Monica Bellucci flew into Rome for one night to receive the Fondazione Cinema per Roma’s Virna Lisi Award, which honors an actress who has made an impact in Italian and global cinema.
Bellucci sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to speak about her career thus far, why the age conversation around her role as a Bond girl in Spectre was so important and why she thinks it’s so important now for women to come forward about harassment and assault.
On accepting the award, Bellucci said, “It means a lot because Virna Lisi is an actress that I respect very much. She is an Italian international icon. For me, she represents an aspiration, for her talent of course, her intelligence, her beauty and her elegance. So I’m really honored and moved that I’m receiving this prize.”
Bellucci’s career in many ways mirrors that of Lisi’s. As Italian actresses who achieved global fame, they worked to avoid being typecast as bombshells by seeking out complex roles.
Bellucci is next scheduled to fly to Australia to film Nekromancer from brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner. “I’m playing a mean, mean, mean, horrible woman for the first time,” she said of the role, laughing. “I’m always very surprised to see how directors from so far away think about you for a role.”
And next year she’ll head to the U.S. to promote the release of Emir Kusturica’s On the Milky Road, a film that required her to learn Serbian.
Bellucci has also been making waves with American TV, from a role as an opera singer in Mozart In the Jungle to a cameo in Twin Peaks: The Return. And while her entry into the mind of Gordon Cole was just for one scene, she said it was a significant role for her. “With David Lynch, everything becomes magic. It is just a moment out of nowhere, talking about dreams.”
“I think that for me maybe it was important to do that because I think I am my dream. I was a little girl, dreaming about cinema, and I wanted to be an actress and this is what I do for a living. So of course I was ready to talk about dreams.”
Bellucci, these days, is more focused on raising her two daughters than on her career, and limits her acting to one film per year, one that she says she chooses on instinct. And while she still wants to produce some day, she says she has no desire to direct. On whether she wants to return to the Bond universe and the role that made her an icon for actresses over 50, she said simply, “I can’t say anything about that.”
She added: “Being in Bond was an amazing experience and I loved working with Daniel Craig. He was an amazing partner, so respectful.”
She also believes that the conversation around Spectre, of a woman over 50 playing a Bond girl, was a huge step forward for women in the industry. “Today women can have great roles, strong roles, feminine roles after 50, 60, 70, even 80. So cinema is finally representing society,” she said. “It means that things are really changing.”
Bellucci, who has worked since she was a teenager, first as a model and then as an actress, had much to say about the current wave of women speaking out in Hollywood against sexual assault and harassment. “I can say I am so happy that I have two kids, two girls, and they are born in this period of time,” she said. “It’s important that women now come out and have the courage to talk and to say things that surpass the fear, because our fear is something that is in our DNA.”
She added that she hates how Harvey Weinstein’s accusers have been victim-shamed and criticized for not speaking out sooner. “People are asking, ‘why didn’t these women come out before? Why didn’t they say something right away?’ When a bird is in a cage for a long time, even when you open the cage, it doesn’t go out,” she says. “And so to come out from that is something that has to change inside. It takes so much time to come out and have the courage to talk.”
On whether she has experienced harassment over the course of her career, she replies, “Of course. I don’t think there is one woman in the world who hasn’t experienced this to some degree. So I think when you are a woman, you know from a very young age how to deal with those attitudes. In some cases, you think that it is almost normal because it happens so often. But it’s not normal. What we have to teach our children is that it’s not normal.”
“As a mother we have to teach our kids how to see these situations before they can happen and how to face them. And don’t feel as if you are guilty of something,” she said.
“When we were kids, sometimes they didn’t explain enough to us that it is not our fault. Because they teach us how to dress or how to behave in order not to provoke. But we have to explain to men that they can’t act like that,” she continued. “It’s not on women that we have to cover ourselves, or we have to avoid creating a situation that can provoke men. The men have to learn how to stay in their place.”
Bellucci has worked on several Miramax films over the years including The Brothers Grimm and Malena. On her specific experience with Harvey Weinstein, she said, “I didn’t have to deal with those kinds of situations because I knew already how to handle them. Because when you are a pretty woman and you are in a type of work where your image is part of the work, of course you learn how to deal with situations.”
“I spoke once with a very famous psychologist and he told me that sometimes with powerful men, it’s as if there are two personalities in one person. So one part is absolutely normal, even more than normal, even brilliant. And the other part is not normal, it’s like an animal,” she said. “So when you meet those kinds of people you have to try to deal with the normal part. Because I think sometimes when men are in power they think that everything is possible and there are no limits to their behaviors.”
Bellucci said she feels that there has been significant change even already. “I think things are really changing in just a few months. Because as a woman, I don’t know about you, but as a woman when I go around I feel already that the attitude is changing,” she said. “Maybe the attitude is more … aware. Things are changing already. When I go to the airport, when I go to restaurants, I start to feel something, more respect … people are more gentle.”
“The attitude now is like, ‘We have to be careful.’ I can feel that it’s getting better,” she said, acknowledging also that it may be too soon to tell if there will be real change within the industry. “But then, of course, we have to see what is real, what is not real. We have to see everything.”