Exclusive Interview: Rec & Rec 2’s Javier Botet


The man behind the monstrous Niña Medeiros

Javier Botet isn’t NBA tall at six-and-a-half feet. Thanks to his wiry frame, though, the Spanish actor exudes such a towering presence that you can’t imagine anyone else swinging the gaunt, misshapen Niña Medeiros’s hammer in the [Rec] series.

But Botet – an artist whose physical appearance allowed him to pursue an acting career – would not have secured his place in horror history had directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza kept him in his original role. Or had they found a replacement for Botet after he walked away from [Rec 2] for personal reasons. Luckily, things worked out, and Botet’s back as the possessed Medeiros. This time, in a sequel that crosses The Exorcist with Aliens, a priest and a team of S.W.A.T. officers battle the infected tenants as they search for Medeiros. The priest needs Medeiros’s blood so he can create a vaccine for the infection that allows a demon to inhabit its victims’ bodies.

During Fantastic Fest ’09, but before [Rec] 2‘s October 2 Spanish opening, Botet spoke with ShockTillYouDrop to discuss how he almost lost his in [Rec] 2, the time-consuming process of transforming into Medeiros, and [Rec]‘s superiority over its U.S. remake, Quarantine.

Warning: This interview may contain spoilers for those who have not seen either film!

ShockTillYouDrop: Do you feel like you missed out on much on the action by only appearing at the end of both [Rec]s?

Javier Botet: In the first [[Rec]] it was perfect. All the action was great. I was like the [whistles] on the cake. I think it’s great to see me later and nobody knows me and nobody understands the situation. It added to the confusion and was a scary moment. People were asking me if I was going to appear in the second one in the same role. The moment the poster is made, everybody can see my name and everybody knows I’m in the second part. Using me in the end, the result is good. If you’re going to have a little part, I want to be in the end.

Shock: How long does it take to apply Medeiros’s makeup?

Botet: I’ve been in the movies for four years and people always want me for roles that are very scary because of my body. I’m very tall. It always used to be about four, five, six hours before shooting. On this one, it’s seven hours before shooting. It’s very hard. I’m tired when I start to shoot. I lose my energy at the end of the day. Then I wait another two hours to [remove] the makeup. Those days were destroyers. These used to be 22 hours of work a day.

Shock: How uncomfortable are you?

Botet: It’s very uncomfortable. The skin stops breathing. I don’t like to stay so much time [in makeup]. I’m very tall and I’m very thin. My chest is very thin, and I have limitations breathing. The makeup is hard [on me]. The first time I do that [apply the makeup], I was happy, but the time [it came off] I was not so happy. The makeup on the face, I can’t eat because the hole of [Medeiros]’s mouth was over my real mouth. All day I was only drinking fluids [through a straw] and eating nothing for 23 hours a day.

Shock: What is your health problem?

Botet: Respiration. I have limitations because my lungs are little. I have problems if I must shoot continuous sequences with action. If we are shooting a regular sequence, I can move perfectly.

Shock: Was your health an issue on [Rec] 2?

Botet: They prepared the shooting for the end of December in a place very uncomfortable. The temperature was less than zero. I had a problem: a few days earlier, I was in another [job] in a similar situation, and I was ill. I said no, I can’t shoot [Rec] 2 in this situation, they need to change the place to a setting people [can work in]. I’m not a monster, really. I needed a warmer temperature; I needed to eat.

Shock: So you were sick when you were originally going to shoot your scenes for [Rec] 2?

Botet: I was well, but the other situation made me more responsible. I wanted to make care of me, so either change [the shooting location] or I go. It was a responsible decision. I used to be very brave but I had very bad experiences. I know that after four years working, I must take more care of myself and say no to things, and that was the situation with [Rec] 2. I was very sad because I wanted to do the second part. It was great for me the experience of [Rec] – it was hard, but I think I made the right decision. Time passed, they called me and said. “Nobody can do your role, it will be as you wish, on another set.” It was in May on another set and everything was better and everybody was happy, me the most.

Shock: Both your appearances in the [Rec] films find you stumbling around in the dark, waving a hammer. How dark is the set when you’re shooting?

