Stefania Casini: ‘Wrinkles are the geography of my life’
She was quite the firecracker in her younger years.
This bombshell had a bed scene with Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu (at the same time!) and collaborated with such formidable filmmakers as Bernardo Bertolucci, Peter Greenaway and Dario Argento.
It’s very evident that actress-documentarian Stefania Casini hasn’t lost any of that Italian intensity and sensuality—though now tempered gracefully by time and wisdom.
Casini, who visited Manila for the Moviemov Italian Film Festival last week, candidly talked about shooting her controversial love scene with De Niro and Depardieu in Bertolucci’s “1900.”
“It was very strange,” she told Inquirer Entertainment in an exclusive interview. “It was a complicated scene, but Bernardo made us feel comfortable and secure.”
The crew fell silent during the shoot, she recounted. “As if we were alone … in a theater. Bernardo made sure that we wouldn’t feel as if we were making anything pornographic or shameful.”
Bertolucci, she recalled, later earned the ire of Italian censors, who wanted the entire nude scene excised. “But he refused and explained that the scene was important because it shows the essence of the two men’s relationship.”
Bertolucci was “incredible,” she said. “He loves actors. He made us feel free, as if we could do anything we wanted.”
She described her two leading men as polar opposites. “Depardieu was childlike and full of life; De Niro was more reserved, always writing his observations in a little notebook.”
An architect by profession, Casini lived in New York in the 1970s. “It was a stimulating time, to be surrounded by art and young artists. It was fantastic.”
During that heady era she also acted in Andy Warhol’s “Bad,” directed by Jed Johnson. “Warhol was shy, so different from his image as a crazy artist. He was always eating hamburgers and drinking Coca-Cola.”
She received unsolicited advice from the late pop artist: “Warhol told me that I should marry a rich lawyer.”
She didn’t. Instead, she traveled the world and made documentaries on women and the youth. “I shot docus in Latin American and Islamic countries. I learned the Arabic language.”
Recently she made the docu “Made in Albania,” which shows the troubled country through the eyes of three young people. “In Italy, Albanians encounter prejudice all the time,” she explained.
Her docus are her modest contribution to the struggle against intolerance and violence, she said. “Racism is rooted in fear. When you get to know a foreign culture, you will become less afraid.”
She chose to work behind the camera as a reaction to the movie industry’s obsession with youth. “I worked with Greenaway, who’s also an architect, in the film ‘The Belly of an Architect,’” she related.
On the set, the two architects had lengthy discussions about art and cinema. “I got all the more interested to tell a story through images,” she said.
Casini admitted that the business can be tough for women over 30. “But I advise younger actresses against cosmetic surgery,” she asserted. “These wrinkles show the geography of my life: the good, the bad, the sadness, the joys.”
An “exuberant” period of that life is exquisitely preserved in Dario Argento’s horror classic, “Suspiria,” shown at the Italian fest last week and on Thursday at the Cinemanila fest.
“Watching it over and over again makes me feel very old,” she said, laughing heartily. “Working with Dario was an experience. On the set, he was like a curious kid who couldn’t resist opening the secret door.”
It was the second Manila visit for this frequent flyer. “Thirty years ago, I stayed in Manila for two days before flying to a small island near Cebu,” she said. “There were not too many tourists then. It was paradise.”
She has observed a slew of similarities between our two cultures. “I hope Filipinos never lose their love and respect for their elders. It’s something very precious.”
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