Making a film about Isabel la Católica was an old aspiration of the American producer Samuel Bronston in which the talent of Fernando Sánchez Dragó briefly crossed paths. Bronston, architect of the construction of a Spanish Hollywood for a decade, between the late 50s and mid-60s, he contacted the writer almost two decades later, following the massive success of his work Gargoris and Habidisto write the script for a film about the Spanish queen.
Sánchez Dragó recalled this old project a little over a month ago, involved as it was then in the preparations for Vox’s motion of no confidence with Ramón Tamames, and in the reactions to the Literature Prize that the Junta de Castilla y León had awarded him. . The demands of today made it necessary to postpone on several occasions the conversation with Vozpopuli. “I am not a friend of making appointments, I prefer to go out to meet life”he explained then, with a joviality and energy that did not make us foresee the fatal outcome that we have known this Monday.
But in the end he found some time to talk about a project that never came to fruition, and that will be part of a documentary about Samuel Bronston that director Juan Antonio Tirado is currently preparing. “Our objective is to explain how much the Spanish film industry owes to Bronston, whose films served as a source for many professionals”, explains Isabel Vela, producer of Mata Films, the person in charge of the project. She “planted a seed that bore fruit. One of the most visible is the case of artistic director Gil Parrondo, who started with him and later worked in Hollywood, where he even won an Oscar”.
The Isabel la Católica project starts from the final stage of Bronston in Spain. It was going to be his next film after the failure of The fabulous world of the circusas explained by Miguel Losada and Víctor Matellano in their essay Spanish Hollywood. The actress Glenda Jackson was even hired to play the queen, and production was well advanced.but it was left in borage water because Bronston “lost the confidence of its main investor, as well as the approval of the Spanish administration, which had always favored it,” according to the aforementioned book.
Isabel and Sanchez Drago
Actually, the project Elizabeth of Spainsince that was its original title, obeyed a double motivation: on the one hand, the fascination that the character aroused in the North American producer -which was confirmed when trying to resume the project with Sánchez Dragó fifteen years later- but also due to his eagerness to grease his good relations with the Franco regime. But it could not be and the Bronston empire began its collapse.
They provided Fernando with the Viagra of the time, which was a cold stew made from bull’s testicles.
Sánchez Dragó did not know anything about this initial project when he spoke with Vozpopuli, although I had some memories of that time. “When Bronston was in Spain, I was about twenty years old and I didn’t get to know him, although I was about to be hired as an extra for The fall of the Roman Empire, recalled Dragó. “But it is clear that what he put together here was an essential element of our cultural imagination.”
But it was much later when the Bronston production company contacted the writer, as they intended to resume the project, although, once again, it would remain in the drawer of ideas that do not come to fruition. “I would have liked to write that movie because Isabel is a very interesting character. Spain as a suggestive project of common life is structured around it, with milestones as formidable as the conquest of Granada or the conquest of America, which was a conquest, but never colonization, since those places were provinces of the Spanish Empire”, explains the writer But then, the producer’s health deteriorated rapidly, with Alzheimer’s that prevented him from working, and all his plans fell apart.
The writer believed that he was contacted because of the success of his work Gargoris and Habidiswhere he made a mythical and legendary reworking of the history of Spain, a literary cycle that was the main success of his career. “It was the best-selling book for many years and made me the darling of Spanish literature”, recalled Fernando Sánchez Dragó, who supposed that they wanted to evoke history with some freedom and without sticking exclusively to the crude historical facts.
In line with this legendary vocation, the writer recognized that he was very interested in the portrait that the Argentine novelist and essayist Abel Posse made of the queen in his work the dogs of paradisefrom his American Trilogy. “There appears an almost hippy Isabel, very modern and self-assured. She conveys a surprising idea of her.” And he added: “Isabel in a plasta plan does not give much of herself as a character in a novel. But we writers tend to look for glimpses of reality, more or less literary legends. That’s what interested me most about the character.”
And as an example of the kind of business we might have expected from a script of his, he tells a story about his spouse. One of the stories in which the private and the public are intertwined with surprising elements. “When Isabel dies, she does so without a male heir and Fernando the Catholic seeks at all costs to engender male offspring with Doña Germana, which would have meant breaking the unity between the kingdoms,” the writer recalled. “The Court organized a weekend for her in Carrioncillo del Conde, near Medina del Campo, to see if she gets her pregnant. AND They provided him with the Viagra of the time, which was a cold stew made from bull’s testicles.”, as described by chroniclers. But he did not achieve his objective and the stew could perhaps be the cause of his death. And there the unity of Spain was sanctioned”.