You don’t often get the chance to talk or to be in the same room with someone on whose film you grew up with. Claudia Cardinale is a living legend of Italian cinema, who appeared in the old and beloved “The Pink Panther”. However, worldwide she became known after appearing in some notorious films such as Rocco and His Brothers (1960), Girl with a Suitcase (1961), The Leopard (1963), Cartouche (1963) and Federico Fellini’s 8½ (1963) and the Sergio Leone’s timeless masterpiece western Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).
During the Italian Contemporary Film Festival, as well Niagara Integrated Film Festival that took place in June, I had the great privilege to sit down with the great Claudia Cardinale to ask a few questions and discuss her role in “All Loads Lead to Rome” where her screen partners were Sarah Jessica Parker and Raoul Bova.
MOVIEMOVESME: Among the wild and crazy things you’ve done, there is a symbolic picture of you in the summer of 1963 at the Cannes film festival, on the beach, in front of Luchino Visconti. Is that a sign of lucidity and the madness that is the secret to your acting? Is this is what you want young actors to learn from you?
Claudia Cardinale: In all my films I did my own special effects. I have always been wild. I have made a film with John Wayne, the “Circus World”. I have went inside the cage and kissed a lion. And I did a benefit for an organisation that works with kids. I have always been a cowboy, I never wanted to have any standards and always did my own styles.
MOVIEMOVESME: And of course, thank you for playing Carmen.
Claudia Cardinale: Carmen`s husband passes away after a lifetime together. And when that happens… I go back to my first love and, Luca (Raoul Bova), is furious, because he (Luca) don’t want me to see this man”. It was very easy to play this role, but it was arguably hard to…”
MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about your choice to be only in Italian and French cinema rather than Hollywood’s production, that could have brought you even more fame?
Claudia Cardinale: When I was young, I wanted to be an explorer. I actually didn’t want to be an actress, but I was able through cinema to travel all over the world. I went to the Amazon, Russia, Peru. I went to Africa. I went all over the place. So, I was able to actually realize my dream. It’s kind a like when a man is calling you and you play hard to get. This is what I did with cinema. I said that I didn’t want to do it. And I spoke to my dad and he my dad said: “why don’t you make clothes?” I had a sister who wanted to be an actor, want to make cinema, but not me. But in the end I take that and I ended up going in everywhere.
MOVIEMOVESME: So can we talk about “the Leopard” and some of the actors you worked with? Because “The Leopard” had Alain Delon and Burt Lancaster.
Claudia Cardinale: Yes. Oh, it was fantastic and Visconti did full movies. The first “Vocal” and then “Leopard”, and then Sandra and then “Gruppo di famiglia”. And there are marvelous relations for them. He was a fantastic man. Very, very intelligent. I was always with him.
MOVIEMOVESME: And is Roberto Benigni as crazy as he seems?
Claudia Cardinale: Totally crazy, yes. And as he was my son in the movie, he was always calling “mama! Mama!”. I thought he was crazy, when I was always doing down the telephone and suddenly I realized it was him. He was always calling me.
MOVIEMOVESME: So, when you stop making movies in America, apart from “Professionals”, and “Professionals”, you said, was your favorite American movie. Because Richard Brooks was the director or because Burt Lancaster was in it?
Claudia Cardinale: Well, I mean, first of all, most important thing is the script. And then, if I like it, I meet the director. And it’s very pleasing to have also good directors in front of you. Otherwise, it’s not very good
MOVIEMOVESME: This festival is speaking of lifetime achievement award. How do you feel about that? Also, you acted from the 60s until today. What, if anything, has changed in terms of acting techniques and the filming techniques?
Claudia Cardinale: Well, for me the most important thing is the director. I’ve been lucky because I worked with so many wonderful directors. That is the essential factor for me in choosing a film. The question is: “Is there any difference in the way films were made in 60s and today?” The answer is: “No”. The difference is that now there is no financing anymore. Many filmmakers go abroad. I live in Paris, of course. In France we have institutions that help filmmakers, at least if they are working the first time directors to help them out. I fight with ministers in order to get productions made. I live in Paris, as I said, and years past there were a lot of Italian films being shown in France. Now there are only American films in French theatres. The question again is: “What about reward?” And the answer is: “I don’t know where to put my rewards anymore”. But it’s still wonderful to receive them. “Labels are like trophies; you don’t know where to put them”. And what’s important for me is to be myself. What you say as a person, what you build within you, that’s what counts, not labels.”