film is Man on the Moon. He has
also directed The People vs. Larry Flynt, Ragtime and Hair,
among other productions. Saul Zaentz’s most recently
produced The English Patient swept the Academy Awards for
1996 with 12 nominations and nine Oscars.
Jean-Claude Carriere collaborated with Milos Forman on
Valmont and Taking Off. He is author of more than 100 screenplays
including Luis Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
and That Obscure Object of Desire.
Director of photography is Javier Aquirresarobe who won
the 2005 Goya Award for The Sea Inside. Academy Award winner
Patrizia Von Brandenstein (Amadeus) is production designer.
Her most recent film is All the King’s Men, due for
release September 2006. The costumes are designed by Academy
Award winner Yvonne Blake (Nicholas and Alexandra) who received
the 2005 Goya Award for The Bridge Of San Luis Rey.
About the production:
The idea to make a film about the great Spanish painter
Francisco de Goya and the Spanish Inquisition first occurred
to Milos Forman more than 50 years ago when he was a student
in Communist Czechoslovakia.
“It didn’t really start with Goya at all,” Forman
recalls. “It started when I was in film school and
read a book about the Spanish Inquisition and an incident
in which someone had been falsely accused of a crime.
“I thought this could be the heart of a wonderful
story. There were a great many parallels between the Communist
society we lived under and the Spanish Inquisition. I knew,
of course, a story like this could never be done in Czechoslovakia
because of such similarities. So I forgot about it. For the
But good ideas don’t die even if they fade away temporarily.
They endure in the recesses of the mind, and this idea was
no exception. Thirty years later it resurfaced, not surprisingly
in Madrid, where Forman and independent producer Saul Zaentz
were promoting Amadeus, their second Academy Award winning
collaboration that followed nearly ten years after their
first triumph, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
“Milos and I were staying across the street from
the Prado Museum in Madrid when he remarked to me he had
never seen the famous Hieronymous Bosch painting Garden of
Earthly Delights, one of the Prado’s greatest holdings,” Zaentz
“But the Prado holds many other masterpieces, including
the greatest collection of Goya paintings, and we looked
at those. We’d seen them, but never live, in person.
They were marvelous. One struck us, the painting of a dog.
When you see it reproduced in a book you imagine it must
be movie-screen size because it’s so wonderfully done.
In person you discover it’s not big at all, maybe a
meter and a half, but you’re not disappointed. The
dog is very touching and you carry the image with you.”
Goya fascinated Forman. “I was overwhelmed by his
paintings and couldn’t stop thinking about him,” he
says. “I was convinced Goya was the first modern painter.
More than ever I wanted to make a picture about him.”
During the Prado visit Forman related to Zaentz the incident
about the Inquisition he had read so many years before, and
he discussed his idea of making a film that dealt with the
Inquisition in combination with Goya. Zaentz understood
it could be a wonderful movie.
“But I told him it was necessary to come up with
a story that could support the idea, a story we had both
confidence in and were passionate about in order for us to
move ahead,” the producer said. Forman agreed.
As time went by, producer and director continued to talk
over the idea for the film, and even considered a particular
writer to draft a screenplay. But, in fact, Forman had a
favored collaborator in mind, the renowned screenwriter Jean-Claude
Carriere, with whom both he and Zaentz had worked successfully
in the past.
“Jean-Claude is like a spiritual brother to me,” the
director says. Forman and Carriere first met forty years
ago in 1966 at a film festival in Sorrento, Italy. By then
Forman had directed several features, including Black Peter
and Loves of A Blonde, and Carriere had collaborated with
the great Spanish director Luis Bunuel on the screenplay
for Diary of A Chambermaid, and with Louis Malle on the script
for Viva Maria.
Forman and Carriere stayed friends after Forman left Czechoslovakia,
and throughout several collaborations (Taking Off, Valmont).
Over the years they were always in contact.
“Yes, I was intrigued by Milos’s idea – well
I wouldn’t call it an idea – it was, rather,
a desire to do a film not exactly about Goya, but about Spain
during Goya’s time,” Carriere says. “And
Goya would enter into the story naturally because it was
the time period in which he lived, a turbulent period.
“This is a very interesting time frame. The end of
the 18th century and beginning of the 19th is probably one
of the most important periods in European history because
of the French Revolution and the advent of Napoleon. France
was the center of Europe at the time and it’s interesting
to see all the consequences of what was happening there,
and how they affected Spain, especially once Napoleon invaded
“Spain at the end of the 18th century was probably,
despite a certain modernity, the most backwards nation in
western Europe. It was Catholic, conservative, ruled by a
monarchy whose King belonged to the same family as the French
King. The works of the great 18th century philosophers and
the Enlightenment had almost no influence there. The Inquisition
was still in operation, still capable of inflicting terrible
damage on the populace. Milos was fascinated by the era,
and the Inquisition.”
“What was so attractive for me about this particular
period,” Forman says, “was, with so many paradoxes
and so many changes going on, it reflected the times I had
lived through, first a democratic society, then the Nazi
society, then the communists, then democratic again, and
then the communists again and then democracy once more.
