| P E O P L E |
Actress & Model | Paris
Alluring, glamorous and exquisitely striking,
Monica Bellucci lights up the screen in her
ground-breaking role in the new James Bond film.
Monica Bellucci runs her lithe fingers through her long, dark hair which cascades over one shoulder. Thinking. In what should be an intimidating encounter with one of cinemas most beautiful women, instead it's relaxed and intimate as she recalls her favourite moments in her career.
"There are so many," she purrs in that evocative, seducing Italian accent.
"I like to think back towards the beginning. When I first started modelling in Paris. Travelling around on the Metro with my little book, discovering myself, discovering the world around me. It felt very free and liberating and I think back to that time very fondly. I daydream about those days because I had no clue where I would go, what I would do. The options were without limits."
Indeed, the sky was the limit for the Italian beauty. After charming the fashion world, in particular the trendsetting sensibilities of
Dolce and Gabbana, a partnership that's lasted some 25 years, Monica moved into acting in the mid-Nineties, landing a César nomination for her performance in Gilles Mimouni's L'Apartement, where she also met actor and future husband, Vincent Cassel.
Following a stunning turn in the Oscar-nominated Malena, Bellucci earned international fame with roles in Tears of the Sun with Bruce Willis, The Matrix and box office flop, The Brothers Grimm with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger.
Controversy came with movies Irreversible and Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ, where she played Mary Magdalene. In a milestone moment, the actress and model is now enjoying her finest hour as a Bond lady, the oldest in 007 history in the forthcoming epic, Spectre.
As the enigmatic Lucia Sciarra, little is known of Bellucci's hotly anticipated turn alongside Daniel Craig, but producers, who admitted she was the one who got away when auditioning for Tomorrow Never Dies, claim her performance is one to remember.
Dressed in a structured monochrome D&G suit ensemble, she chats effervescently of her ground-breaking new role in the Bond empire and why she's glad it didn't happen several decades ago.
She also talks ageism in the industry, beauty in wisdom, courting controversy, learning from her children, enjoying the spotlight and having it all.
RV: How do you feel about the upcoming release of your latest film, the new James Bond epic, Spectre?
MB: Of course, a Bond movie is an important moment, and it gave me the chance to work with Sam Mendes who I respect so much. It was such a great experience for me to be a part of this franchise of which I have so much love for, and so much love for the Bond ladies [laughs]. I try to find a name for my character: I can't say “girl”, I prefer to say “lady” or “woman”. But of course, I remember all of the actresses who have been part of it. I think of Rosamund Pike, Halle Berry, Eva Green, Famke Janssen, who were great in James Bond. It's true that through James Bond, we have these images that are iconic and amazing. And it's also amazing because I am now fifty years old.
RV: Were you surprised when the offer came through?
MB: My agent was surprised. He called me and said, “Do you want a laugh?” [laughs] They said, “Sam Mendes wants to meet you in London.” So I went to meet him and I first asked, “Do I have to replace Judi Dench?” And actually, I have so much respect for Judi Dench, she is a wonderful actress with a career I could only dream of. But of course, it's a new thing, that an adult woman can have the chance to play in a James Bond film. It is a beautiful example for women, that you can be fifty and desirable and also, it is a new way to see actresses. I'm not part of Hollywood, I have never lived in Los Angeles. Any Hollywood movies that I've done have been organised through Europe. But in France, where I live, actresses have the chance, even in their forties, fifties and sixties, to play the beautiful roles – Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, Kristin Scott Thomas – beautiful, strong characters. There is a new way to look at women, which is great to see.
RV: So is there a different attitude in France?
MB: I think there's another way of looking at actresses. In Europe, there's a lot of respect for actresses. A woman is still considered beautiful even though she's not young anymore. There's a sense of mature beauty that can be very interesting and sexy. In France, the beauty of youth is called the evil beauty. It's nothing to do with you or anything that you did, but you're born with it. The other kind of beauty is your own work and that takes time.
RV: You were previously up for another Bond movie several years ago?
MB: Several? That's funny [laughs], it was over twenty years ago I think!
RV: It was for Tomorrow Never Dies, correct?
MB: If you say so [laughs], I really can't remember. I think so. I'm glad I didn't do it then, because to do so at that time would have been more normal. To do it now, it's more interesting. When I think about what I'm doing right now and that I had the chance to work with Sam Mendes, I'm also filming a new movie, On the Milky Way, I just finished a film with director Guy Edoin, and at fifty you think, “Wow, this is great.” And it's luck, because you don't ask directors, “Hey, can you work with me?”
RV: You probably could, let's be fair ...
MB: Oh no [laughs], I'm an actress not a businesswoman, so it's very difficult to plan a career. I have to be lucky, that directors, interesting directors, talented directors come to me with opportunities. It's important that director's come to you with an idea of the role that you can play, and I will listen to that. But you have to have the opportunities. In my career, I've done so much – I've done big blockbuster movies, I've done films that never came out. I've even done a big bomb [laughs], I've done so many things, so it's part of the history.
RV: You've also had some controversial moments in your career, is that something you seek?
MB: I need to work with people that have a vision, that have something to say. Sometimes they are special people that are not for everybody, but they have their own way to tell these stories. True controversy brings together true opinions.
RV: So much is made of your beauty, does it worry you as you get older, and the effect it will have on your career?
MB: The body is about so many emotions. You have to do what you are; through my characters, I try to see different things through myself. Body language is so important for an actor. For a violinist, it's his violin; for an actor, the body is the instrument and through our body, we exist and give life through many emotions. As long as I can emote, that's all that matters.
RV: Does ageing concern you, in general?
MB: It's difficult to get older if I think about health. I love to be in good health. I think when the times goes by, you lose your biological youth but another power comes such as experience, and it's more interesting. Then you understand why sometimes [children] prefer to stay with their grandmothers. They're calm, they're in touch with life in a different way, and it's very interesting. I also try not to worry about these things. I am more scared about death because I have two children and I want to see them grow up. There is nothing you can do about getting older, you just have to deal with it. Before I had children, I didn't think about death and I didn't really feel that I was ageing.
RV: What does it mean for your girls, particularly Deva, that Mom is a Bond lady?
MB: Oh for them, they are so young, they see it as a problem. They say, “Mommy, when are you finishing the movie, it's already three weeks and you are not home.” So they don't really know yet. They're eleven and six. I'm very Italian, I do everything very slowly. I had my first child at 40, my second child at 45, James Bond at 50 [laughs], I am so typically Italian.
RV: For many women, you are the example of having it all; both a career and a family ...
MB: I didn't see it that way. I come from a culture where to be a mother is more important than to have a career. So I wanted to concentrate on my work before I had children. And now, I've learned so much through my children, that's what I love about motherhood. And I'm a better person for it.
RV: You don't work as much now, is it because of them?
MB: Only twice a year now because I want and need to be with them. That's not to say I don't enjoy work, I do, but I need to prioritise. Though that's not to say, I don't enjoy the spotlight, I do enjoy it but then it's important to retreat to the shadows.
Interview: Piers Manning
Photography: Norman Jean Roy & Bruno Dayan (Cover)
Portrait first published in RedVisitor Magazine: Issue One - Purchase Now
M O R E I N T E R V I E W S . . .