Roma: Cuaron on Directing his Non-Professional Actors

Roma, easily the most acclaimed film of 2018, draws a lot of its power non-actor cast, its black and white cinematography, and its Spanish dialogue.

But according to director Alfonso Cuaron, the film’s greatest oddity–and in my view brilliance–has to do with the nature of the script–how it was written and given to the non-actors.

Cuaron, the Golden Globe and L.A. Critics Association-winning director, said he withheld the script from many of the actors while telling them contradictory information so that none of the cast members knew where the film was headed.

For the film’s few professional actors like Marina DeTavira, the process was a challenge, but for the film’s lead Yalitza Aparicio, who made both her feature film and acting debut with Roma, Cuaron’s strategy was completely normal and natural.

“I thought that that’s how directors worked. But as things progressed, I did start getting curious about what was going to happen to my character or what was going to happen to the story that we were all living,” she said in Spanish. “At some point, though, I realized that I had to stop worrying about what was going to happen…so I began to just allow myself to live day to day and to experience what was happening to me as it was just happening day to day because life truly does not have a script.”

De Tavira also came to appreciate the production process, explaining that the chronological order of the filming helped her fully realize her character’s life story. Since the actors were only given new information day to day, they were forced to shoot the film in roughly the same order that it plays out, ending production with the film’s finale.

“It was really respecting the actor’s process and knowing it and understanding it in a way I’ve never seen before,” she said. “And what he did was letting really the characters go through their life’s journey, so when we got to the end, we had all our past within us.”