“And that’s very similar to what the situation
was in Spain at the beginning of the 19th century. King Carlos
represents the old guard when suddenly Napoleon invades and
brings progress, the ideals and values of the French Revolution.
But what is that? It reminded me of the time in my own life
when the Soviets brought ‘liberty’ to Czechoslovakia.
“Instead of real liberation in Spain, Napoleon installs
his brother on the Spanish throne until the British, under
Wellington, invade, chase out the French and restore the
repressive Spanish monarchy. Very interesting period.”
Carriere and Forman were convinced that Goya was the perfect
figure through which to tell the story of those times. Goya
was born long before the French Revolution and died long
“I don’t think Goya was politically involved
consciously. He was just an incredible observer, like a journalist,” Forman
says. “He was commenting, recording what he witnessed.
As he says in the film, ‘I paint what I see’.”
Carriere says, “Goya painted the kings and queens
of Spain, their children, the whole family, and was admitted
inside the Royal Palace, also painting the people at court.
But at the same time he knew about ordinary life. He walked
the streets, went to the taverns and he did sketches and
engravings, many of which, Los Caprichios and the Disasters
of War are so famous, and rightly so. He even did a portrait
of one of the Inquisitors, and also the brother of Napoleon
who was installed on the Spanish throne, as well as ordinary
citizens and soldiers. He understood the heart of everyone.”
In terms of the film they wanted to make, Forman, Zaentz
and Carriere understood that a simple Goya bio-pic or a didactic
depiction of the Inquisition would not work. What was wanted
was a fresh approach, and the filmmakers continued to mull
over the project, steeping themselves in the history of Spain,
concentrating on the period, reading everything they could
find on Goya and the Inquisition.
Forman and Carriere, who speaks Spanish and knows the country,
even spent several weeks driving around the Spanish countryside,
making a second trip with Saul Zaentz, trying to deepen their
understanding of the country and its culture.
In 2003, nearly 20 years since Forman and Zaentz first discussed
their idea in the Prado, the filmmakers got down to work
on the Goya project in earnest. Forman and Carriere retreated
to Forman’s home in Connecticut which provided the
proper solitude and discipline for writing and, working ten
hours a day, were able to come up with a first draft of a
“One characteristic of Goya which Milos and I felt
fit our purpose was his commitment to his art,” Carriere
says. “He’d paint anyone, an inquisition minister,
or the Duke of Wellington who freed the Spanish from the
French. He was basically apolitical. He didn’t want
to be involved in politics, in action, in social improvement.
He just wanted to paint.
“We thought it would be interesting in the film to
oppose this character of Goya with another man who is his
acquaintance, his opposite in temperament and philosophy,
an intelligent man who is devoted to changing the world and
very much involved in the political movements of his time.
And this man, Brother Lorenzo, became the main character
of the film, a priest of the Inquisition, an Inquisitor himself
who fanatically believes in building a better and more human
world based on the teachings of Jesus.
“He believes that the moral decline of Spain is due
to the fact that the Inquisition has lost its severity in
the guarding of those teachings. He wants to revive the power
of the Inquisition and restore it to its original force and
influence. At the same time, he’s learning about tendencies
making their way into Spain from revolutionary France which
contradict prevailing religious doctrine because they are
trying to establish the principle of man as the creator of
his own destiny based on the philosophy – liberty,
The third principal character in the story is a woman acquainted
with both men, Ines Bilbatua. She starts out in the story
as Goya’s teenage muse but later becomes involved with
Brother Lorenzo when the Inquisitor becomes her only hope
of fighting the accusation of heresy against her.
“Ines is a young Spanish girl from a well-known family.
Her father is a wealthy merchant, and the Bilbatuas are good
Christians,” Carriere says. “But because one
night when she’s out with her brothers and friends
in a public tavern, she’s spotted by Familiares who
spy for the church and suspect her of hiding Jewish practices.
This sets the story going because the innocent young woman
is called up before the Inquisition and questioned. And then
the horrors begin.”
Forman and Carriere, with Zaentz’s guidance and encouragement,
worked intensely on several drafts of a screenplay before
they completed a script that met everyone’s approval.
Once this was accomplished, Zaentz arranged the financing
and gave the go-ahead to make the film. Pre-production began
with the filmmakers moving forward on two fronts: they began
the process of choosing locations, and also started to assemble
Director, producer and writer were of one mind on each
of these issues. As for locations, each man believed
it was essential for the spirit of the film and for its authenticity
that Goya’s Ghosts be made on location in Spain, with
as many Spanish actors and crew members as possible. Forman
and Zaentz’s previous collaborations were all made
on location. This film would be no exception.
With this in mind, long-time Milos Forman collaborator,
production designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein, Oscar winner
for her work on Amadeus, was brought in to discuss Spanish
locations. Von Brandenstein had worked with a local production
company in Spain several years earlier that she believed
could help find the proper places to shoot and to set up
facilities for making the film there.
