March 2003
Tears of the Sun : An Interview with Monica Bellucci

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

Tears of the Sun: An Interview with Monica Bellucci

In the last few years, there have been some foreign actresses who have been crossing over to the United States and broadening their worldwide appeal. Not long ago, Penelope Cruz was being showered with American films, and now itís Monicaís turn. After receiving stellar reviews for her role of the titled film Malena a few years back, Monica Belluci has been working non-stop and her roles are getting better. Not only does she have a role opposite her husband Vincent Cassell in the controversial film Irreversible, she also stars in the latest film directed by Antoine Fuqua, Tears of the Sun. By summer time, she will also star in the heavily anticipated Matrix Reloaded with Keanu Reeves. In an interview with, Monica Belluci talks her role in Tears of the Sun and her upcoming films.

WM: Did you talk with war doctors for research?

MB: For my character I talked a lot with those doctors without borders. Doctors, theyíre just incredible, theyíre real heroes. They go into active war zones to assist not only medically but help with basic needs like irrigation and rebuilding the community. The story takes place in Nigeria where there is constant ethnic violence. The different tribes massacre each other in retaliation for centuries of hate and war and the government goes through changes and doesnít stay stable long enough to make peace in the country. My character is someone of strong and passionate about helping the African people she feels responsible for. So many documentaries about it; itís really something that can happen. There are so many conflicts in the world and we donít know anything about it because the media doesnít give them attention. So this is one of those cases.

WM: Did you always dream of becoming a movie star and how did modeling lead to acting?

MB: I was dreaming about movies all the time. I come from a small town in Italy and to me cinema was something that was so far away from me. I started as a model because for me it was the possibility for me to move, to be independent and to travel. Movies came to me by coincidence because Francis Ford Coppola saw a picture of me and gave me the chance to work in this little tiny part in ĎDracula.í But for me it was the beginning of something so I went back to Italy and started to do acting lessons.

WM: Did you move to Paris because there were more possibilities there than in Italy?

MB: I went to Paris because in Italy right now itís so difficult the situation because itís not like it used to be in the past with all those incredible directors like Fellini, and Rosselini. Now itís very difficult. When Gina Lollabrigida and Sophia Loren came to America, they were already big stars because of Italian movies. Now itís not like that anymore so if you want to make an international career you have to go to France or America and you need to move. I went to Paris because there were many more possibilities. Itís great to be European and have the chance to come to America to work with talented American directors. Iím also lucky to work with all those people of different cultures because itís a great experience as a human being, not just as an actress.

WM: Do you like taking on risky projects and how did your role of Mary Magdelelne, directed by Mel Gibson come about?

MB: I like risky projects. Iíve done ĎIrreversibleí recently. When I heard about this project I was in a dinner with the costume designer of ĎMalena,í and he told me he was preparing this movie with Mel Gibson about the passion of Jesus. I asked right away who is playing Mary Magdelene. And he told me the cast is not done yet. I called my agent and I said, Ďlisten I want an appointment with Mel Gibson right away.í He was in Rome and we liked each other and he chose me. If you think about it ĎMalenaí is a short name of Mary Magdalene in Sicilian and I just received the script from Abel Ferrara called ĎMaryí and itís about Mary Magdalene, so I used to be Mary Magdalene in another life!

WM: How do you think the audience will react to characters speaking Latin in that film?

MB: When I heard it was in Aramaic, Latin without subtitle, about the story of Jesus and I said, ĎI want to do it.í Itís going to be such a strong and difficult and courageous project. Why not? What I saw is so beautiful. It looks like a painting, like a Caravaggio painting. The concept of the movie is going to be like a silent movie, like the vision is going to be strong. The audience is going to understand whatís going on from the images and words just come after. I think the Americans are much more intelligent that you think. When you look at a silent movie you can understand whatís going on without words and the images in this film are going to be so strong.

WM: "Irreversible" is a tough film to watch. How do you think audiences will feel when they leave the theater?

MB: I think that this film is like life. Life is full of moments of joy and moments of ecstasy and moments of pain. I think the film is the same. There is the contradiction of good and evil that exists in human nature. I think this film is a violent film but against violence. Itís a difficult movie, but itís so violent because itís shot in a very realistic way. It looks like itís real, so you donít think of it as acting. There are films that sometimes touch you so deeply and you donít know why and you refuse them because you donít want to see the monsters. Those monsters are in us. Part of us can be very horrible too. Inside us there is always this big fight, but we can be monsters. So I really want to look where we can be. Itís difficult to digest but when you go out from the movie, you have to think about it.

WM: How difficult was it shooting the rape scene?

MB: I tell you when I watch the rape scene Iím still disturbed because itís shot in such a realistic way. Usually I go in and when itís finished I donít stay in my character for three months after the film is finished. The only thing I can say about the rape scene in ĎIrreversibleí is about the dress I had in the movie. We had like ten of them because we knew that during the rape scene anything could happen. I said, ĎI want one for meí when we finish. I never could touch this dress again just because itís true when you go into an acting process itís just acting but at the same time you touch things that you have inside. Thereís this expression that we have many princes inside us and each time you approach a character there is one of those princes that wake up. I think that maybe there are things inside you. I am a woman and I never been raped in my life but I think Iím sure itís the worst that can happen so Iím sure that touched something inside me. I touched something that maybe I donít know what it is; it was so deep and thatís why I couldnít touch this dress anymore.

WM: Do you thikn films take inspiration from life's violence?

MB: In ĎTears of the Suní when we talk about the violence, to me the most part of the film is the documentary footage because itís real. This is really what happened. It proves that films do take inspiration from reality and not the contrary. Nothing is more violent than life.

WM: Can you talk about your character in the Matric sequels?

MB: My character is Persephone and she is dangerous, sensual with some sense of humor. I donít jump on the wall and itís more acting than action. I have another way to be dangerous. For me it was a really beautiful experience and a dream come true because when I saw ĎMatrixí in Paris I said to myself, ĎI would love to be in a movie like that.í It was for a few months in Australia and it was great to work with Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne and Laurence Fishburne.

WM: Does your Matrix character have a background?

MB: Persephone in the Greek mythology sheís the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. She gets kidnapped by the King of the Underworld and sheís allowed to come back to the living world just part of the time. This means a lot to explain my character but I canít tell you more than that.

WM: For "Tears of the Sun", were you nervous about working in the jungle?

MB: I was scared in the middle of the jungle with all that was going on because it could be dangerous for us too. Itís an action movie, and itís difficult and dangerous to do an action movie. Anything can happen out there. Maybe Bruce could get used to it but not me. It was an interesting experience because Bruce was generous and I respect him very much. Heís not just a movie star; heís also an actor who takes risks in his choices. I was really protected. He was so involved with the character. With me he was very generous. There was one time; it was off camera and there was my close-up and he cried for me to give me the emotion and he did in every take. So it was beautiful. Thereís not anybody who has a generous actor like that in front of you.

WM: Is it hard to maintain friendships in business?

MB: Yes. Itís been like five months since I last saw Bruce. Itís so difficult to be friends in this business but I had a great time. Of course maybe if I come to America, I will call him but itís difficult to have friends/relationships when you are in two different countries like that.