In director Ridley Scott’s biblical epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” Spanish actress Maria Valverde (“La Mula”) plays Zipporah, the wife of Moses (Christian Bale) whom she meets when he journeys to Midian on the Red Sea. After their marriage, Moses returns to Egypt to help free the oppressed Hebrews from the Pharaoh (Joel Edgerton) and his army. During our interview, Valverde, 27, talked about working with Scott and Bale and her experience playing strong female characters. We also talked about her role as Maria Theresa Bolivar, wife of Venezuelan political and military leader Simon Bolivar, in the film “The Liberator,” which the country of Venezuela chose as its official entry for the upcoming Academy Awards.
In your two most recent films, “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and “The Liberator,” you play strong female characters. What do you think attracts you to these types of roles?
I think it’s because I am a strong woman. (Laughs) I don’t know. I really admire them. I admire that kind of woman. I want to be one of them. The both have something in common in that they have amazing men in their lives. It doesn’t make sense if you are a strong woman, but you have a weak man. I think the best balance is if both are strong.
Both films are epic in scale. Which of them felt bigger when you were on set?
Well, in Venezuela for “The Liberator,” I felt like I was in paradise. You feel like a tourist. It didn’t feel real. But, yeah, both of them were big movies. Both movies were two of the best experiences of my life.
Talk about working with a director so highly regarded as Ridley Scott.
Well, first of all, I was very overwhelmed about him wanting me in his movie. I met him several years ago because I worked with his daughter [director Jordan Scott] on a movie called “Cracks.” I felt very grateful in the way he was talking to me and all the respect he was showing me on the set. It was like a dream for me. I don’t think I’ve woken up yet.
If you go back to the 1956 film “The Ten Commandments,” your character was played by actress Yvonne De Carlo (TV’s “The Munsters”). Did you think about the history behind this character, not only in a biblical sense, but in a cinematic sense as well?
Yeah, I think you have to be aware of the character you’re trying to play. You have to know what you’re doing. But you also have to be in the moment. Working with Christian Bale, I think it’s important to be in control. I think you have to take care of that more than you do thinking about the history of the film or the character.
What was your experience like on the set with Christian Bale?
He’s an amazing actor. I want to be like him. I can understand why he is in the position he is in Hollywood. I admire him more than ever because now I know how he works.
Now that you have a taste for an American-made film like “Exodus,” is that something you want to do more of or are you comfortable spending most of your time in Spain?
I don’t feel comfortable anywhere. (Laughs) I just want to travel and be in different parts of the world. I want to work in China and in Bollywood and all over! I want to have fun and don’t mind where I do it.
Tell me what it was like playing a real person like Maria Teresa Bolivar in “The Liberator.”
For me it was a very interesting character because when read the script I was impressed with who she was. We had to create an amazing woman who believes in love. Maria changed Simon Bolivar’s life forever. It was a risk taking this role because there was so much pressure on me. I had to be that woman. I travelled from South America to Venezuela for the first time. To play Maria, I had to fall in love with her country. It was very important for me to do that.
What ultimately made you fall in love with the country of Venezuela?
I went and visited Angel Falls. It is the most amazing place I’ve ever been. It was like paradise. I was overwhelmed by the natural beauty.
Did you spend any time with Edgar Ramirez before filming to help create the chemistry you both would need in front of the camera?
We met each other for the first time during the audition. He was very helpful and kind. During rehearsals, we had an amazing time. We were very close because we had to create a good team together. I admire him very much.
Did you do a lot of research for your character or the history of this time period?
I did, but there is not so much information about her. We had a chance to do what we wanted with this character. [Director] Alberto [Arvelo] and I would talk about what kind of woman she has to be. She is a woman you can fall in love with. We created her and made her happen. It was better that way because I got to give her everything I had.
How excited were you when you found out Venezuela chose “The Liberator” as its official submission for the Academy Awards?
It was a big shock. It was amazing. When you have a film like this, you always want the best for it. In Venezuela, it was a very successful film. Success can come with the Oscars or wherever. I just want everyone in the world to see it.