In fact, producer Zaentz was acquainted with the very same
organization, having produced his animated version of The
Lord of the Rings with them in Spain in 1978. The head of
the company, now called Kanzaman, was an English-born production
executive who had been living and working in Spain for many
years, Denise O’Dell.
Zaentz traveled to Spain to meet O’Dell and discuss
the Goya project with her and Kanzaman co-director Mark Albela.
“I was thrilled when I heard from Saul about the
project,” O’Dell says. “Here were two legends
of cinema planning to come to Spain to make a film, Zaentz
and Forman. I was so eager to become involved.
“And then when we met and they told me that they
weren’t interested in bringing a big crew from abroad
but were interested in using Spanish talent, well that for
me was just wonderful because it’s been what we’ve
been trying to do for years.”
With Kanzaman on board, and location scouts being arranged
and organized, Forman and Zaentz addressed the crucial task
From the start Forman and Zaentz were eager to have Javier
Bardem appear in the film, convinced he would be perfect
for the role of Goya.
Bardem, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2002 for his
role as the Cuban poet, novelist and dissident Reinaldo Arenas
in Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls, is one of
Spain’s most popular, charismatic – and accomplished – young
“Javier is definitely without question one of the
major screen actors working today,” Zaentz says. “In
the beginning, we pictured him as Goya, and we made plans
to meet in the Ritz Hotel across from the Prado. We were
thrilled to see him in the lobby, even happier when he walked
up and said, ‘I want to make a movie with you guys!’ I
put my hand out quickly and said, ‘We want to make
a picture with you’.
Bardem recalls the incident with pleasure.
“When my agent called and said Milos Forman and Saul
Zaentz wanted to meet me I thought it was a joke at first.
But when I met them I understood it was real, and I was thrilled.
And of course, because I’m Spanish, I assumed I’d
be playing the role of Goya. It seemed the natural thing.
Unknown to Bardem, the conception of the character of Goya
was changing in the script. The fictional character Lorenzo,
not Goya, had emerged now as the film’s protagonist.
“We all understood after many discussions that our
story wouldn’t work with Goya as the main character,” Zaentz
says. “He was all important and crucial to the story.
But he wasn’t the main protagonist.”
Father Lorenzo was the role he and Forman wanted Javier
Bardem to play.
“When several days later Javier asked us how the
film was going, we told him something had come up that was
going to affect his part but not do anything at all to the
impact he would make in the film,” Zaentz says. “He
was intrigued. But instead of over-explaining what we wanted,
we said we would send him the completed script so he could
see for himself the changes and understand the logic of why
we thought he should play Father Lorenzo.”
Within hours of reading the script, Bardem phoned Forman
and Zaentz with his reaction.
“Lorenzo has my heart,” he said, and he agreed
to play the role.
The role of Lorenzo fascinated the actor.
“I understand it’s a challenge not to be playing
the character people expect. It’s an even greater challenge
playing Lorenzo. He’s a man of hard and strong beliefs.
I would call him a fanatic. But he’s not a villain,
not a mad guy, just a man of passion, sometimes uncontrollable.”
Casting the role of Goya came next and presented the filmmakers
with a particular challenge: Forman believed that the actor
who was going to play Goya needed one attribute above all.
“I didn’t want the actor playing Goya to be
someone recognizable,” the director says. “For
the fictitious characters, Lorenzo, Ines, it didn’t
matter to me if a famous face fills the role. But Goya. Goya
will come out of nowhere. Unexpected. We shouldn’t
recognize him from anywhere else.”
Early in the process it appeared that Goya had been found.
“I remember that Milos and I were returning from
Europe to America by plane,” Zaentz says.” Milos
was watching a movie, not a good one, one of the Exorcist
installments, when he turned to me and said, ‘There’s
our Goya.’ And I said, ‘Where?’
Milos pointed to the screen and to Stellan Skarsgård who
was a lead in the film.
“’I know him,’ I told Milos. He had a
role in The Unbearable Lightness of Being which I produced.
I thought it was a great idea.”
A Swede, Stellan Skarsgård is best known to US audiences
for his roles in Good Will Hunting and Breaking the Waves,
but he is definitely not a household name.
“Skarsgård is the kind of actor you remember not
as Stellan Skarsgård but as the character he plays in each
particular film,” Zaentz says. “He’s a
Skarsgård was delighted to be approached for the part.
“I’m physically different from Goya,” Skarsgård
says. “But of course it’s not Goya as he was
in real life that we’re depicting. This is fiction
Natalie Portman, Golden Globe winner and Academy Award
nominee for Mike Nichols’ Closer, was cast in the role
of Ines Bilbatua, Goya’s youthful muse. Strange to
say, Forman wanted the young star for the role without knowing
exactly who she was.
“I didn’t know Natalie Portman at all,” Forman
says. “I had bought a copy of Vogue or a similar
fashion magazine and was reading it to relax when I was struck
by the photo of the young woman on the cover who turned out
to be Natalie. And as I’m looking at it, I open a book
about Goya’s last painting in Bordeaux called A Milkmaid
in Bordeaux, and I see they are the same face.
