Monica Bellucci interview
by Burly Brawlin' Smilin' Jack Ruby
Okay, so something just impossibly fucked up happened last night.
Like really fucked up. After seeing The Matrix Reloaded for the first time, I was like, "Wow, yeah, it's great, but the pacing is off and there are long philosophical meanderings that stop the movie cold after awhile. What the fuck?" It was something I talked about on the boards, something I talked about with the other members of press at the junket and it just kind of bugged me right and left.
Well, I saw Reloaded again last night (I must suck a LOT of Warner Brother cock, huh?) and it was night-and-day. I had zero problems with the pacing, the speeches, anything at all. I watched the movie and was like, "Wow, this is one of my favorite movies of the year, bar-none." WHA???
Yeah, it kind of shook me up a bit as things that really troubled me didn't the second time around. I was like, wait a minute. When the fuck did that ever happen before? The guy I saw the movie with had a lot of the same problems I had with it the first time around and was left cold by the flick, but I kept saying, "See it again!" Luckily, after the screening there was a second screening and who should be in line, but my pal David Poland (it was his third time seeing it). I said, "My God! It's 500 million times better when you see it a second time! What the FUCK?" He was like, "I know!!!"
I talked to a few more press types that had seen the movie twice and we were all like, "What the hell? What changed?" Well, one theory is that our expectations were in check. Another theory is, that, well...once you know the ending, the movie is completely different and operates on a different level (speeches from the Merovingian and the Oracle take on different meanings). But when you get to the end of a movie like The Usual Suspects, you track it back and are like, "Oh, okay. It makes sense! What a great puzzle box movie." With The Matrix Reloaded, it's such a fucked up movie to wrap your head around that I genuinely think – after seeing the first movie – you're simply not ready to see this as a sequel as it is so impossibly far-removed from the first one.
But whatever. There will be those who say that I'm just too big a Lord Joel fan to have any perspective on this (wouldn't it just be the GENIUS of Lord Joel to create a movie that absolutely requires its audience to see the film twice in order to ENFORCE two viewings and thereby, double the box office?), but whatever. I know what I saw. I love The Matrix Reloaded now, something I couldn't say before. I really, really think this is a Great Film. End of story. How weird is that?
Anyway, that's just a prelude to the main event, right? I'd never met Monica Bellucci before. I think she is one of the single most beautiful women working in film today (not anywhere near as beautiful as my girlfriend, of course, and as she occasionally reads the site, I felt I needed to add that) and I was looking forward to meeting her even though her appearance in Reloaded was little more than a cameo. Bellucci plays Persephone, the somewhat captive bride (read your mythology) of the Merovingian who plays a very important role in how Neo and the crew gets ahold of the Keymaker (it all makes sense when you see the movie). It's not a big part, but it's fun and DAMN if she ain't fine. F.I.N.E. Fine. Thank you. Good night.
Anyway, when Monica showed up at the junket, we thought it was over and were packing up. Then, a tall woman in black pants wearing a see-through linen shirt walked up to the table and had a seat, so we knew the junket was not only not over, but that...oh, nevermind. Bellucci comes off as being rather intelligent, rather well-spoken, and marvelously European. She's just everything you might expect her to be.
We started off, after gawking like mad men, asking Bellucci about her character in the film – but she was really intent on avoiding spoilers. "All I can say is that I'm very happy to be part of this project because I'm a big fan of Larry and Andy Wachowski and because [of] Bound, Bound was a big hit in Europe," Bellucci enthused. "When I saw Matrix, of course, I sat in love like everybody. And when I came out from the theater, I said to myself, 'I would love to be in a movie like that.' But I didn't know at the time that it was possible. It was four years ago, '99 it came out. Then Malena came out in America and the Wachowski brothers wanted to see me. Actually, today, when I see Persephone I understand why because the way she dressed, the way she talked, the way she walked was very Malena. And then I had a great time working with them, with the Wachowski brothers because they are completely in control. I come from Europe, a European school. For me, the directors are in control of the situation. Sometimes in America it's different because the producer has so much power, because the actor has so much power. Sometimes the actor will tell the director where to put the camera. Not in Europe, it doesn't exist because it's the director who is in control of the situation. And the Wachowski brothers feel that if they do whatever they want. If they need 20 takes or 40 takes, they do. If they don't like something, they're going to re-shoot the day after. And I love to work like that because I feel protected. I feel that I'm working with someone who's completely in control of the situation. So, and of course, it was great working with Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Ann Moss because Laurence to me is The Lion King (S.J.R. Note: In case you were wondering, no, Fishburne had nothing to do with The Lion King). He has such big presence. He'll take care of you. He's so protective. I mean, you are always scared when you come from Europe and you're in a movie where the actors have been working already together. It's like I'm going to feel out of the story, I don't know how it's going to be. And they were so, so nice. And Carrie is more shy, but has such a big heart. Carrie-Anne, we get along so well. When I saw her in Matrix, it was incredible how you can see an actress in an action movie where she can be strong and feminine at the same time. At the same time, it was a new representation of the woman in an action movie. And the Wachowski brothers respect women, because even in Bound, the female characters were so beautiful. And, my character, Persephone, nothing is a coincidence in this movie. What the actors do and also the name of the actor is never a coincidence. Persephone, I'm sure as you know, comes from the Greek mythology. Persephone is the daughter of the king of the gods, Zeus and the goddess of fertility, Demeter. She was kidnapped by the king of the underworld, Hades, to be his queen. She was allowed to come back into the living world just part of the year. This story means a lot to understand my character who is an old program who comes from an old matrix. So, she's not human, but she wants human emotions. So, she doesn't have feelings anymore but she can feel something just touching, just through the others. So, there is something really sad or really tragic about her. So, when people say oh, she's an evil character. No, she's not evil. She's desperate. There is something so tragic and so sad about this character." So, she helps them? "Yeah, but it's a game," Bellucci admitted. "It's so great with Lambert Wilson (who plays the Merovingian) in the movie. I think he's so funny and so beautiful, what he does."
