With the smile of Angelica in Visconti’s Leopard, with the languid air of Fellini’s brunette muse in Eight and a Half, with the natural, contradictory, defenseless and biting sensuality, Claudia Cardinale is one of the latest divas in international cinema. She played strong women, capable of taking respect, space and power long before the feminist season. And Claudia Cardinale is also a woman of great shyness. Reserved to the limit of excessive, so much so that many years ago he decided to move to Paris also to escape the siege of paparazzi and fans. For some time he left the French capital for a small town in the countryside, a few kilometers from Paris, where he lives a stone’s throw from Claudia, known as Claudina, the daughter he had with Pasquale Squitieri. And surprisingly he agreed to answer our questions.
She played strong women, who demanded respect when it was not yet a given for everyone. “Angelica is not only beautiful, she knows what such a marriage contract is like,” explained Luchino Visconti. How much of Claudia Cardinale is there in those roles?
“I’d say there is fifty percent. Something about me evidently determined that I was chosen for strong roles. I must admit, however, that another part of me was also built through the encounter with the destiny of these characters ».
What kind of girl was she?
“Wild enough. A bit of a tomboy. I loved sport very much. I was always at the stadium in Tunis ».
And does cinema come from that slightly wild dimension?
«Yes, who knows maybe I wanted to be an explorer because I lived at the gates of the desert. It makes you want to travel, to go further, to explore. And then being an explorer is one of the great classics of children’s desires, at least in my time. It has to do with the desire to know the world, a desire that all children have ”.
How did you reconcile shyness with your profession?
“Somehow shyness saved me, saved me from a life that was too wild. Being a shy person protected my privacy. “
You have had few official loves. She was together with the producer Franco Cristaldi for ten years. Is it true that Cristaldi, when he left him for Pasquale Squitieri, the great love of his life, tried to damage her professionally?
“Well, it was a shock. Meeting Pasquale I interrupted a system that was built with and around me. Cristaldi was a very important producer and nobody wanted to go against him, nobody wanted to oppose him. So I don’t know if it was he who wanted it or if it was an involuntary consequence, but certainly both Pasquale and I found obstacles in the work. And this is a certain fact ».
With Pasquale Squitieri, love lasted thirty years and perhaps it never ended.
“Yup. It is a love that has lasted many years and will last forever. Even when we were apart, we felt like each other every day. He has always granted me a privileged place in his life. He considered our love as an extraordinary, unique and infinite event. He changed my life and I changed his. “
Why did you decide to move to France at some point? What did life in Italy not allow you?
“It was a bit of a coincidence. I was shooting a film in France, in Normandy, and I was happy with it. In Italy I couldn’t live in the center because it was impossible to go out and shop in the normal way. In France there is a greater distance with public people. And then my daughter grew up and was isolated in the countryside. That’s how it went. I reconnected with my language (French was the official language in Tunisia) and with my first culture. While maintaining a strong link with Italy ».
His second daughter, Claudia, was born from the love with Squitieri. I read that Squitieri chose to give her her name because she didn’t want to get married. Is that so?
“Yes, that’s exactly how it went. Pasquale ran to give her the name against my will. I wanted to call her Anja because in Tunisia I had been marked by two Russian and blond children, Patrick and Anja. Patrick is the name of my first child. So I wanted to call her Anja. But the temptation to have a Claudia Squitieri in the family prevailed ».
What kind of mother was she? With Patrick, just seventeen, she was little more than a girl. Was it different with Claudia?
“I do not know. Yes, when Patrick was born I was very young and for complex reasons to explain today, my mother took care of him. With Claudia I was a woman, so I spent more time with her. But I have always traveled a lot anyway. Claudia took care of Maria, a wonderful woman who is like her second mother. Once I arrived in Paris in 1989, I was more of a mother to her. We were alone ».
When did you realize acting was going to be your life?
“Not now. Although everything went very quickly. One day I woke up and realized that my life had changed. That I had become an actress. But it was not an immediate event. It is an awareness that has come in stages ».
