The Matrix has Monica
Monica Bellucci made her Hollywood film debut 11 years ago in a small role in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula. Her job? Kiss Keanu Reeves.
In the Wachowski Brothers' eagerly awaited sci-fi sequel, The Matrix Reloaded (due in select theatres late May 14 and everywhere on May 15), Bellucci plays a sexy cyber-temptress named Persephone. Her job? Betray her evil husband (Lambert Wilson) and kiss Keanu Reeves.
"For me, it was funny," Bellucci says of working in Dracula, "because, at the time, I was so far away from the movie business. You know, I never thought I could be an actress. I was just a model who Francis Ford Coppola saw in a picture and I jumped into that movie and all I had to do was to kiss Keanu Reeves, who, at the time, was already a movie star.
"And now I'm back here and I get to kiss him again. It's like a circle."
Now the 34-year-old Bellucci herself is a movie star, both in America (Tears Of The Sun and both Matrix sequels) and in Europe, especially in her native Italy and in her adopted country of France, where she moved to expand her career and marry French actor Vincent Cassel.
Kissing Reeves was a bonus reward in The Matrix Reloaded, which shows how Neo tries to lead Morpheus et al to the Truth about the Matrix, the master computer that controls and threatens mankind with extinction.
"We had to do the scene maybe 20 times, 50 times, I don't know, many, many times (she later admits she was 'kidding' about doing the scene 50 times). Keanu is a good kisser, so it wasn't painful. It's so funny because in our work we have to get so intimate with people we don't know."
Bellucci, however, is clearly a strong, passionate woman at ease with her body and her sensuality.
She had the guts to be the naked victim in the infamous nine-minute rape scene in Irreversible, a French film in which she co-starred with Cassel.
Today, for the interview, she is bra-less and her bosoms are ready to burst the one button still holding them into a tight, white shirt.
Meanwhile, in The Matrix Reloaded, she is stuffed into a form-fitting but classic ballroom gown.
At the same time, the well-educated Bellucci, who studied law in Italy before branching into modeling and acting, is both philosophical and giddy about the movie trilogy.
"I'm a big fan of Larry and Andy (Wachowski) from when I saw Bound, because Bound was a big hit in Europe. Of course, when I saw The Matrix, I fell in love, like everybody. And to have the chance to be a part of this movie is a big thing for me because The Matrix is a film that everybody is waiting for, not just in America but also in Europe.
"It's a film that represents a generation. This film is much more than an action movie.
"It's more than a beautiful visual movie. It's a philosophy of life. It's a deep meaning. There's something very religious about it."
As for her own role — aside from the forced flirtation with Reeves as the Christ-like Neo — Bellucci sees great sadness in her, just as there was in the Greek goddess she was named for, "because nothing is a coincidence in this movie."
Says Bellucci: "There is something really sad and really tragic about her. It's sensual. She's dangerous, but she's also desperate."
And she will be back in The Matrix Revolutions in November. The role is striking but no bigger than in Reloaded. No matter, says Bellucci.
"I'm excited to be part of the film. If you are in the movie for 15 minutes or one hour-and-a-half, to me the most important thing is that I have something to play and (that) I can give life to something. Because the pleasure is to act.
"The pleasure is to be a part of something that you believe in."