A Bond girl in Spectre, Mary Magdalene in The Passion of the Christ, and Dracula’s bride in Bram Stoker’s Dracula have been some of her major roles, but now, Monica Bellucci is lightening up the mood in the upcoming comedy, Mafia Mamma, which is led by Toni Collette.
Mafia Mamma follows a suburban mother [Collette] who unexpectedly inherits her late grandfather’s mafia empire in Italy. Guided by the firm’s trusted consigliere [Bellucci], she defies everyone’s expectations as she finds herself stuck in the middle of a deadly mob war.
LA Magazine: I loved Mafia Mamma and laughed a lot throughout.
Monica Bellucci: Me too. When I read the script I really laughed out loud. I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was crazy. I’m also a huge fan of Toni Collette, I didn’t know her in real life but when I met her, she had incredible energy. It was a beautiful moment of acting under the direction of Catherine Hardwicke. Comedy is a genre that I’ve done very little in my career—I was grateful they asked for me and called my agent so I had the chance to play in a comedy again.
What are the challenges of doing a comedy in a language that is not your first?
It was a new experience. Also, when I saw the film with an audience at the premiere, we always said this is a comedy in the world of the mafia with a feminine twist, but actually, it is a pulp movie in some scenes completely. The thing is that even the most violent and extreme scenes are treated with a lot of ironies.
The relationship between Toni and I really helped to create all the affection and connection that carries these two characters in their adventure. Catherine was very helpful, too, because she gave us the freedom to experiment and to improvise, bouncing off of each other. We knew the lines a little but the scene came out and we completely improvised it. It came out so funny, sexy, and crazy and Catherine with her femininity brings elegance in the middle of violence.
Was that improvisation quite exciting and gave you more confidence in comedies going forward?
Yes because it’s not possible to improvise all the time. It hasn’t happened very often in my career. I did one movie that had a lot of improvising, Irréversible… but that’s another story. It’s not very often that you can do this because you follow a script—but in this comedy it was possible.
I grew up with mafia movies, like so many in my generation in Italy, such as Once Upon a Time in America, The Godfather, and Goodfellas, but I would have never imagined that one day I would play in a comedy like that- it’s really a new thing. Catherine really knows how to do many different genres because she jumped from Twilight to 13 to a mob movie and she was never scared to try something. It’s a difficult movie because there are so many actors, many scenes and I even got scared because sometimes the explosions went off behind me. I tell you, I played it cool but inside I was like “Oh my God, I’m going to burn!” Luckily nothing happened to us!
You grew up on mafia movies—do you have a favorite?
Once Upon a Time in America. Oh my God, It is so beautiful… Incredible. Many of the most beautiful Italian movies come from Sicily. It was so inspiring for all those movies. Also what inspires me are Italian movies from incredible directors like Fellini, Rossellini, Visconti and Di Sica and those leading ladies like Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale.
Even my character, Bianca, has the same Mediterranean energy because she’s very maternal, but she can be very dangerous. What really appealed to me about this character is this duality- in Bianca, there is mystery and Mediterranean warmth, but [she’s] also very dangerous because she knows how to deal with violence. So it is a combination of different elements and that’s why I wanted to play this character.
What was it like to film in those Italian villages?
It was so beautiful, we were close to Rome. When I speak to many Americans they have never been to Europe so through this movie they can see Rome, it’s filmed in such a beautiful way. I come from Umbria, close to Tuscany—there are so many beautiful Middle Ages villages like that.
Did you become Toni’s tour guide to Italy?
Yeah, then we worked a lot because there was so much to do. I think she still comes to Italy now and she loves the country. I live between Paris and Rome and even though I spend most of my time in Paris, I love to go back to Rome or Umbria, because my family are there. Even though I live in Paris, I am still very close to my country and to my friends and my family.
Mafia Mamma will be released in theaters nationwide on April 14, 2023
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