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Five minutes with: Isabella Rossellini

Isabella Rossellini talks JOY, ageing and learning from mistakes.

Five minutes with: Isabella Rossellini

The great beauty, Isabella Rossellini, 63, Italian model, philanthropist, filmmaker and actress joins the cast of JOY opposite Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro.  She is known for her 14 year contract with Lancome, and she was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1996 for Crime of the Century. 

Her breakout performance came in 1986 in Blue Velvet opposite Dennis Hopper and Kyle MacLachlan.  She follows in the path of her mother, the iconic movie star, Ingrid Bergman, and her father was the acclaimed director, Roberto Rossellini. 

She was married to Martin Scorsese (1979 – 1982), Jonathan Wiedemann (1983 – 1986) and relationships with David Lynch (1986 – 1991) and Gary Oldman (1994 – 1996).  She has two children.

In this role Rossellini plays Trudy the love interest of Robert De Niro’s character, who meets on an online dating service.

ARE YOU BUSINESS-MINDED LIKE YOUR CHARACTER IN JOY?

I think I’m more of a business-minded person than I imagined I was going to be because I saw that so much of a woman’s independence depends on your finances. It’s important to work and also manage your money, not just delegate a husband or brother or somebody to do it.So I have grown into it. It’s very intimidating, numbers and money, but I decided that was one thing that I should do.

WHAT HAS MONEY TAUGHT YOU?

That as you are reaching success you have to make provisions for the time it will not be there.  So, I think I have been very grateful to myself, I have to say, because now I’m older and I don’t work as much but when I was working a lot I remembered that.  I actually saw it with my mum. She’d come to Hollywood to visit her friends and some of them were superstars and had no money, so I knew that there were peaks in their career but that the moment you peak you have to be a little bit like a squirrel who saves their nuts for the harder time.  So I did. I’m very grateful now that at my age I don’t work so much and my lifestyle didn’t have to crash for it.

YOUR CHARACTER GOES ONLINE DATING – IS THAT SOMETHING YOU’VE EVER DONE?

I never did. I never tried. I should really (Laughter). So far I haven’t the courage. I was hoping the film would give me hints. You first try in a film, then you translate it into reality (laughs).

WE OFTEN SEE YOU IN SOME VERY BOHEMIAN-LIKE OUTFITS.  IS THAT THE WAY YOUR DECORATE YOUR HOUSE?

Well, I live in the country. I have a little organic farm and we produce vegetables for restaurants just for organic farm to table restaurants so it’s a teeny business but it gives you a wonderful lifestyle. I actually live in a converted barn so it has a very high ceiling, very old beams. It’s an old structure for America but still old because it’s wood.  It’s about 150 years old or even a little bit more.

IT’S CHRISTMAS IN A FEW DAYS – WHAT’S THE BEST CHRISTMAS YOU CAN REMEMBER?

It was when my nephew who’s a little bit older than my daughter, and he was around 8 years old and discovered that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.  He told my 5 year old daughter who was very suspicious and he said, ‘You’re so naïve, he doesn’t exist. It’s your mama that puts on the show.’ So I thought I’d trick the children so I had my brother-in-law come dressed up like Santa Claus but with a fake beard and his own shoes and so my nephew said, ‘So, look, look! See, I told you. He’s fake, he’s fake.’ Then I had an actor with a real beard that I hired come as Santa Claus and he came in at the same time and he said, ‘You imposter, why are you playing Santa Claus!’  My brother-in-law took his beard off and he said, ‘I am sorry. The children were starting to doubt that you were real and so we wanted to give them a good Christmas. We were afraid you weren’t coming.’ Laughs.  So they believed in it until they were 15 years old. They got so scared! (laughs)

WHAT KIND OF PROFESSIONAL ADVICE DID YOU GET FROM YOUR MUM?

Well, I didn’t think I was going to be an actress. I became an actress when I was 30 so quite late for acting.  Partially, I didn’t want to become an actress because my mum was so famous and so iconic and so I thought that maybe I should do something different. I modeled and then when modeling became quite successful and a lot of people asked me about acting, I could see a lot of models evolve their career and they became actresses so there was a path that I could do.  But when my mother asked me, ‘Do you want to be an actress?’ I said, ‘Oh, no, because you are too famous. It’s better for me to do something else.’ She said, ‘Well, if an opportunity came I think you should do it.  You should try it because I loved it and you might like it as well. You cannot not do it just because your mum is famous.’ So by the time I decided after the success of being a model to become an actress, my mom was dead already so I couldn’t really ask her specific tips. I regret it and I regret it also that I was hesitant. It would have been better if I was more courageous and started to act right away but it was intimidating. She cast a very long shadow and when you’re young you want to be so independent and different from your family. Modeling helped me in that sense but also helped me gave me the courage to say, ‘Well, I’ll try that.’

DID YOU ENJOY PLAYING SUCH A NASTY WOMAN IN JOY?

A lot of people say that I’m intimidating and I always say, ‘How can I be intimidating?’ I don’t see myself intimidating at all.  (laughs) Then I saw myself as Trudy and I understood, especially my children, where they say, ‘Mama, when you get angry you are so scary.’ I never see myself but when I saw Trudy I said, ‘Ah, they’re right!’ (laughs)

YOU DON’T APPEAR TO HAVE HAD MANY LOWS IN YOUR CAREER

Are you kidding me? Don’t you know that Lancome let me go when I was 40? Also, I haven’t worked in a film in 7 years now. There are many ups and downs in a career (laughs)

 A FRENCH ACTRESS ONCE MADE A STATEMENT THAT HOLLYWOOD IS MAKING A BIG MISTAKE BY HIRING YOUNG, BEAUTIFUL ACTRESSES AND MISSING OUT ON THE TALENT OF THE OLDER ONES. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?

I think that she’s right.  I think we also need to foster an older audience, you know. I think that the biggest number of people that go to the movies is 18 to 25 and they are mostly boys so probably the industry reflects that. It caters to their client. I think that French film, for example, really foster an older audience and so film in France you still have Catherine Deneuve every year. You still have a lot of actresses that seem to be less penalised because they grow older but it’s also fostering an audience.  For my personal life I am grateful that I was interested in other things than film so I could go back to school and study animals. But I never felt how you say….. cast aside. Yes, sometimes with modeling I wish I could do it but nobody hires me so I have to do something else.  But I’m available! (laughs)

 

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