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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Feature: Actress Paola Lavini from "Anime Nere" and the new comedy "All Roads Lead to Rome"

Born in Calabria but raised in the northern region of Emilia Romagna, Paola Lavini is making her mark in Italian cinema and television as a diverse actress whose passion is telling real stories through sincere, carefully-developed characters. 

Lavini is no stranger to American audiences. If you followed the HBO series Rome, you saw her in the very first episode in 2005 portraying a snobby, ill-mannered trophy wife named Phyllis. When I interviewed Lavini back in October, she told me about one scene in particular in which her character was feasting on the Roman delicacy, porchetta. Since Phyllis was rich, spoiled and uncouth, she ferociously ate the porchetta, throwing any class right out the window. The American producers weren’t expecting this beautiful, petite woman to eat with such gusto and authority. They were thoroughly impressed and later remarked on how brilliant she was while doing that scene. 

More recently, Americans watched Lavini on the big screen in Francesco Munzi’s Anime nere (Black Souls). The film was shown at festivals throughout the world and distributed in theaters nationwide. Lavini plays the wife of Antonio Tallura (Sebastiano Filocamo) whose family is entrenched in organized crime. Anime nere is important to Lavini because it exemplifies the organic, raw qualities she loves most about cinema and the direction in which she feels Italian cinema is heading. “Today, Italian films are more like documentaries. Cinema is going in the direction of documentaries because people want to see real stories,” explained Lavini. This statement certainly applies to Anime nere which is based on the novel by Gioacchino Criaco, depicting the presence of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia in his town of Africo, situated in the beautiful Aspromonte area of Calabria. In preparing for the role of this Calabrese wife and mother, Lavini spent time in the village of Africo getting to know the women. “I watched how they moved, how they dressed, how they behaved, how they were silent, how they behaved with their daughters or their sons, and with their husband. I watched how they dealt with their emotions.” The role called on Lavini and her fellow actors to speak in dialect. Since she was born in Calabria, the dialect wasn’t a problem. She actually prefers it because she feels it gives authenticity to the characters and makes the story more real and believable. She told me that the dialect was very import to Munzi, so there was always a dialect coach on the set to assist the actors. The women of “Anime nere” with the exception of Barbora Bobulova’s character from Milan, all share one common thread- their strong silences. Lavini said this quality of the film mirrors the culture of this small village where the women stand gracefully, quietly and above all, strongly by their men. 

Lavini’s next film is due in theaters this coming March. Produced by the prolific AMBI Pictures team, headed by Monika Bacardi and Andrea Iervolino, All Roads Lead to Rome boasts a star-studded international cast that includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Spanish actress Paz Vega, Italian cinema royalty Claudia Cardinale and contemporary Italian favorites Marco Bonini and Raoul Bova. Lavini plays the role of Paz Vega’s assistant. The story centers on Parker’s character Maggie, who in an effort to reconnect with her troubled teen daughter, embarks on a journey to a Tuscan village where she frequented in her younger days. Upon her arrival, Maggie runs into Luca (Raoul Bova), a handsome former lover who is still a bachelor and lives with his eighty-year-old mother Carmen (Claudia Cardinale). Maggie’s daughter steals Luca’s car and runs off to Rome with Carmen. Maggie and Luca follow in pursuit. It’s a complex story of nostalgia, discovery, love, unlikely friendships and tolerance.

Paola Lavini embraces the Italian cinema of yesterday while acknowledging that its lessons have to be applied to the generations of today. We talked about the unforgettable cinema of the Golden Age and how those icons are still with us today. “We must study from our past but we must also tell our own stories. We have this incredible background and it’s still very important and relevant today.”

Our photo shoot sans photographer

All Roads Lead to Rome premiered this week at the Dubai International Film Festival. Click here to watch the trailer. We’ll keep you posted its International release dates. In the the meantime, the HBO series “Rome” is available through Amazon.

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