“So I started to make inquiries about the qualities
of this actress and I saw how much people like her. And then
I saw the film Closer and saw how good she is and knew that
I wanted her. Her range is amazing, big, surprising, and
that was very important here. Basically she plays three different
characters in the film.”
“When I went to Paris to meet with Milos and Jean-Claude,
I was surprised to discover that they wanted me in the film
at first not because they’d seen my work but because
the saw a photo of me and decided I looked like a young woman
in some of the paintings,” Portman says.
“I was interested and intrigued to meet them, and
a little intimated, too, because I love Milos’s films.
I was ready to read or test for the role, whatever they wanted.
When they offered the part I was very excited. Ines figures
in a part of history I never knew about. It was something
terribly different from what I’d done before.”
Two other important roles were cast with well-known international
actors. Randy Quaid, who recently appeared in Ang Lee’s
Academy Award winning Brokeback Mountain, co-stars as King
Carlos IV of Spain. And distinguished French/English actor
Michael Lonsdale was signed to play the role of the Grand
Inquisitor. Lonsdale’s notable career includes films
by Fred Zinnemann (Day of the Jackal), Francois Truffaut
(Stolen Kisses), Louis Malle (Murmur of the Heart), and most
recently Steven Spielberg (Munich).
Other key roles were filled by some of Spain’s most
gifted actors, including Jose Luis Gomez (The Bridge of San
Luis Rey), Mabel Rivera (Sea Inside), Raymond Guerra, Blanca
Portilla (Volver), Unax Ugalde, and many others.
As the casting process moved along, Forman and Zaentz staffed
the film with some of Spain’s most talented and creative
Director of photography is Javier Aguirresarobe whose credits
include two films by the Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar,
The Others starring Nicole Kidman, and The Sea Inside. Aguirresarobe
is a six-time recipient of Spain’s Goya Award (the
equivalent of the Oscar) for cinematography.
Academy Award winner Patrizia Von Brandenstein (Amadeus),
one of Forman’s most valued collaborators reunited
with him for the fifth time on Goya’s Ghosts, is production
designer. Von Brandenstein’s recent credits include
Harold Ramis’s The Ice Harvest and Steven Zaillian’s
upcoming All the King’s Men.
Academy Award winner Yvonne Blake (Nicholas and Alexandra)
is costume designer. Ms. Blake’s distinguished career
includes some of Spain’s most notable film productions.
She was also nominated for an Oscar for her work on Richard
Lester’s The Four Musketeers.
Production on Goya’s Ghosts got underway September
5, 2005 with Forman shooting several sequences that take
place inside Goya’s studio where Von Brandenstein recreated
the master’s workshop on the first floor of the main
structure of a collection of abandoned buildings that had
once been a working farm near Madrid in the small town of
San Martin de Vega. Here Forman shot Goya painting Ines’s
portrait, followed by a scene in which Brother Lorenzo poses
Scenes depicting the painstaking process of Goya creating
a series of etchings were filmed inside the artist’s
workshop, while those set in a mental institution and in
the dungeons where the Inquisition kept prisoners they’d
secreted away were also filmed at San Martin.
San Martin’s farmhouse dates from the 16th century,
yet the farmstead, with its compact complex of one-and-two
story buildings and open spaces, lent itself effortlessly
to the exigencies of filming. No desired space went unused.
“In its heyday the farm slept three hundred people,” executive
producer Paul Zaentz points out. Paul Zaentz has worked with
Saul Zaentz on all the producer’s Oscar winning films.
“We utilized everything in the place. One-time grain
and farm equipment storage units in the basement became our
dungeons. Each of the two of the barns became sets. One barn
was transformed into an interrogation chamber, and the other
was used to build prison cells.”
Taking a temporary break from work at San Martin de Vega,
the unit shifted location to the center of Madrid, to film
inside the city’s beautiful Retiro Park. Then, after
returning to San Martin for several scenes involving Ines,
Lorenzo and members of the Inquisition, the unit traveled
two hours north to the city of Segovia where Forman staged
the dramatic sequence of Napoleon’s Army invading Spain.
With its pedestrian alleyways where no cars are allowed,
its restored ancient city center, and its profusion of Romanesque
churches, Segovia functioned as a perfect stand-in for Madrid
as that city looked over 200 years ago.
In the central square of Segovia’s old town, Forman
used two units, the main company, and a second unit supervised
by Michael Hausman, Forman’s longtime production associate.
Both units filmed French soldiers on horseback storming the
city along with troops of Mamelukes, the ancient military
caste that once ruled Egypt whose forces Napoleon added to
the French Army. The French run riot in the streets, ‘liberating’ Spanish
citizenry and causing general havoc, raping women, pillaging
merchants’ wares, killing indiscriminately.