It is true that at the test of the Experimental Center she was caught after she threw a script into the air. Did they tell her that she had shown that she had character?
“Yes, it was very funny.”
In any case, he left the Experimental Center early. Because?
“Because I started working.”
He was lucky enough to work with the greatest Italian directors. Who do you think you should say thank you to?
“Honestly to almost everyone. I was incredibly lucky ».
Visconti, for example, chose her when she was very young for two unforgettable films: “Il Gattopardo” and “Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa”. What kind of relationship did she have with him?
“I had a very special relationship with him. Vaghe Stelle wrote it for me. And for Family group in an interior he wanted me to play the role of his mother. We were very close, friends. We were leaving together. We watched Sanremo on TV. He liked me and I liked him. We were “very good friends” ».
It is said that every time he invited her to dinner he made her find a special gift, like a Cartier jewel?
“Yes, Luchino was a real gentleman.”
Did he call her a “tomboy”?
«He certainly saw and loved my masculine soul in me. I was a simple woman without too many constructions. No frills ».
And what was it like working with the gruff Mario Monicelli?
“I got on very well with him. I’ve always had good relationships with directors. In the meantime, because I wasn’t a diva, I was punctual and worked hard. This made them more respectful and attentive. Respect is won with work ».
“He was a very funny man. He would pick me up in the car to take me to the set. At that moment, improvising, they were looking for the jokes of the day. A truly different style from other directors ».
He has worked with the most beautiful actors, from Marcello Mastroianni to Alain Delon, to Jean Paul Belmondo. Did they court her? Has it resisted their charm?
“Yes, they courted me, I confess. But I have always wanted to separate the life of an actress from my private one. So I didn’t let myself be seduced. We were friends, we joked, but I didn’t go further also because I knew how much the stories were embroidered on the sets ».
The only flirtation attributed to her with an actor is about Rock Hudson but it wasn’t true. How did you come up with the idea of helping his troubled friend in Hollywood over homosexuality rumors?
“It was he who asked me to help him. Rock hadn’t worked since the press revealed his homosexuality. So we went out together, arm in arm, and we deluded the press. He was happy. He said to me: “Since they think I’m with you I have been working again” ».
Stories that come from another world. At least hopefully. Its beauty, solar and at the same time made of chiaroscuro, has enchanted entire generations. How important was beauty to you?
“It certainly helped me. In any case, photogenicity matters above all in cinema. The way you take the light. This does not depend on skill or beauty, it is lucky. Then of course, beauty certainly helped me, I don’t deny it. “
What kind of relationship do you have with the passing years? Unlike many actresses, she didn’t resort to a scalpel. Because?
“Partly because operations frighten me. Partly because I have always tried to accept the passing of time. As Anna Magnani said when they wanted to retouch her photos to hide the signs of aging. “Leave me all the wrinkles, don’t take off even one. It took me a lifetime to make them come “”
What do you think of the Me Too of women in cinema? You criticized Deneuve …
«It was and is an important movement. Equality in the world of cinema is by no means conquered and the manipulated use of sexuality is a practice that must be denounced. The battle for women’s rights is something that I also continue through my role as UNESCO ambassador for women’s and girls’ rights. Deneuve said things to provoke, in my opinion. However, it does not concern me. His position is not mine. ‘
Have you ever been harassed and blackmailed into working?
“No. But I come from a world where the actress was a product of her producer. Cristaldi, even though he loved me very much, made me sign a contract in which I gave everything. They were, hopefully, other times ».
Mario Draghi, on the occasion of the Italo-French pact, mentioned it among the names of the common Pantheon between Paris and Rome, alongside names such as Schuman, De Grasperi, Eco and Spinelli. Did he expect it?
“Absolutely not, but I was happy with it. On the contrary, I want to thank the premier ».
What should we Italians take from our French cousins? And the French with us?
“There is a lot to learn from France, it has been a state for much longer than Italy and this gives the country a more solid structure. On the contrary, I want to emphasize the ability of Italians to be flexible, the creativity that manifests itself even in the most complex moments. We have many common values and many different things, it is no coincidence that they define us as cousins ». –
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