Now this is what you call a Felliniesque situation.
An annoying paparazzo who has tried to intercept the Italian diva around the city all day long, has come to know about my meeting with her in a deconsecrated church in Lucca, which is Lucca Film Festival and Europe Cinema’s press office. To him, I don’t deserve the slot for the interview. “This kids steal our job”, he claims. Somebody opens the front door of the church and soon closes it. The paparazzo is left outside. It’s my turn. A smiling Valeria Golino heads for me and invites me to go outside, towards the courtyard, where she lights herself a cigarette. “Unless they’re looking at us from above, now you can tell me whatever you want. C’mon, my friend, tell me”.
In Los Angeles, the movie industry and the theories it involves, rule everything. For example, some casting managers organize workshop and paid auditions and take advantage of many actors, stoking their illusions. How did you live your experience in Los Angeles? Did you feel any kind of pressure?
That’s the underworld of our job. Even in Rome, in a minor scale, things like that happen between agencies, photographic studios and fake castings. I feel lucky because I have never put up with these things, since I entered this world from the main door. But I went for so many auditions. In America, despite I was the lame horse, I showed up, fearless, for many roles that were originally thought for American actresses.
Sometimes it went good, like for Rain Man, when they also rewrote my character, that was different in the first script phase. But it went wrong nearly always. In those years, I played in 17 movies and I went for more than 100 auditions. But I worked, I had a beautiful house and many friends: I was not in a desperate situation, like many others were and still are.
I had “luxury” problems like: will I ever be able to play in Ridley Scott’s movie? And James Cameron’s? I didn’t lack for food, I used to live pretty well and with all the comforts I needed. And that’s why I left that city. I was getting used to that lifestyle which was too wealthy and sometimes I had to reach compromises to maintain it. I saw many people swallowed up in this swirl. I have always been scared by this, but I can say that in general my experience was positive.
We can say that for a twist of fate you made your debut in 1983 with Lina Wertmüller in A Joke of Destiny. You were less than 18 and you were 20 when you won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for Citto Masselli’s A Tale of Love. Then, you went for America. Since you were a self-taught actress, how did you feel to rush into things, in comparison to who was still studying for the job you were already able to do?
I felt good! My debut happened as if it was a sign of fate with Lina Wertmüller; I was still at the high school. Soon after, the first Volpi Cup arrived, I was 19. I think I’m the youngest winner of the cup and the only to have won it twice, together with Shirley MacLaine and Isabelle Huppert. I’m not red-haired though (she laughs, e.d.). Albero Barbera told me so, last year.
I think that being successful when you are young is great. The idea that people need to work their way up the ladder is something deeply rooted in the moralism of our common sense, and this happens in every field, not only cinema. To me, it’s not necessary, if your ideas are clear since the beginning. As long as you don’t go off the rails! It’s better if you find yourself working and trying to hold on your success rather than seeing doors constantly shut on your face, losing any kind of motivation. If you are successful when you’re young, you run the risk of becoming a flash in the pan. How can you resist throughout years, while things that can work good or bad? Sometimes I got the part though I didn’t stand out in the auditions; in other cases, I worked so hard to embody a certain character to be sure to obtain the role, but then I didn’t. You can’t explain these things. When they turn you down, you think you are not worthy enough. Actually, when things like this happen, they have anything to do with your talent. It is often a matter of luck and basically I feel lucky.
One of your last movies in L.A. was Escape From L.A. by John Carpenter. Shortly after, you went away. Was it a coincidence?
I made an impulsive decision, based on how I felt in that moment, like every crucial choice we make: they are often based on shallow moods, that easily change. I regret I sold that beautiful house on Mulholland Drive. If I had kept it, I would have been rich now (laughs again, e.d.). There are things in life we can’t control. We constantly make choices, that are often irrational and that are not the best. You realize it only if you think backwards. Then, you understand that some things were unavoidable, and that you can’t go back in time. That’s life. And I like it this way. If we tried to explain even this, we wouldn’t figure it out. I’m still vey bonded to Los Angeles. It shouldn’t be a place to which you become attached because it’s the very opposite of our European cities: the non-place, non-square, non-centrality par excellance. It can also be a very dangerous city, for what it inspires you to be. You get lost easily. But Los Angeles was clement to me: I spent some fun years there. I want to paraphrase Cohen’s No Country For Old Men and I tell you that L.A. is not a city of middle-aged women (she laughs, e.d.). I would never go to look for success to L.A now. But when you’re 25, it’s different.
Let’s move to your Naples, where you recently shoot Armandino e il Madre and you played in Giuseppe M. Gaudino’s Per Amor Vostro, for which you won your second Volpi Cup in Venice, in 2015. A dear Neapolitan friend of mine wrote that Parthenope is the only place where he has seen the logic ending and the illogic becoming the law. I think that Armandino e il Madre is interesting in this sense: it combines a popular side, embodied by Armandino and his brother, and an exclusive one, that we can find in the figure of a French intern at Madre museum.
Maybe only in Naples it’s possible to find this relationship that seems to be absurd in other places, even in art itself. Many other things that sound as inconceivable in other cities are possible in Naples. The magic is real thanks to the mixture of territory, architecture, people and traditions. The city constantly lives its own legend thanks to the coexistence of misery and nobility. Everything you can think and say about Naples it’s true, even the worst things, but there’s always something new to discover.
Translation by Bianca Baroni