In Segovia’s small central square of San Martin with
its austere Romanesque architecture, Forman also filmed several
important scenes that take place at the entrance of the Bilbuatua
Returning to Madrid, the unit next filmed on the landscaped
grounds and inside the elegant and opulent rooms of a succession
of Spanish royal palaces, all of which are situated on the
outskirts of the city. Each of these palaces, Vinuelas, El
Pardo, and La Quinta, is considered an essential element
of the Spanish National Heritage – the country’s
Inside the palace at Vinuelas, in north Madrid, Forman
shot an important sequence in which Queen Maria Luisa of
Spain poses for Goya as he paints the well-known portrait
of her astride a horse, when the sitting is interrupted by
the arrival of King Carlos, returning from a hunt. The King
out shooting with his courtiers was filmed on the grounds
of Vinuelas, an idyllic stretch of rolling hills populated
by a herd of deer running free.
Also filmed on the grounds was a scene in which Lorenzo,
now a member of the Bonaparte government ministry, is accosted
by a group of armed peasants.
Not far from Vinuelas, on the royal grounds of Monte de
El Pardo, a wooded parkland that is one of Madrid’s
largest natural areas, Forman shot sequences at two grand
palaces located there.
The Royal Palace El Pardo, a hunting lodge that dates from
the period of the Hapsburgs and is richly decorated with
frescoes and tapestries, stood in for the royal palace of
Madrid where Goya, invited into King Carlos’s drawing
room, witnesses the King hearing from a messenger the gruesome
news of the execution by guillotine of his cousin, King Louis
XVI of France during the turmoil of the French Revolution.
Also filmed at El Pardo was a scene with Napoleon in discussion
with his ministers, as well as the episode in which Ines’s
family is granted an audience with King Carlos and pleads
with him to intervene with the Inquisition on their daughter’s
At La Quinta, another hunting lodge on the grounds of Monte
de El Pardo that had been converted into a one-time residence
for the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, Forman staged
several scenes set in the home and office of Lorenzo in his
capacity as Bonaparte government minister.
An intensely dramatic sequence in which Goya confronts
Lorenzo along with a radically changed Ines was shot there,
as well as a scene in which Goya tries to thwart Lorenzo’s
devious plan to exile all the known harlots in Madrid to
Next the unit moved once again from Madrid to hilly countryside
near the town of Ocana not far from the city of Toledo. On
a wide expanse of rolling hills, Forman filmed a huge sequence
depicting the Duke of Wellington and his vast army crossing
over the border from Portugal into Spain, repulsing the occupying
French forces and liberating the Spaniards.
The director then shot a second military scene occurring
some years earlier in the action, a French commander addressing
his massed troops in an encampment before they march on Spain,
in the higher mountains in the Ocana countryside.
The epic nature of the story and the large-scale effects
involved in Goya’s Ghosts – huge panoramas alternating
with intimate scenes of high drama, each with a particular
intensity, not to mention the re-creation of a specific historical
period -- was a challenge for everyone involved in the film,
cast and crew. But perhaps no one, except for Forman, was
more involved in the physical aspect of production than production
designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein.
“It’s an overwhelming proposition and you’re
confronted straight off the bat with just how do you approach
re-creating the era, not to mention the works of Goya and
a million other details, for a director as demanding as Milos,” von
“And what you do is to start with the obvious, the
paintings and the literature and the historical writings
on the period. There are so many books written about Goya
and that period of Spain. But I like to go directly to the
letters. Letters written by the Duchess of Alba, letters
from Queen Maria Louisa and the King are all available in
English, and they provide a wealth of material.
“Then of course you have to address technical issues
because of showing Goya and the paintings. Goya’s importance
to the Spanish cannot be overestimated. It’s unique.
He’s a kind of father figure to the country.”
Javier Bardem, a Spaniard of course, attests to the truth
“Spanish people revere his work,” Bardem says. “I
think Goya is the very first painter for whom art functioned
as a kind of journalism. He was the first artist who was
able to paint the king, the richness and glory of the Spanish
monarchy that contributed to the creation of the Spain we
“But Goya could also paint the misery of the street,
the horror of those times, with the same flavor, the same
point of view with which he portrayed majesty. In everything
he paints, he’s attached emotionally to what he’s
Carmen Ruiloba, a historical consultant for Goya’s
Ghosts, explains the significance of Goya to the Spanish
“I had a college professor who used to say that Goya
is part of the family. For every Spaniard he is your grandfather.
He’s a universal painter, a genius who speaks directly
to the heart of the people and who talks for the future.
What he said two hundred years ago about war, about beautiful
duchesses, about the common man in the street, about the
poor and stricken, it’s all still valid today.
“In terms of academics, Goya is crucial in the history
of art. Many would say he is the first modern painter. He
is the link between classicism and modernism.”
Such a character is a test for any actor. Stellan Skarsgård worked long and hard to get under his skin.
