Three Great Things: Monica Bellucci

The iconic Italian actress, who's currently starring in Mafia Mamma, on family, travel and classic movies.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the theatrical release this Friday of Mafia Mamma, the new comedy thriller from Catherine Hardwicke starring Toni Colette and Monica Bellucci, the iconic Italian actress shared some of her favorite things in life. — N.D.

My Children
As a mother, you’re a slave of love. It’s a strange combination, because you do so much for them and completely change your life for them. They need you for everything, so your rhythm is for them. But you do all those things with love, because you know that you’ll only be happy when your kids are happy. It’s an incredible emotional experience to have children, to completely give yourself to someone. It’s something that shocked me, because I was a free bird before I became a mother – I was traveling and moving from one city to another, from one film to another. But at a certain point – boom! – my life changed completely, and it completely caught me by surprise how much love you can give to someone. Motherhood is crazy and it’s beautiful and it’s wild and it’s spiritual. It’s just the most beautiful and mysterious thing.

I had my children very late, as I wasn’t always sure if I was going to have kids – I just enjoyed life. I was 39 when I was pregnant the first time and 44 the second time. When you’re young, it’s much easier, but for me I guess that was the right time. After I became a mother, I worked less because, of course, I needed to have time for my children, but everything I did and everything I’m doing now is just an incredible pleasure. I learn every day with them, and it’s really beautiful.

Classic Italian Movies
I grew up watching classic Italian cinema on TV every afternoon. As a kid, I would see all the great old films in black-and-white, by directors such as Fellini, Rossellini and Visconti, with leading ladies like Anna Magnani, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Silvana Mangano, Monica Vitti and Giulietta Masina. These actresses all had their own kind of femininity, completely different from one another. They inspired me so much and I felt so many emotions watching these women who touched me so deeply. Even what I’m doing in my new movie, Mafia Mamma, connects back to this, as my character, Bianca, has a maternal femininity, but is at the same time dangerous; these women who inspired also had those kinds of different, contrasting elements.

I was a teenager when I started dreaming of being in movies, but I think already when I was eight I knew I wanted to be an actress. It happened really quick. And now, I’m the product of my dream! This is what I wanted to be when I was young. I studied law at university, but through my fashion work I had the possibility to travel and get in touch with the world of the image. When Roman Coppola saw a picture of me and told Francis about me, that led to me getting a tiny part in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. After that, everything started, but I knew I still had a lot of work to do to become a good actress.

I love to be in the world and I really appreciate that I can move from French cinema to American movies and Italian movies. For me, it becomes an experience not just as an actress, but also as a person, because I’m able to connect with different cultures. The film business gave me the possibility to travel, to meet different people in different countries, and my work has been even more interesting because of that.

Travel gives me a sense of freedom and makes me feel like I’m not tied down to anything. And sometimes the experience of getting lost really excites me. I’m in New York today, tomorrow morning I’ll be in Paris, a few days later I’ll be in Rome, and it gives me so much energy to be in those different places, speaking different languages. It’s been like that for a long time. When I was 16 or 17, I was going to school, but at the same time I was already working in fashion. I had permission from my school to travel to shoots, so I was going to Milan and to Paris, and then returning to school in Umbria, where I grew up. It was such a crazy duality. For a couple of weeks at a time, I was an adult in an adult world, in a crazy business, and then I went back to my school with my friends. Even today, I do my work, but I also have a grounded day-to-day life. I like to have my feet on the ground and go back to my family. It gives me balance.

Monica Bellucci is currently starring in the comedy thriller Mafia Mamma, opposite Toni Colette, out now in theaters. She recently starred with Guy Pearce and Liam Neeson in Memory. Over the course of her illustrious international career, she has made movies in France, Italy and Iran, as well as in Hollywood. Her many notable movies include L’Appartement (for which she was Cesar nominated), Brotherhood of the Wolf, Irreversible, Malena, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and The Matrix Resurrections, The Passion of the Christ, Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm and the James Bond movie Spectre. On TV, she appeared in Twin Peaks: The Return and Netflix’s French smash Call My Agent. (Photo by Fabrizio Di Giulio / Bleecker Street.)