Botet: It’s just a little [light] so we don’t bang [into things]. In the first one, I got many scratches. I was with a real hammer the first time I was hitting the wall. I was hitting it so hard that the metal part fly off and I hit the wall with my hand, but I kept shooting. One time I was hitting the wall and I broke some cables for the electric and everyone went white because there was a great explosion. I was fine, but they have to stop to make repairs. On the second one, I had just a few scratches. I didn’t have a real hammer. When I have a real hammer, no one comes near me.

Shock: On [Rec], Balagueró and Plaza kept the actors in the dark about what was going to happen around them in order to capture their genuinely scared reactions. What did you know about your scenes in [Rec]?

Botet: I knew very little things during the shooting of [Rec]. Jaume and Paco used to keep things secret from everybody as best they could. They used to scare Manuela Velasco [who plays the TV reporter] – they used to change things to keep the surprise. I was preparing to play the role of the priest, and they called me to tell me the story and say that I am the priest who is making the experiment with a girl who is not going to appear, Niña Medeiros. He was going to end the life of Niña Medeiros and keep the experiment inside him. He was going to be a very decrepit priest and scary with tumors. The day before shooting, I fly, go to the set and Jaume and Paco call me and say, “We have a little change.” They showed me pieces of the makeup that David Ambit was preparing. They told me I was going to be Niña Medeiros, not the priest, and tomorrow we’re going to shoot. Me, the girl? OK. I was happy to improvise. I was thinking about her movements. A girl who’s been alone all her life isn’t going to have female movements. Later, I saw a documentary [PBS’ Secret of the Wild] about a girl [known only as Genie] in California who was in her room for about 11 or 12 years in her chair, and his father hid her and never used to take her for a walk. There are some videos and you can see Genie walking and it was the movements like Niña Medeiros. The hands fall in the same position. It was great for me to find that the work of my mind was very similar to the reality. When you see this [documentary], you’re going to remember Niña Medeiros.

Shock: Did you have any such surprises on [Rec] 2?

Botet: I had the script, so this time I knew everything.

Shock: For you, what are the fundamental differences between the two [Rec]s?

Botet: If you see the first one, it’s a movie without explanations. Everybody came out of the cinema with a lot of questions. Everybody would write me emails and ask me who was the boy upstairs. I loved this. In the second one, it’s different. It’s more horror, more action, more commercial.

Shock: Without revealing [Rec] 2‘s ending, will you appear in [Rec] 3?

Botet: When we ended [Rec], I personally never thought there would be part two. I thought it was a very good film. I don’t know anything about the third part, but it’s going to be impossible to avoid. And nothing is impossible for Niña Medeiros.

Shock: Will it be the same if the action moves out of the building in [Rec] 3?

Botet: It’s going to change, and that’s not going to be same. The building is one of the actors.

Shock: [Rec] wasn’t shown in U.S. theaters because of Quarantine. Are you holding out any hope that [Rec] 2 will be shown in U.S. theaters?

Botet: I hope, but it’s difficult. If they make a remake of the first, it’s more difficult to show the second. Sony Pictures/Screen Gems called me after the premiere of [Rec] to offer me the same role in the American version. I would love to work in the United States. That time was impossible because they prepared the shooting [schedule] a month before they called me. I was trying to prepare the visa… and it was very hard. Finally, my role of the Thin [Infected] Man went to Doug Jones.

Shock: Did you like Quarantine?

Botet: It’s impossible to like because it’s a copy. It’s exactly the same except for the finale. It’s impossible to enjoy Quarantine after [Rec]. I don’t understand why they avoided the religious themes in the movie. They lost a very important part of the end of the movie. They don’t talk about religion.

Shock: Do people recognize you when you’re out of makeup?

Botet: Very little. Sometimes people stop me and ask if I’m Javier Botet. I think I need to be very, very famous to be recognized. All my life I people see me and tell their friends, “Look at that guy,” because I’m tall and thin. Then they laugh. I don’t know if that will be the same for the rest of my life if they recognize me.

Shock: Your height must be an asset when it comes to landing roles.

Botet: I used that because I knew that was my way to get into movies. I used that, and I’m here thanks to my body. I used to dream about working in movies. And now I work in movies.

Source: Robert Sims

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