Italian actress Monica Bellucci has been the epitome of sensuality in a wide variety of films in both Europe and the US, including Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Malena” (1997), Christophe Gans’ “The Brotherhood of the Wolf” (2001), Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” (2004) and the sequels “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003) and “The Matrix Revolutions” (2003) by the Wachowski sisters. However, Bellucci’s acting talents soon extended beyond her physical features as seen in her commanding performances in Gilles Mimouni’s “The Apartment” (1996), Gabriele Muccino’s “Remember Me, My Love” (2003) and Gaspar Noé’s unsettling “Irreversible” (2002). However, with films such as Antoine Fuqua’s “Tears of the Sun” (2003) and Jon Turteltaub’s “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” (2010) Hollywood paid more attention to her looks than her acting skills. Nevertheless, Bellucci continued to appear in a wide variety of projects that displayed her multi-faceted talent, more notably Sam Mendes’ James Bond film “Spectre” (2015), Emir Kustiruca’s “On the Milky Road” (2016) or Alice Rohrwacher’s “The Wonders” (2014) among many others.
Tara Karajica talks to Monica Bellucci about women in film, aging gracefully on screen and her latest project, “Mafia Mamma,” directed by Catherine Hardwicke.
How did you get on board Mafia Mamma?
Monica Bellucci: First of all, I read the script and I was very happy with the story. When I read it, I laughed out loud because it was really well-written and, actually, it is a pulp comedy. And, I’m a huge fan of Toni Collette. So, I had really great moment of acting with Catherine Hardwicke’s direction. Also, comedy is a genre I’ve done very little in my career, so it was so interesting for me, and I was very grateful that I had the chance to be in a comedy again.
Bianca is what you would call today “a very strong woman,” loyal and confident. How do you see her?
M.B.: I approached Bianca with a lot of dedication to her reality because in Bianca there is mystery and Mediterranean warmth and she’s also dangerous. She seems naïve, but she’s dangerous because she knows how to deal with violence because that is where she comes from. And, actually, I could build all this affection in connection to Kristin, Toni’s character, because Catherine Hardwicke gave us the freedom to create this beautiful relationship made by affection and connection that carries these two characters in their adventure.
There’s this sort of Pygmalion story, where Bianca shows Kristin what she can be, what she can become and she guides her through this new reality.
M.B.: The story is about Kristin. She’s an American businesswoman and mom and she’s called by Bianca, this Italian woman, to come to Italy to inherit her grandfather’s business. But it turns out the business will teach Christians how to become a Mafia boss and, through her, Kristin is going to get in touch with her inner something; she discovers her real power, so she’s very strong in reality and Toni – she’s blonde with blue eyes, but she has a Mediterranean passion even in real life. And she did an amazing job.
From an acting point of view, can you talk about acting opposite/with Toni Collette?
M.B.: Actually, there is a beautiful scene in the bed that is completely improvised – when I arrive close to her. We knew the lines, but we didn’t know how to play [the scene] and little by little, I went closer to Toni and we built this completely crazy moment that is sexy and funny, and we can see all the chemistry between us, and it’s very rare. We all know how talented Toni Collette is, but I didn’t know her in real life, so I didn’t know her energy. And, actually, just because we had to play those intimate scenes, it was beautiful because we also had this connection in real life.
When you act, do you do manage to dissociate yourself from your own persona in order to play someone else?
M.B.: That’s acting. Acting is the representation of reality, it’s not reality, and that’s why even when you make violent movies, nothing is more violent than real life. But, actually, this happens also – you do your work as an actress and the process of preparation for roles is something very secretive for every actor, his/her own way to prepare. I mean, I like, of course, technically, the preparation: how the character is going to walk, how he/she is going to dress… But the real acting, for me, really happens on set. I like it when I don’t really know what is going to happen and I’m going to create something that even I don’t what is going to happen at that moment. Something that is unpredictable for me, too. I like that. And also, the director is so important, and we were so lucky to have Catherine Hardwicke for this project because she’s so elegant. She’s refined, has creative sensibility, has great taste and an amazing energy and this one is very difficult because there are many actors, many scenes, and she was never scared to try something to sublime an already great script or realize when she’s gone too far. So, with her femininity, she brings elegance in the middle of violence.
Among all the roles that you have played so far, do you have one that is your favorite and one that has changed you and your worldview completely?
M.B.: When you see your story as an actress, it’s a mixture of many different experiences. And it’s not just about what we show, but also about behind-the-scenes, because when I think about what I’ve done, when I was in Serbia, working with Kusturica for three years, every summer I was there to make the movie, and even that was an incredible experience for me. Also, because I was fifty years old and this is a bridge for an actress because it’s a special time. And, Kusturica came with On the Milky Road and Sam Mendes came with James Bond. So, it’s like those films helped me pass the bridge of being fifty, because it’s a strange age for an actress. Every film gives you a different experience. When I did Malena, for example, with Giuseppe Tornatore, for me, it was an important movie because it was an Italian movie that went around the world. When I did Irreversible, it was a special thing because it was a crazy French movie – I’m Italian and I was in Paris, so it was an incredible experience for me to be part of this crazy, crazy project. And then, I remember when I went to see The Matrix for the first time in the cinema, I said: “Oh my God, I would love to make a film like that!” And then, I did a test for The Matrix and I did the film. So, our work is sometimes so unpredictable, and that’s why it’s interesting. I grew up with mafia movies, such as Once Upon a Time in America, or Goodfellas or The Godfather, but I never would have imagined that one day I’d be in a comedy about the world of Mafia with a feminine twist.
What is your take on women in film today?
M.B.: I think that even this film is incredible because there are adult women. So, it shows how things are changing. We are in a new world. Two adult women being funny, sensual and dangerous. And, this is a new situation in a new world and this would have been impossible four years ago because it was difficult for an actress who’s forty plus years old to make a career.
Do you have a favorite female filmmaker and a favorite film by a female filmmaker
M.B.: I worked with the young female director Alice Rohrwacher, and she really surprised me. She was incredible. I did this film with her, The Wonders. So delicate, so special. Sometimes, those young female directors, they come out with a new genre, another world, and it’s so interesting to see. Sometimes, women describe the world in a different way because their vision is different.
I agree with you completely! And final question – what are your next projects?
M.B.: I’m going to be in American film’m going to work in June and July in London, but I can’t say now – it’s going to be announced really soon. And then, I work on a French movie in September.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Bleecker Street.