Her name is shorthand for a sensuality that transcends cultural and geographical barriers. In any country, in any language, Monica Bellucci spells sexy.
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This month, as the 51-year-old Italian actor prepares to be seen in the 24th James Bond film, Spectre, she shatters the myth of the nubile, bikini-clad and gold drenched object of lust. On a sunny morning in London, she talks about being a Bond ‘lady’ and why she hasn’t done a Bollywood film yet.
You were offered the role of a Bond girl in the past. What is it like to finally be part of these iconic movies?
That was more than 20 years ago. At that time, it would have been normal, but now I think it’s kind of exceptional. I’ve been trying to find a name for this lady…either James Bond ‘lady’ or James Bond ‘woman’. Because I’m certainly not a James Bond ‘girl’. It’s interesting how forSpectre, director Sam Mendes created two different lovers for James Bond. Léa Seydoux represents youth, but not just youth as in age, but youth as modernity—a woman of action, who wants to and can be equal to a man. Lucia Sciarra, my role, represents the past—a woman who still lives in a world where men have all the power, and she doesn’t know how to escape that. So it’s no coincidence that she’s exiled. She’s like a bird inside a cage for such a long time that even when you open the cage she doesn’t know how to get out. It’s great to do this role at 50. Not just as an actor but also as a woman. It’s nice to be able to project that, at 50, you can still set an example.
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What was it like to hear the catchphrase: “My name is Bond. James Bond”?
I’ve heard it in the movies so many times, but I couldn’t believe it was actually happening to me. I have to say that being in a Bond film is great for an actress because it’s great to be part of this long tradition. Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig have created a really special Bond this time—so modern, so unpredictable. And even though I love Sean Connery, this Bond is completely in control. He’s more mysterious, dark, dangerous, and he’s sexier because of that. Daniel Craig is such a gentleman. I know this because sometimes in my work it’s difficult to get intimate with someone you don’t know, but he was so protective of me.
So, what’s it like being a Bond lady?
It’s a completely new thing. Never before has a James Bond lady, as I say, been in her fifties. It’s a tremendous idea, very original.
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Are you concerned about ageing?
No, maybe because I was breastfeeding two years ago; I’m very slow, I take my time. I had my first child at 40, my second at 45. I’m in a James Bond film at 50. I’m curious to see what’s next.
Would you want to be 20 again?
No, I’ve been through that. I feel much better today because there’s something to be grateful about at 50. When you’re 20, you have no knowledge of your beauty. You’re young and full of energy, but you don’t know certain things. It makes you frightened; you fear silly things and don’t know what’s going to happen. You’re insecure. As you grow up, you develop a different kind of strength that is not attached to beauty; it’s not about the outside beauty anymore. I know what I’m saying is very banal but it’s the truth. Everybody says that you have to be beautiful inside to be beautiful outside… it’s the truth.
Did becoming a mother late change you a great deal?
Becoming a mother changes you. But at the same time you discover things that you didn’t know about yourself. Because when you’re with your kids, you have to solve so many things—things that your child would notice that you didn’t see before. You have to learn how to be yourself and how to grow up. So children are a school of some sort; they teach you so much.
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For years now, I’ve heard rumours of you doing a Bollywood film. Why hasn’t it happened yet?
I don’t know. Maybe we have to ask Indian directors. I would love to come to India. I have travelled a lot in life but I’ve never been to India. I would love to do things there. Indian movies are amazing… you have so many great directors and there are so many independent movie icons. If it has to happen, it will happen.
Are your daughters excited about you doing a Bond film?
My daughters are very young—11 and five-and-a-half. They know about Bond because they go to school and get told, “Ah! Your mother is in the Bond film.” However, for them it is more about momma not being at home that is the problem. But it’s okay. I try to be present for them; I have my time for work and my time for my children. What’s beautiful about my work now is that when I want to work I work, when I don’t want to work, I stay at home. That’s why I had my kids very late because today I can do this. When I was young I couldn’t, I had to work more.
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You have been in several fashion and beauty campaigns. You are associated with luxury. What do you consider truly luxurious?
Freedom! Freedom is so important and I think that women across the world have to run out to get their freedom because it is still a big fight and there are still so many places in the world where women are treated as objects. We are here in this beautiful hotel, we are talking, we are free women, but we had to fight to be what we are. For women, freedom to be equal to men is still a fight in the family, in the workplace, we all come from a place of big suffering. That is why I love women because I think that women, when they see each other, when they look into each other’s eyes, it’s like we all know our shared history. That’s why when they ask me which men inspire me in the movies, I say I am not inspired by men, I’m inspired by women. When I look at a man, yes, I can say I respect his work and that he’s a great actor but I don’t have the kind of intimate association with men that I have with women.
Do you ever wake up feeling unattractive? What I’m asking is, does Monica Bellucci ever have a bad day?
Of course. There is an image of Monica Bellucci from the magazines, an image of Monica Bellucci from the films. But that is just a little part of me. When I wake up in the morning and have my hair undone and my kids screaming, I look at myself in the mirror and I am like, ‘Oh My God!’ So we’re all the same. Of course, when I came here [to meet you], I made myself pretty.