Monica Bellucci: 'Tim Burton is a beautiful soul and I'm very happy with him'


The former Bond girl and 'alter ego' of Maria Callas approaches 60 with a slew of projects, including a documentary about the opera singer

Monica Bellucci at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival in 2019.
Monica Bellucci at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival in 2019.SHUTTERSTOCK

Monica Bellucci speaks with a silky voice as she apologizes and requests to postpone the interview. She just arrived in Città di Castello, central Italy, and a crowd of cousins and relatives awaits, eager to celebrate her. More than 30 will gather around the lunch table. We reconnect in the late afternoon. Bellucci is more relaxed, still thrilled with a turn in her career that has brought her back to her roots, to the city where she was born, to the country she considers "home," alongside France.

The actress recently participated in the Rome Film Festival, where she presented Diabolik chi sei? by Manetti Bros and Maria Callas: lettere e memorie, a documentary about the three-year theatrical tour where she portrayed the Diva. At that red carpet event, everyone was struck by the images of intimacy and tenderness as she and her partner, Tim Burton, unveiled their love to the public eye. If the Italian actress appeared in all her splendor, the American director couldn't hide his sheer joy.

QUESTION. What can you share about this love?

ANSWER. It's always tough to talk about a private matter. All I can say is that for me, Tim has been a special human encounter: he is a beautiful soul, and I'm very happy.

Q. At 40, you became a mother, at 50, a Bond Girl. At 60, what do you want to do? Perhaps get married again?

A. There's still a year left! The important thing for me is to continue feeling good and doing things I love and find stimulating. Have you forgotten, for instance, that at 45 I became a mother for the second time and at 55, I did theater for the first time, portraying Maria Callas?

Bellucci is also gracing streaming platforms these weeks with 'Mafia Mamma,' the comedy by Catherine Hardwicke, co-starring Toni Collette. "Working with Toni has been a wonderful experience. She loves Italy and has been very kind to us here. Our roles are very ironic. It's been fun to meet in this world we know well: Who among us hasn't seen Coppola or Scorsese's films about the mafia? But here, the twist is entirely feminine, light, and brilliant," she shares.

Q. Nowadays, it's increasingly common for you to work with female directors. What's the difference compared to working with men?

A. Being a director in Hollywood isn't always easy, and Catherine Hardwicke has proven to be very strong in a complicated world. She's built her career weaving through many different universes. I've also just finished shooting Marjane Satrapi's new movie, a beautiful experience. Here, women sometimes manage to touch on very intimate themes that only they can narrate. A striking example is 'El placer es todo mío.' With Emma Thompson, directed by Sophie Hyde.

Q. What kind of film is that?

A. It's a very subtle and intimate film, delving into a world that only women can touch. Emma Thompson had a lot of sensitivity and strength to make a film like this. It bears witness to the attitude of many women accepting the changes of time, changes that are also very natural... In this sense, it struck me as a film going against the grain, depicting femininity with modesty on one side and extreme freedom on the other. It's a new path.

Q. What's your relationship with aging?

A. I'm like everyone else. I tell myself that waging war against something too powerful for us is futile. Everyone has their way of dealing with aging, but just saying that time passes, you're lucky. I wake up, and I'm well, my daughters are well, and I think that's the most important thing. My daughter Deva enjoys acting, and that excites me. Léonie is only 13 and has a very artistic sensitivity. We'll see...

Q. What did you feel seeing your daughter Deva in 'La bella estate'?

A. Deva's performance impacted and moved me. The film felt delicate, sensitive, profound, elegant, and a wonderful experience for her. Laura [director Luchetti] accompanied her with extreme care, protected her. It makes me happy to know that Deva is happy. Working on 'Il Gattopardo' is also an incredible experience for her. And she continues in the world of fashion: she feels free to navigate without necessarily closing any doors.

Q. Have you ever visited her on set?

A. I was with her when she filmed 'La bella estate,' but not on set. However, for 'Il Gattopardo,' I only saw her in Rome. I think it's good for her to live freely without feeling the weight on her shoulders.

Q. You have more than one home in different countries. What's something that's never missing in each of them?

A. In my home, there's never a shortage of pasta, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, mozzarella, serrano and cotto ham—things I can whip up for dinner in a second when I arrive home late.

Q. In your Paris kitchen, there's a photo of Sophia Loren. Have you ever met her?

A. By chance, twice, in passing. But I don't need to talk to her; she's so wonderful that she lives in my imagination.

Q. You're her natural heir: the most famous Italian in the world.

A. It's always very difficult to describe oneself. Nowadays, there's a different way of living the image compared to the past. I have a passion for what I do, but as I grow older, I distance myself more from things. I like my work, and I want to live my life.

Q. I've seen they attribute 80 films to you. Do you ever think about the past and the criticisms you received from Francesco Laudadio, the director of your film debut, 'La riffa'?

A. Are there really that many? I've never counted. Looking back, I see a journey. I realize I've been very lucky: firstly, to start. I came from the world of fashion and landed in cinema without any preparation. I look at this with amazement. I had the opportunity to work with people who helped me grow, with different directors. Even theater was an incredible experience, with the Maria Callas tour that lasted three years. The show began at the Marigny theater in Paris and then became a tour in three languages, ending up as the movie we premiered at the Rome Festival.

Q. Is there a role you would have liked to portray?

A. No, but I dreamed of being an actress watching our greats like Anna Magnani and Giulietta Masina, Gina Lollobrigida, and Sophia Loren. Later, I discovered French and American actresses, but my desire for cinema came from those beautiful films we all know.

Q. You seem perfect. But do you wear heels at home too?

A. No, I have some very nice slippers. And in the morning, I take my daughter to school in low boots.

Q. Do you somatize when you're nervous or anxious, like us mortals?

A. I'm just a mortal. When I did theater, it was a great pleasure but also great suffering: it's a live performance, there's this truth where the actor becomes transparent, feeling the emotion that passes from them to the audience. There's this very subtle and sincere relationship with the audience that you can't betray. It's a very beautiful experience but also painful because you don't have any defense.

Q. Does the same happen with movies?

A. Yes, in the first few days, there's a very strong sensation, and then gradually you merge into the group, creating a beautiful symbiosis with everyone. In movies, you're much more protected than in theater.

Q. Have you ever been moved working with actors you considered "great"?

A. It happened when I was very young, for example, in 'Under Suspicion' with Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman, who were two sacred monsters for me.

Q. Which award holds a special place in your heart?

A. My David di Donatello.

Q. One might have thought the Legion of Honor.

A. No, that one is more symbolic. The David is for my work.