“Let me tell you, I spent an incredible amount of
time researching Goya himself. Actually all of us involved
in the film immersed themselves in the essence of who and
what Goya was, and how he worked and lived,”Skarsgård
“We went so far in this direction that for some of
those scenes in the studio we followed his formula for etchings
and probably could have produced some. We know the formulas
he used for color and the paints he particularly liked. We
were even able to re-create the sketchbooks he used. He carried
them with him wherever he went, something he learned about
in Italy and brought home with him.”
The verisimilitude of the setting and the atmosphere on
set helped Skarsgård to embody Goya as a living, breathing
“But understanding his soul from inside, the soul
of the character that Milos Forman and Jean Claude Carriere
have created, is the goal.
“I work from seeing him as they created him. The
character as written is very interesting because he has compassion
towards everything he paints. Yet he’s someone who
stands apart as some artists must do. He certainly doesn’t
want to get in the way of the powers of the Inquisition and
he certainly respects his young muse Ines, though in some
way he’s obviously in love with her. Whenever he paints
angels in a church or whenever he needs the face of a lovely
young woman in a painting, it’s her face he uses. She’s
constantly alive in his mind.”
Bardem stands in awe of his Swedish co-star.
“The relationship between Goya and Lorenzo, the character
I play, is the relation of people who respect each other
and fear each other, too. Goya is a free man who depends
only on himself. Lorenzo is a man who relies on dogma, on
ideas, the power structure of the time. He has power in society
while Goya does not.
“To see how Stellan, this man from the north of Europe
creates this character who is the soul of Spain is something
of a miracle. To work with Stellan is to slide on silk. You
have an amazing actor there.”
Forman joins in the praise.
“Subtlety, subtlety is the key. It’s a danger
to make artistic geniuses like Goya bigger than life, different
from ordinary people in the manner, in the way they live.
Stellan is so subtle. I believe every word he says, every
gesture he makes.”
In the final analysis, each of the principal actors in the
story, whether portraying a historical personage or a fictional
creation, shares a similar task: each plays a figure in a
screenplay that must be brought to life on the screen. Unlike
Stellan Skarsgård, Javier Bardem and Natalie Portman had
no objective standard on which to base their characterizations.
They had to work wholly from the imagination. Yet Portman
was able—instinctively—to relate to a young woman
like Ines and the tragedy that affects her life in the context
of the era in which it took place.
“I read several books about women who were put through
the Inquisition and their testimony, the extraordinary transcripts
of the women who were tortured and whose words are almost
identical to Ines’ dialogue in the film. ‘Just
tell me what you want me to say, what the truth is!’ she
“I understand the film takes a bit of historical
license in terms of the time frame. At the point our story
takes place the power of the Inquisition was somewhat diminished.
Nevertheless this kind of thing happened.”
Portman also found herself fascinated when she learned
about the position Goya holds in the heart of the Spanish
“I think Goya’s paintings, particularly the
later paintings, the Black Paintings, reflect something deep
in the Spanish character. One of the books I read in preparation
for filming mentioned something that stayed with me, it said ‘Death
is the patron saint of Spain.’ And I think it’s
true. Look at bullfighting—there’s a sense in
the culture of being close to death. You feel death everywhere
and somehow that makes life even more vibrant.”
Following the work at the royal palaces and Ocana, the unit
traveled north to the province of Aragon and the medieval
monastery of Veruela for scenes set inside the power corridors
of the Inquisition. Exteriors of Inquisition headquarters
were then filmed in the medieval city of Salamanca, home
of the oldest university in Spain and Europe.
These locations mark the place from which Father Lorenzo
starts out in the film. As a man of the cloth he is very
much a part of the institution he serves, and Bardem struggled
to understand exactly what motivates such a human being.
“The first thing I did once I was cast was to read
as many books about the period and also talk to people who
were expert in the era,” he says. “I also spoke
to a couple of priests who of course didn’t live in
those times but who understood them. I felt they could help
me figure out what kind of character Brother Lorenzo could
“But of course since this is a fiction movie, there
comes a moment when you have to forget everything you studied
and simply build a character. Otherwise you are too attached
to what you think the character should be and you’re
not free enough to construct or build one on your own.
A big challenge for Bardem was to unite the two opposing
personas in Lorenzo’s character.
“I worried about connecting the two but there are
traits, psychology that link the two. Mainly it was very
important to make Lorenzo a normal human being with his own
desires and goals the audience can understand. We don’t
want him to be a villain. He’s a man trying to do the
best he was taught under difficult circumstances.
“The hard part is shooting out of sequence. One day
you are Dr. Jekyll, the next Mr. Hyde, then three hours later
Dr. Jekyll again.”
The fictional nature of the story, that the drama is based
on fact but is nonetheless a work of the imagination, remained
a guiding principle throughout filming for everyone involved
in the production.
Prado Museum associate Carmen Ruiloba, one of Goya’s
Ghosts historical consultants, recognized Forman’s
interpretation of history and the manner in which he approached
the events of the past.
“Milos is so imbued with Goya’s work. The paintings
inspire him. Some of them are even recreated for the camera,
The Abolition of the Inquisition, Queen Maria Louisa on Marechal,
an Inquisition Scene that’s in the Royal Academy, and
so many others.
