She stripped naked to protest against harsh laws restricting IVF in Italy which are based on Catholic principles, has no qualms about appearing nude, and is an agnostic, yet Monica Bellucci agreed to star in Mel Gibson’s very Catholic movie, The Passion of the Christ (2004).
The beautiful, free-spirited Italian actress was born on September 30, 1964 in the village of Città di Castello, near Perugia. Her father ran a trucking company. She obtained high marks at school and enjoyed her classical studies, so she decided to study law at The University of Perugia. When a friend took her to a modeling agency, Bellucci was signed on the spot. She liked the glamorous life of a model and decided to give up law. She later said that law would have been too boring for her and would not have suited her personality. In 1988, she moved to Milan, Italy’s major fashion capital. She signed on with Élite Model Management: Monica, who was voted the most beautiful woman in the world by French TV viewers in 2004, easily found lots of projects to keep her busy.
She worked with Dolce & Gabbana and even posed for French Elle. She also became a fixture on the catwalks in New York, Paris and Milan. However, it seemed that Monica yearned for something else as well. She began taking acting classes and, in a short time, she became a solid fixture in films. In 1990, she made her screen debut on TV in the series Vita coi figli (Life with the Children). Later that same year, she showed up on the big screen in Briganti (a.k.a Bandits: Love and Liberty) along with actress Francesca Neri, daughter of the legendary Rosalba Neri.
Monica Bellucci: A Tribute To Her Beauty.
Monica played Francesca, a single mother, in La Riffa (1991). She also had a nude scene in this film. Monica, who is proud of her body, is not afraid to show it off. She has had nude scenes in a variety of her other films. She has been quoted as saying, “My body is so important to me! My face, my arms, my legs, my hands, my eyes, everything. I use everything I have.” In fact, her American film debut in 1992 showcased her as one of the topless brides of Gary Oldman’s Dracula. Francis Ford Coppola‘s directed her in this movie rendition of the classic Bram Stoker novel.
Dracula also starred Keanu Reeves, who she would work with again in two of the Matrix movies, where she starred as Persephone. It’s a role that Monica has described as “dangerous” and “sensual” but “with some sense of humor.” She said the part required more acting than action. The Matrix films are produced by Joel Silver and have grossed hundreds of millions worldwide.
Generally speaking, however, Monica is not an actress who chooses her roles for their box office power. She is just as comfortable in a big-budget flick as in a more artsy, independent one. Overall, she has forged an impressive list of acting credits in multiple countries. She speaks fluent French, English and Italian. In 1996, Ms. Bellucci earned a great deal of critical acclaim and respect for her work in L’Appartement. She received a César nomination in Most Promising Young Actress category (The César is the French equivalent of the Oscar).
It was during filming of L’Appartement (the Apartment) that she met her husband Vincent Cassel. They have since made many more movies together including 2001′s The Brotherhood of the Wolf, Compromis (1998), and 2002’s Irreversible, which was directed by the Argentinean Gaspar Noe. On September 12, 2004, Cassel and Bellucci produced what is perhaps their most successful collaboration to date with the birth of their baby girl, Deva. Leonie followed in 2010. The beautiful couple sadly separated in 2013.
In 2004, Monica took on perhaps the biggest challenge of her film career when she starred as Mary Magdalene in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Although she only had a few lines in the film, she was able to evoke a great deal of emotion with her eyes. Mel has said that it was difficult to make her look unattractive and that they had to keep throwing mud on her for the Crucifixion scenes to tone down her stunning beauty. While doing press for the film, he mentioned that he almost didn’t cast Bellucci in the role because she was almost too beautiful to play the Magdalene. She found acting the part took her on a spiritual journey, although she isn’t a Christian herself. She said that: “If there’s something I believe in, it’s a mysterious energy, the one that fits the oceans during tides, the one that unites nature and beings.” (Monica-bellucci.net)
This isn’t the first time she played a character like Mary Magdalene either; In 2000 she played the title character in Malena. The film gained a lot of attention largely because it was directed by Academy-award winning (for Cinema Paradiso) director Giuseppe Tornatore. Here she played a woman trying to be independent in a small Italian village in the 1940’s when women were either regarded as wives or mothers. Malena refuses to conform and is troubled by being pursued by men and envied by women. Her only friend is the young boy who falls in love with her. Bellucci said that, “I know what it means to come from a place where everybody knows everybody, and when you walk down the street and men look at you, and the women can be jealous of you. So I know the feeling.”
In 2005 she played the Mirror Queen in The Brothers Grimm and in 2006, she was a prostitute in Combien tu m’aimes? Acting the Mirror Queen – a 500 year old, wrinkled woman obsessed with regaining her youth and beauty – made the actress think about growing old. “…We are all victims of vanity in a way, and that’s why I think the film is much more than just a special effects film,” she told Martyn Palmer of The Times. But she also said that: “I think to be obsessed with youth and beauty is an American problem.”
Bellucci is proud to be a European actress who gets to work in America as well. Her European sensibility is demonstrated very strongly in her attitude towards her beauty. She eats “everything” and doesn’t want to “get skinny, skinny, skinny is not the thing I want to do! I’m not fixated with getting skinny. I respect the natural.”
In addition to Dracula, Matrix and the Passion of the Christ, she co-starred with Bruce Willis as Dr. Lena Kendricks, an American citizen in the American movie, Tears of the Sun. Her character is a strong woman who refuses to be rescued until the 70 refugees left in her care are taken over the border to safety. This role is a far cry from her role as Gene Hackman’s trophy wife, Chantal Hearts, in Under Suspicion.
In fact, her resume is quite varied. She has even starred in a children’s film Palla di Neve (Snowball), as a pharaoh’s wife in the TV movie Joseph, and as Cleopatra, the Queen of the Nile, in Astérix et Obélix: Mission Cléopatre. This film was an adaptation of a popular French comic book series. Other French films she’s starred in include Dobermann (1997) and Franck Spadone (2000).
Although Bellucci loves living in Paris, she misses her spaghetti, and sees herself as very much an Italian. “I see myself like any Italian girl because everything is so Italian to me – like the way I love to eat,” she told Mark Salisbury, of The Observer.
Overall, the actress shows no signs of slowing down. She keeps modelling and acting. One of her biggest dreams was to work with Italian-American actor, Robert De Niro, a dream she fulfilled in 2011 when they both acted in Italian movie Manuale d’amore 3 (Ages of Love).
Monica Bellucci is an independent beauty who does not want to be a movie star. As she says, “I’m just an actress. It’s not about the beauty or the charm or the sensual appearance; it’s more about acting and that’s what I’m happy about.”
By Deanna Couras Goodson