Soon we will discover Monica Bellucci in Anita Ekberg in the cinema in The girl in the fountain by Antonio Panizzi. For Mrs Figaro, blonde wig and blue lenses, she once again slipped into the skin of the iconic heroine of The good life, Palme d’Or in Cannes in 1960. Motorbike!
She’s just taken off her Balmain sheath, her gold wig, her blue contact lenses, but her “honey bath” voice instantly teleports us to the Trevi Fountain. However, the most international Franco-Italian actress has long since shattered her image as a Latin American bombshell. Behind her some sixty feature films, from author films to blockbusters, including comedies and television series… and at the age of 57 bellissima Do not stop. She returns from Rome, where she will shoot a comedy with American director Catherine Hardwicke, mafia mom, with Toni Collette. The next day she leaves for Istanbul, where she plays in the theater letters and memoirs, by Maria Callas, conducted by Tom Wolf. This show, where Monica Bellucci reads the intimate letters of the “golden voice”, was so successful in Paris that she traveled all over Europe with it, and soon to London, New York and Los Angeles.
Whoever was the first James Bond girl of 50 now takes on the role of another shattered fate, that of Anita Ekberg in The girl in the fountain by Antonio Panizzi. Neither biopic nor documentary, it is a mirror game between two divas… and three women: Anita, Sylvia (her character in The good life) and Monica. “It’s a bit like a masterclass, she explains, the process of an actress performing a part. We see her wondering if she should accept the character or not, how to approach the character, research her, prepare with her coach, with the director, work on her accent. At the same time, the public is rediscovering it through my eyes. There are flashbacks, archive footage.” It is also a mise-en-abyme of two eras and two galaxies: the 1950s and the present.
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“Thanks to these women, those of my generation have learned a lot,” continues Monica. Mainly to defend ourselves. At that time, when we had lost our youth and freshness, cinema was over. That’s the big change. Today careers are long… In Europe, however. Look at Helen Mirren, Judith Dench, Catherine Deneuve, Nathalie Baye, Isabelle Huppert, Fanny Ardant… My age opens doors for me, allows me to take on new, more varied roles. In Anita’s time, I just wouldn’t have had a chance to work. In my last movie, Memory, by Martin Campbell, an action thriller starring Liam Neeson, I really wanted to break the codes. For the first time I play a real tough, a power woman. I gained weight, accentuating my dark circles. Having fun by making yourself ugly is the prerogative of the age.
Monica and… Anita
“His parents would have deserved the Nobel Prize for architecture,” joked actor Bob Hope. However, nothing was destined that Kerstin Anita Ekberg, born in 1931 in Malmö, Sweden, into a family of eight children, would burst the screen. Voted Miss Sweden in 1950, she missed out on the title of Miss Universe but made a career in Hollywood, even receiving the Golden Globe in 1956 for her role in blood alley, where she shares the poster with John Wayne and Lauren Bacall. “When she arrives in Italy to shoot The good life, she’s already a star, says Monica. Beautiful, blond, modern, free, with her convertible bought with her money. Whoever Frank Sinatra called the iceberg shocked post-war Catholic Italy. Still, she chose to stay there.
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But the sweet life will not end for Anita Ekberg, who died in a hospice in 2015, alone and without money. “Even if she’s made other movies, including two with Fellini (Boccaccio 70 and interview), it has always been returned to the Trevi Fountain, a scene that has become iconic in world cinema. The good life gave him fame but became his prison, Monica laments. Yet she had talent. Life scratched the woman so much that the artist disappeared. But even when she talks about her grief, there is a kind of irony, lightness and innocence in her that certainly helped her survive. She says that men took everything from her and that her home movie is called The bitter life† I hope our film gives her back the respect she deserves.”
Monica and… Fellini
“Unfortunately, I never met him, but with… The girl in the fountainit’s a bit like i was turned The good life. (laughs) It is of course a reference. His cinema, which always swings back and forth between dream and reality, inspired me enormously. special La Dolce Vita, Eight and a Half, The Nights of Cabiria… Fellini managed to sublimate women in their difference. Giulietta Masina, Anouk Aimée, Anita Ekberg… None of them were the same, unlike Hitchcock’s heroines, but he loved them all and they are all beautiful in their own way. I’m from that Italian cinema. From this matrix, that of Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, Visconti. Anna Magnani’s, Monica Vitti’s… To come back to The good life, apart from the film, clearly legendary, which received the Palme d’Or in 1960, to me it really stands for glamour, partying until five in the morning, post-war youth having fun in response to the pain of war. But many lives were burned. It was also the heyday of Cinecittà. There were many exchanges between our two countries… Alain Delon, Annie Girardot, Jean-Louis Trintignant… Everyone worked in Italy and, conversely, actors like Marcello Mastroianni or Claudia Cardinale often shot in France. Today it is different, but there are still many talented directors in Italy, such as Paolo Sorrentino, Matteo Garrone and Alice Rohrwacher.
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Monica and… blondness
“A blond woman attracts attention, just from behind. She catches the light… Besides, the cinema is blond. My blond icons? Monica Vitti, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and of course Anita Ekberg. I haven’t been blonde in the cinema very often recently in The man who sold his skin by Kaouther Ben Hania (nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2020, editor’s note). I also wore a blonde wig in the series Ten percent † Anyway, I like the transformation, acting is my job. For this session we used ‘s wig The girl in the fountain. Thanks to John Nollet’s magical hands, it’s believed to be really my hair. He explained to me that this artisanal technique dates back to Louis XIV. It will take a month to custom it. We put it on like a glove. Glued to the skin with a tulle…” John Nollet adds: “In the cinema, the hair is a very important part of the game, like a dot on an i. On Monica it’s a blonde pale gold, very clear and a little golden. In Hollywood, the blond helmet was a little whiter, almost silver, because in black-and-white films, the hair became a reflector. In addition, the blond actresses often played with partners who were not so we saw them alone. We bleached and recolored… A real hair torture. Today, since, among others, Christophe Robin, blondes are deeper and more natural… We keep the roots darker to match the complexion and eyebrows, to give relief.
“I have been there many times, as an actress, master of ceremonies and even a member of the jury. The first time was in 2000 for the movie suspicious, by Stephen Hopkins. I especially remember my emotion walking up the stairs with Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman. Then of course I came back for irreversible, by Gaspar Noé… I remember the riots, the scandal, the mixed love and hate. And look, it has become a cult film. Without him I would never have made the same journey. Cannes is the most important festival in the world where low-budget films can have a great future.
Monica and… motherhood
During this interview, Monica wants to find her daughter Léonie (12), who is waiting for her at home on Saturday evening. Deva, the eldest, starting her career in fashion, is in London. Monica tries to let go of him without ever letting go. “I have no advice to give in this area. Being a mother is a gift from yourself, and even by trying to do the best you can, you cannot avoid mistakes. What is certain is that my daughters are the people who matter most in the world. Because I got them late, I was able to work less and spend less time with them, even though sometimes the filming didn’t always make it there at the right time. It also empowers them to see me happy, fulfilled and passionate about my work. But of course I carry with me the Italian culture where the child is king, with the good and the bad sides. I am very protective. Eat well, sleep well… which they sometimes find a bit “boring”. In addition, we speak French at home, but argue in Italian! Today I don’t know which path Deva and Léonie will take, but I have the feeling that they already have an undeniable artistic sensibility. In my last movie, Memory, I play a negative mother, the exact opposite of me. In the cinema, one of the most beautiful roles of a mother in my eyes is that of Sophia Loren in la ciociara, by Vittorio De Sica.