“But beyond the paintings, Milos takes his concept
of how he sees the history and themes of the period and transforms
them in his story in the most artistic manner possible. He
is working, if I may say so, like the great Spanish painter
“For example, in his magnificent 17th century painting
Surrounding the town of Breda, Velasquez painted something
that never happened. He wanted to convey in this painting
the nature and temperament of the Spanish general who had
conquered the town but who treated the subjugated populace
humanely. So he painted the victorious Spanish general standing
on the ground in front of his horse, facing the man he defeated
and putting his arm around him. It never happened. Not for
a minute! The Spanish general would never, never have dismounted
in such a situation. But Velasquez wanted to show the good
character of the general and the concept of mercy, and that’s
what he painted. The man is off his horse. The concept is
“Milos works here in a similar vein. Certain details
are changed but the truth is never distorted. He asked in
one scene if, when the French army invades a church to declare
the end of the Inquisition and a mass is underway, would
the priest be singing as he’s being struck down. I
told him I didn’t think so but that in order to make
his point I thought it was perfect. He wanted to show the
French behaving like true invaders, interrupting the natural
order of things, killing people. A singing priest being stuck
down is a such a vivid image—we get the truth, the
reality of the situation.”
The dynamics of Forman’s direction, his ability to
bring alive in all its complexity a dramatic scene set two
hundred years ago was something that inspired everyone on
Goya’s Ghosts, both cast and crew.
“Milos is not at all what I expected,” says
Natalie Portman. “Watching his films I expected him
to be super intellectual—well, he’s incredibly
smart and well read, and if he wanted to I have no doubt
he could be a super intellectual. But he’s almost an
anti-intellectual. He’s not about making things overly
complicated or doing everything by the book. You know he
wants to get the major detail right but then he wants to
let everything else go and just create his own portrait.
And it becomes a feeling portrait.”
Javier Bardem is also affected by Forman’s working
“Perhaps the most amazing thing to me is Milos’s
sense of humor. It is there everyday, for five months. It
never deserts him even when things are at their most difficult.
And then when he gives you direction, it’s like a blessing,
because he knows so much about acting, about truth. It makes
working so enjoyable. Every day becomes special.
“Some days I wake up in a state of shock. Here I am
a Spanish actor working with these amazing actors in a film
being directed by Milos Forman and produced by Mr. Saul Zaentz
from a great script by Milos and Jean Claude Carriere".
“I feel like I’ve lived through an experience
with these men that not only helps me professionally but
also helps with life because these are people who work with
an open heart and a great sense of purpose.
Forman’s humor made a particular impression on Stellan
“He is of course a fantastic director but he is so
funny. Between takes, we don’t sit around talking shop
but just chat and laugh because he makes such fun of himself.
It makes a great atmosphere, an intensely creative atmosphere
Sequences concluded in Salamanca, the unit returned to the
Madrid area, shooting first in the Prado Museum, and then
traveling to the small town of Talamanca for important tavern
sequences, each occurring in the film’s different periods.
“I am very lucky because Milos wanted a Spanish director
of photography for this film,” says DP Javier Aguirresarobe. “He
believed Goya’s visual universe could be better understood
by a cinematographer from the painter’s own country.
For me it was incredible, a real dream to have the opportunity
to work on a film with a director I admired since his earliest
movies in Czechoslovakia.
“Milos was a great friend during the shoot and placed
his trust in me. During prep I asked him how he visualized
the photography for the film, and what were the most important
visual references that could help us achieve an aesthetic
approach. He answered that what interested him was the color
of the actor’s faces and that the negative be well-exposed.
“’I want black to be black,’ he said.
For his approach, Aguirresarboe says, “I realized
that the photographic treatment in the film would have to
take into account the tonalities achieved by classic painters.
Goya’s Ghosts is not a film of garish colors but one
with believable light and expression. I started studying
classic masters, the best period of Spanish painters, Ribera,
for example who is one of my favorites, and began to load
my imagination with the visual spirit of warm light, slightly
warm tone and dark densities.”
Shooting the film entirely on location presented challenges
for Aguirresarobe, not so much in terms of lighting but of
“The whole movie was filmed in natural settings,
many interiors, locations that are extraordinary and authentic.
There is not a single shot done in a studio. A serious inconvenience
had to do with the locations – the grand palaces – that
belonged to the Spanish National Heritage. In these buildings
we were carefully watched by Patrimonio authorities so that
no piece of equipment came close to brushing against the
walls in rooms that have been decorated and preserved for
over 250 years.
“To resolve the difficulty we made structures that
were hidden behind curtains, and they supported the lights.
In that way I was able to create interesting light in these
areas which are usually open for tourists.”
According to Forman, “Javier Aguirresarobe did an
incredible job. The funny thing is that we don’t speak
the same language. He speaks Spanish and French but not English.
We communicated in French. I think it worked because he could
pretend to understand me and then do whatever his heart desired.”