Naturally, the question came up about the Wachowskis, next... "Larry and Andy are so mysterious, both of them," the equally mysterious Bellucci replied. "It's so mysterious. And actually, I'm so sad that I didn't have time to get deep in the relation with them because I would love to know where Matrix is coming from. Which kind of philosophies they read. I would like to know because this film is much more than a visual movie. It's much more than a beautiful special effects movie. There is a deep meaning, a philosophy of life and a story about love. It's what man is looking for inside himself and is looking for answers. It's very religious, because the Keymaker says, 'I'm here because I have to be here. This is my meaning, like all of us. We all have a different meaning.' There is something really religious about this movie."
Next, we asked her if she was bummed that she didn't get to do any martial arts. "Yeah, but [this dress] would be so difficult to do martial arts in," she said. Tell us about the dress. "My character was Kym Barrett's idea," Bellucci continued. "I mean, I went to Australia and the dress was ready. I just put the dress on and Persephone was there. Also, the way you had to walk, the way she has to move, I couldn't sit, I couldn't do anything. That's the way she has to be straight and everything, it helped me to play the character."
As we asked pretty much everyone this as they always came back with great answers, we asked Monica what she thought about the philosophies presented in the movie. "I come from a Catholic religion, but I'm not Catholic," smiled Bellucci. "But like everybody, I'm looking for answers, so in a different way, I think we all recognize ourselves in the characters. It's incredible because sometimes even in each movie I do, there is always meanings like that. When we did press for Irreversible, we talked a lot about life and the meaning of things. I just finished Passion with Mel Gibson. There are all these things about meaning." Uh-oh. The Passion. Is the film anti-Semitic? "No," Bellucci said. "I heard there are so many controversial subjects already about Passion. I don't know. I don't know why. I mean, I love controversial things, but visually it's going to be so beautiful, the film. And the story, it'll be something we all know. It won't be nothing against Jews absolutely, because actually, the Romans killed Jesus. The Romans put Jesus on the cross, not the Jews." So, as an Italian, are you offended? "No," laughed Bellucci. "I didn't do it. Just my old, old, old [ancestors]!"
As it's an interesting subject (and yeah, I had an interest from stomping around the on the set there – see here), we kept talking about The Passion and whether it will feel like an American film or a European one? "It's an American film, but with many European actors shooting in Europe," said Bellucci. "So, for me it was an American film in Italy which was great because this is my country so I didn't have to move. And it was great to work in Cinecitta and it was beautiful. All those people coming from everywhere and different religions. We are Christian and Orthodox and Jews and Muslims. There were people from every different religion to be part of the same movie. So, it was a different experience not just as an actor, but also as a human, to be part of such diversity." What source material does the film come from? "I have no idea," she replied.
Finally, we asked her if she would have to choose between being an American actress with stuff like Tears of the Sun, The Passion and The Matrix Reloaded and a European one, with stuff like Irreversible, Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, Ricordati di Me and the currently filming Agents Secrets, which Monica has cut her hair short (around her shoulders) for. "I can't," said Bellucci. "Because, for example, now I want to have a big break after June, after Cannes. I want to make a big break because I've done too many things. I need to take a break for me. Because I think acting is the interpretation of life, but you need to live. You can't just be on sets and planes and hotels. I need to take a break and have a few beautiful things. I just want to make my choice. I don't want to be in a rush to follow anything or to take points, or a goal. I just want to do what I feel, to work with who I want. I have more choices because I move from different- - Italy, France, America. I don't feel under pressure and I don't want to feel under pressure. As I said, I love America, but I feel European, so I need to keep working in Italian films and French films and do American films if I find the right character because I'm European. So, I have to find a character that fits for me. I'm not ready to accept anything just because it's American. I want to do things where I feel comfortable."
And that's the absolutely stunningly beautiful Monica Bellucci. Her new film, The Matrix Reloaded, hits theaters next week on Thursday, May 15th, though theaters nationwide are banking on Wednesday midnight screenings as well. Next up on Tales From the Junket Circuit, well, who the hell knows? Maybe Keanu, maybe the Animatrix guys. We'll see. It's going to be a busy weekend and let's just see if I survive seeing The Dan Band tonight.