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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Conversation with Claudia Gerini

She is a stunning Italian superstar who sings, dances and acts. But this triple threat is a self proclaimed tomboy at heart and enjoyed a simple, normal life growing up in the suburbs of Rome. Claudia Gerini always had a desire to be in front of the camera, and knew that one day her dream would come true. That confidence along with the support of her family led her down a path that has made her a household name in Italy.

Gerini launched her career as a showgirl before landing her first television and movie roles. Every star has a breakout role, and for Gerini that role was in Carlo Verdone's 1995 comedy, "Viaggi di nozze" (Honeymoon). The film was released at Christmastime in Italy and catapulted her to fame. Verdone was so taken with Gerini's talent, that he invited her not long afterward to team up with him again in "Sono pazzo di Iris Blond" (Iris Blond). The follow up film proved to be another blockbuster establishing Gerini as an actress that was here to stay.

Although she has a great talent for comedy, Gerini also enjoys doing drama and has pursued that interest on both sides of the Atlantic. She played the role of Claudia in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" and also had a part in Audrey Wells's "Under the Tuscan Sun."  But her two most high profile roles were in the Italian blockbusters, "Non ti muovere" (Don't Move) and "Sono pazzo di Iris Blond." The films were created by two of Italy's most beloved and respected filmmakers, Verdone and Sergio Castellitto. The reach of both films extended beyond the borders of Italy and were seen by audiences around the world. Gerini's characters in these films are polar opposite, validating her skills as an actor. In Verdone's film, she is the eccentric, fun loving Iris Blond, a girl with big dreams and a warm, fun soul filled with enthusiasm and adventure. Based on a fortuneteller's prediction, Verdone's character, Romeo Spera, decides that he and Iris Blond are destined for each other, and the two lost souls eventually connect. Verdone and Gerini have impeccable comic timing and amazing onscreen chemistry. It's such a joy to watch them work together in this genre. At the other end of the spectrum is Castellitto's 2004 drama, "Non ti muovere." Gerini plays Elsa, the wife of Castellitto's character, Timoteo. Elsa is a hard woman who finds it difficult to show her emotions. She holds everything inside until she is faced with a devastating, traumatic event that forces her to confront her issues. The chemistry between Gerini and Castellitto was strong, but not as one would expect. The two characters are mired in a loveless marriage, and the aggression, resentment and awkwardness of their relationship is almost palpable. The two stars bring a tremendous intensity to their roles that propels the complicated and emotionally freighted story forward.

Photo by Francesca Martino
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Gerini. She told me about her childhood growing up in Rome, her dreams of being a performer and her experiences in working with some of the biggest names in cinema.

What was your childhood like.. did you always want to be a performer?
I always wanted to be an actress. I came from a very normal middle class family. I have one sister. We had a very normal childhood growing up in the suburbs of Rome. We were very free, we rode our bicycles, had a big garden in the country with two dogs. We spent time outside playing with friends. I was more of a tomboy, not a princess at all. When I was around 10 years old, I studied dance. I wanted to entertain and to be in show business. It was my dream and I was sure that sooner or later, I would succeed.

Did your parents support your dreams of becoming an actress?
Yes, my mother went to the casting agents with me and my father always loved cinema, especially the films of neorealism.

Tell me about the early days of your career.
My first big box office hit was with the comedy, "Honeymoon" with Carlo Verdone.  It's a film with three stories. It's very funny. After that, I spent some time traveling around Europe to cities like Paris and Madrid exploring different cultures.

One of my favorite characters is your role as Carlo Verdone's love interest in "Sono pazzo di Iris Blond." It seems like you had a great time playing that role. 
We did very well with "Honeymoon" and he wanted to do another comedy with me so he asked me what I thought, and I said let's do something with music because I want to sing. We shot the film in Brussels, which is a very inspiring city. I was happy to work with Carlo again and especially in such an interesting role of this crazy girl. It felt like I was in a dream singing and being surrounded by so much music.

What was it like working with Mel Gibson on "The Passion of the Christ?"  
I love Mel Gibson. I had a very good time with him playing this woman, Claudia. My scenes were shot in Cinecittà, so I did not have the experience of shooting on location like some of the other actors, but it was a very good experience.

Photo by Francesca Martino
Your role in Sergio Castellitto's film "Non ti muovere" was very strong, and the movie was a huge international success. What did you think of the story and your character in the film?
I met Sergio for an audition. The first meeting wasn't great. Then he saw a movie that I did in Spain and he called me back. I did another audition and I got the part. The role was different. I was a very ambiguous woman. My character was there, but not really there for her husband. She was a cold woman. It was not easy. It was a tricky role and I had to find the right balance for my character.

Is there a character that you have identified with the most?
Well there is a little piece of me in many of my characters, but I would have to say the character that I am most like is Iris Blond because she was a singer, and I had such a good experience working on that movie with Carlo Verdone. It was like a reunion.
What do you enjoy the most about your Italian culture, what are you most proud of for being Italian?
Our history and our culture from the past to the present... We have such amazing cities, beautiful land and culture but I don't like the way our leaders are running the country. There is no organization here and too much corruption. Italy is such an amazing incredible place and could be so much more if our leaders would just give it a chance.

Over the past few years, Claudia Gerini has worked on a number of unique projects, including the television miniseries, "Labyrinth" and Paolo Genovese's comedy, "Una famiglia perfetta" (A Perfect Family) in which she shared the screen again with Sergio Castellitto. She chooses roles that call on the diversity and depth of her acting skills, contributing to her growth as an artist. 

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