After finishing in Talamanca, the unit set up for two weeks
in the town of Boadilla where two major sequences were shot
at the town’s Royal Palace: inside-- the elegant, formal
interiors of the home of the prosperous merchant Bilbautua
and his family; outside--the palace courtyard standing in
as a section of Madrid’s famous Plaza Mayor in which
a public execution takes place during the climax of the film.
The Royal Palace at Boadilla had been standing derelict
for years when the filmmakers discovered it and decided to
renovate for their purposes.
“Madrid’s Plaza Mayor is a magnificent space
which would take 15,000 people to fill,” Von Brandenstein
says. “So we had to look for another square for the
scene, and even considered using the Plaza Mayor in the town
of Salamanca where we were also filming. But to close down
the square and compensate its many merchants would have cost
as much as building our own period Plaza Mayor in Madrid.
“Milos is such an experienced director, however, that
when he saw the land in front of Boadilla Palace, he knew
at once that we would be able transform it into Plaza Mayor,
circa 1809. The basic architecture of the Boadilla Palace
matched the style and format of the architecture of Madrid’s
Plaza Mayor at the time of our story. Milos saw it would
be possible to add on to the existing structure, to build
extensions at right angles to the front of the palace that
enclose the area in front so that suddenly you have the sense
you were in a public square.
“We contacted the Historical Association and told
them we wanted to re-facade the front of the palace and they
agreed. We worked with a local company and the results were
wonderful. Then of course we went inside and re-did the interiors
for the Bilbatua house, recreating the world of the late
18th century with fabrics, reproductions of Goya’s
paintings, marble work, masonry and intricately patterned
“We even had two young painters, Colt Hausman and
TK, who worked in the art department, paint frescoes on the
ceiling of the entrance stairway that were copies of frescoes
that had been painted on the ceiling of several Spanish chapels.
It was a marvelous project. And we were all delighted with
the quality of the Spanish craftsmanship.”
Filmed inside Boadilla palace were scenes with Ines and
her family after she’s been called to present herself
at Inquisition offices, and the tension-filled, formal dinner
Goya and Lorenzo attend during which the family tries to
find out about the whereabouts and condition of their absent
In these scenes, costumes as well as décor reflect
the elegant world of the Bilbatua family. Oscar-winning costume
designer Yvonne Blake, a creative and accomplished artist,
took her cue from Forman in creating the clothes.
“Essentially what I wanted to do was to get everything
right. Understanding Milos’s approach, I knew it meant
studying Goya’s work. Really, it’s all there.
Everything’s in Goya’s paintings and you don’t
have to look much further.
“A few years ago I designed an opera, Rossini’s
Barber of Seville which I decided to do in Goya-esque costumes
because I feel Goya loved costumes. He dressed well. He loved
clothes. I love the way he treats colors and textures in
his paintings and we try to re-create that here. More than
re-create. In some ways it’s out and out copy. I’d
say fifty-fifty the costumes come from the paintings and
things we just created. The Queen’s costume is an absolute
“Some costumes are composites, however. There’s
a painting by Goya of a minister, Juan Antonio Llorente,
from 1810 that made a big impression on Milos. He liked that
image for Lorenzo. When I saw the painting I did a mixture.
I created a similar high churchman’s costume with a
wide ribbon or sash that featured a medal attached to it
as in the painting. That particular medal was wrong for our
period, it was from a later era. I designed an Inquisition
cross for Lorenzo to wear, a badge, not a medal, and it worked.
“For the fictional characters that Natalie plays,
Ines and Alicia, I created all the costumes from scratch.
I tried to invent based on what I thought Goya would have
done. All the characters go through huge changes in their
lives and of course the costumes reflect that. Ines’s
changes are radical. She starts out as a wealthy young woman,
beautifully dressed, elegant. In the end she’s in little
but rags. As Alicia, Natalie really wears only one signature
costume, very Spanish and it identifies her as a young Spanish
woman whose charms are for sale.
“Goya, too, wears elegant clothes at the beginning
of the film. He’s a bit of a fop. Later on, having
been ill and becoming deaf, he stopped paying attention to
how he looked and that was something I wanted to reflect
in the costumes.
“Milos and I had a talk about the two halves of the
film, if you will, because there’s a sixteen year break
in the action. I suggested to Milos in general that we use
rich colors in the first half of the film. For the second
half where things are, if not more somber they deal with
some of the characters in reduced circumstances, I thought
that we could try to draw some color out of the film.”
Forman is indebted to his collaborators.
“The costumes are outstanding. They come directly
from Goya but they’re not really costumes. They’re
the clothes people wore. They’re real. It’s the
same with the sets. We built some sets and shot in real places,
real castles, even an actual room that was once Franco’s
office. But it’s impossible to tell what’s real
and what’s built for the film. Everything looks just
as it is supposed to. Goya would have been comfortable there.”
After shooting the scenes inside the Bilbatua household
and then the public execution of a so-called heretic, a last-gasp
auto-da-fe, in the recreated Plaza Mayor, production wrapped
on December 9, 2005 after 14 weeks of filming.