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Exclusive Interview with

Giovanna Mezzogiorno Actress-Director By John Rizzo When we glance at the tabloids that line the supermarket checkout counter, or view the latest gossip item on our favorite news shows, and hear about the latest antics of this or that movie actress, what do we really think about them. That they are mostly empty brained bimbos that can’t seem to stay out of trouble? Sometimes, I guess. But we also realize that there are a number of ladies of the silver screen who are truly outstanding artists—and actually regular folks when it comes right down to it. One of these is the Italian movie star, Giovanna Mezzogiorno. “I like to live simply,” she claims. “When I am not working I just like to be at home, or to visit my mother. I like to be as normal as I can. For example, I often love to cook for people.” For Giovanna, “home” could mean Rome, Milan or Paris—she maintains residences in all three cities. So which is her favorite? While she was not as unequivocal on this issue as I had hoped, you get the feeling that she has the greatest heartfelt sentiment for Milan. “I love Milan very much. This is the town of my mother and my high school.” Although Giovanna Mezzogiorno is currently recognized as Italy’s top film actress, and both her mother and father were professional actors, her training and early background were in ballet.. But to be successful in this demanding field, you must have a personality that can endure “the strange world of ballet,” as Giovanna puts it. “It’s not real, not for me.” Any type of performer in the professional theater can confirm that the ballet demi-monde is a very

closed society. “The relationships in acting are much more human and personal.” A true Thespian cannot shroud his or her feelings in a vague sub-culture, but must bare them for all to see. This is the kind of woman Giovanna Mezzogiorno is. Another signature characteristic of the pure actor is to accept whatever challenge comes along, no matter what the role may be. “I have no particular inclination for certain colleagues to work with or roles to play,” Mezzogiorno asserts. “I have no preference. I am very open. I am very satisfied with what I have done so far.” And what has she done so far? She has appeared in a very wide variety of roles in over 30 stage, movie and television productions. Almost all of these are Italian or European ventures, although she starred recently in the acclaimed American film Love in the Time of Cholera (2007). In this film she showcased her incredible technique by portraying a character that ages more than 50 years in the course of the story. Her favorite film to date is the very highly esteemed Vincere (2009), which, she informs us, has been “distributed in the U.S. It has a very strong story, in which I play a very colorful character. It was a real challenge for me.” Of the numerous awards Giovanna Mezzogiorno has won, there is one that caught my eye, with which, being an American, I was totally unfamiliar. This is the David di Donatello Award. I know the Donatello sculpture, an extremely famous and beautiful bronze piece that depicts David in the nude, prominently located in the Bargello in Florence. But I had never heard of the award, and assumed it was some relatively quaint and unimportant distinction. But according to Giovanna, “It is the most important award in Italian cinema.” Nominated for this award six times (five for Best Actress, once for Best Supporting Actress) she won this prestigious honor in 2003 for Best Actress (Migliore Attrice Protagonista) in La finestra di fronte (Facing Windows). Other important awards she has won are: 1998, Venice Film Festival, (Best Actress), and 1999, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists (Best Actress), for Del perduto amore; 2001, Flaiano Film Festival (Best Actress), for L’ultimo Bacio; 2003, European Film Awards, Flaiano Film Festival, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and 2004, Bangkok Film Festival (Best Actress) for La finestra di fronte; 2003, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists (Best Actress), for Il più crudele dei giorni; 2005,Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists (Best Supporting Actress), for L’amore ritorna; 2005, Venice Film Festival (Best Actress), for La bestia nel cuore; and 2009, Chicago International Film Festival, Golden Globes, Italy and Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists (Best Actress), for Vincere. Personally and professionally, Giovanna takes the greatest sat


isfaction in winning the coveted Coppa di Volpi at the Venice Film Festival in 2005. This award had been previously won by legendary movie greats Bette Davis, Shirley Maclaine, Catherine Deneuve and Sophia Loren. What made winning this prize especially fulfilling was that she was competing that year with European super celebrity, French actress Isabelle Huppert. Although many film actors avoid live stage acting, perhaps out of fear would Giovanna take on live theater again? “Absolutely,” she says. “I’m very open to doing it again. Each kind of acting presents its own set of problems,” and, genuine dramatic artist that she is, she’s ready to meet this challenge as she has done before. Giovanna has also performed numerous times on television. Her most memorable TV role was a small one, but it’s a part “I will remember all my life,” she says, because of her work with John Malkovich. The production was a made-for-TV version of Les Miserables, shot in France and the Czech Republic. “I only had one scene but [Malkovich] was very nice to me. One night we all went out together for dinner. Because he was so supportive I was not scared.” The actress handles her fame naturally, perhaps because she (unlike many of the tabloid bimbos we mentioned earlier), actually keeps a very low profile when she’s not making films. “Being famous as an actress is not a problem for me,” Giovanna reveals. “I live my life as privately as possible. Sometimes people come up to me in the street, but I have not encountered any really obsessive behavior.” You’d think that a woman as beautiful and well put together as Giovanna Mezzogiorno would have a personal trainer and be on a very strict diet regimen. Wrong! “I’m a terribly lazy person,” she admits. “Maybe, in the future, when I get older, I’ll need this.

Who knows?” There. We finally found something to dislike about her. It sounds like she’s one of those people who can eat and drink whatever they want and it won’t affect them negatively! (Just kidding!) Besides having worked with John Malkovich, Giovanna has another Chicago connection. When she got married last year Chicago was one of the two American cities in which she spent some time on her honeymoon. Although she has no children yet, “Of course I hope to have children soon,” she declares. Giovanna Mezzogiorno may have a private domestic life, but she is not adverse to publicizing the fact that she has two tattoos, one on each of her inner ankles. One is a picture of the letter “V,” which is the first initial of her late Campagnese father, Vittorio, who not surprisingly, was a famous actor in his own right and a very dynamic man. The other tattoo pictures the Scorpio Zodiac symbol, Giovanna’s sign. When asked about them she said, rather enigmatically, “In different phases of my life I wanted these tattoos on my body because they mean a lot to me. I express my feelings from the tattoos.” It is understandable, perhaps, that she would want some kind of reference to a strong father. But who knows how important her personal astrological sign is to her? She certainly doesn’t discuss it. Yet she reveals the existence of the body art on her web site. In the end, it is fitting for one who makes her living so well at creating illusions to present this mystery to her public. There is no mystery, however, about what she is. Giovanna Mezzogiorno is one phenominal, talented actress!

Scenes from the movie Love in the Time of Cholera Spring 2011 / 3

Giovanna Mezzogiorno  

Interview with Giovanna Mezzogiorno