The Small Hall of the Center for Culture in Bitola was too small to fit all the interested journalists, photo reporters and fans of the film diva Claudia Cardinale, who attended today’s talk moderated by Michele de Angelis, director and producer from Italy.
Claudia Cardinale had no special wish to become an actress as a young girl. Her sister had blue eyes, and everyone was seeing her as an upcoming actress, whereas Claudia studied pedagogy and wanted to be a teacher. As a 19-year-old girl, she won the Prettiest Italian Woman in Tunisia contest (the country where she is born and raised), and she won a trip to the Venice Film Festival. That is where she landed her first film job.
-Everyone was telling me that I should become an actress, so at the end I obeyed my father, who was quite persuasive, and I became an actress, Cardinale was talking at the start of the talk.
Even though Cardinale became a famous actress in Italy with the film ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (1960) by Luchino Visconti, her voice in the film was done by another person, as in the other roles from that time, because Cardinale had been learning French in her native Tunisia. Basically, with the role in the film 8½ (1963) by Federico Fellini, Cardinale started to record with her own voice.
In 1963, she shot her second significant film at the start of her career, LEOPARD by Luchino Visconti.
-I did 4 films with Visconti, he usually didn’t want women, but he told me that I was an unusual woman, so he wanted to film with me, Cardinale says.
Fellini, on the other hand, wanted to see her as a blond woman for the film’s needs, so Cardinale, having long and lush black hair, had to color her hair every two weeks.
-Even though Visconti and Fellini were quite different characters as people and in their approach towards film, I did the most significant film of that period with them. During the filming of 8½, Fellini was getting me with a car from home every day, telling me that I am his muse, Cardinale remembers, pointing out the Italian director Pietro Germi (The Facts of Murder) as quite significant of an author at the dawn of her acting career.
-The strongest feeling in the making of films is to transform into another person, and after the film finishes, to get back to your own person, Cardinale explains.
Cardinale received a stunning applause from the audience on her statement that she has always refused to get naked in the films.
-I didn’t want to sell my body, Cardinale pointed out. She is also known as a fighter and activist for women’s rights, and since 2000, she is a UNESCO Ambassador of Good Will.
On the question from the audience of what is her commentary on the recent feminist movement Me Too in Hollywood, which fights against sexual harassment of actresses, Cardinale said that she has always fought and will still fight for women’s rights.
Although she hasn’t done many comedy films, many people have recognized a great comic potential in her. Exactly with her role in the comedy film Pink Panther by Blake Edwards, made in her successful year of 1963, Cardinale conquers Hollywood. She didn’t get any parts in comedy films later on, but this evening’s festival screening in honor of Cardinale – her most recent film Noble Lies (directed by Antonio Pisu) – is exactly a comedy film, which portrays her talent for this genre to the maximum. By the way, a festival guest is also the film’s producer Paolo Rossi.
During the talk’s excerpt Pink Panther breaks, Cardinale laughed as joyous as a little child, and then she shared a small secret from the shooting of this film.
-I didn’t smoke cigarettes up until the Pink Panther, so they gave me a cigarette to smoke on the shoot, but it actually came out to be marijuana, Cardinale said.
Although she had a great chance for a successful Hollywood career, Cardinale had answered to the offers that she is a European, and got back to Italy.
-I didn’t want to stay in America because Hollywood is very manipulative, Cardinale stated and received another stunning applause.
Yet, she did shoot Hollywood films occasionally, like the legendary The Professionals (1966) by Richard Brooks, as an only female star amongst the great names of Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, Robert Ryan…
Cardinale is also the only female star in the cult Italian-American epic spaghetti western by Sergio Leone, Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), side by side with Jason Robards, Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda.
-The most important thing for me was always the script, but also the good director. I got along quite well with both Brooks and Leone, but Leone kind of suited me more to my character because of the common Italian thread. Yet, The Professionals is also amongst my most significant films, Cardinale pointed out.
Although she has worked with famous actors who were considered as quite the seducers, Cardinale pointed out that she has never had a love affair on the shoots with any of the partners. Besides the fore-mentioned ones, other film partners of hers were Alain Delon, Marcello Mastroianni…
-In 1960 we did Mauro Bolognini’s Bell’ Antonio, with Mastroianni in the leading male role. He plays a role of a man in the film, a Sicilian, very handsome man, but he cannot make love to me, so a group of Sicilians gathered in front of the hotel claiming that there are no impotent Sicilian men, she laughingly tells of an episode during the film’s recording.
Cardinale also pointed out the collaboration with the master of film cinematography Giuseppe Rotunno, one of the Manaki Brothers festival laureates, in Visconti’s Leopard (1963). The ball scene was being shot though whole three weeks.
-Rotunno was a great artist, Cardinale pointed out.
Cardinale also talked about the experience with the director Pasquale Squitieri. During the shooting of the film Lucia, they fell in love with each other, got married, and then did another 10 films together. Their daughter Claudia Squitieri accompanies her mother in Bitola.
-My father often said that the film was good, but during the shooting, my mother was getting more and more beautiful in his eyes because she has changed his life, the daughter Claudia talked, receiving a great applause. Her mother replied to that, mentioning she was the one to choose Pasquale as a husband.
During the period of her great glory, the media was artificially heating up a contest of a sort between the most popular actresses of the time – Cardinale and Brigitt Bardot, which was often titled as the War of Initials – B.B. versus C.C.
After the talk’s end, the audience made a true Mediterranean procession with Claudia Cardinale, singing along with her on the lyrics of the famous Italian song Marina, and sent her off to the Epinal hotel.