It’s hard to imagine a more gracious, unassuming, unpretentious superstar than Italian actress Paola Cortellesi. I’d been nervous about meeting her in New York City (thanks to Italy On Screen Today) ever since I found out I’d been given the chance to do so, but I needn’t have been. She’s warm, she’s friendly, and she’s incredibly real for a woman who is number 13 on Ciak Magazine’s 2016 Power List.
I brought her a Cleveland Cavaliers T-Shirt so that she’d have something to (hopefully) remember me with, and she said, “You know I played basketball when I was young!” (I didn’t, but she is pretty tall! Usually I feel like a giant next to Italian actors and actresses, but Paola’s taller than me).
Naturally funny, I told her about how much I still love one of her earlier movies, Tu La Conosci Claudia (with Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo) and she seemed genuinely confused, probably because she wondered how I’d ever found out about a film that probably never played in an American movie theater. In it, she plays the uber-adorable Claudia, a young woman that is loved by (literally) everybody but wants to add meaning to her life. Has she always been funny? Was she a funny kid?
“At home”, she told me. “But out in the world I was very shy.”
You hear about this thing all the time, actors and singers that say they are comfortable on stage, but not one on one with people, and Paola told me that its true for her.
“I began as a singer when I was very young (age 13)”, she told me, and then went on to write and perform for a TV show, Mai Dire Gol (at age 19).”
Here’s Paola singing the theme song for Indietro tutta!
So because I’m a woman, and not a young woman, I get curious about what it’s like for an actress in Italy that isn’t a teenager anymore. It seems ridiculously difficult for American actresses to find work as they age. Paola is only 42, hardly past her prime, but growing older hasn’t put a dent in her career by any means. She’s made 6 movies in the last 3 years, 5 extremely successful ones and 1 that is yet to be released (but it looks like a winner: Cristina Comencini’s Qualcosa di Nuovo also starring Micaela Ramazzotti).
Paola told me that it is a little easier in Italy for actresses, but not by much, and reminded me that even she had been cast, at 30, as the wife of Giovanni Storti, 18 years older, in Tu La Conosci Claudia (to be honest, I’ve spent years wondering how Claudia ever ended up with Giovanni in the first place). Evidence of her star power, her last few films have paired her with some of the most handsome, successful actors working today, Raoul Bova, Luca Argentero, and Alessandro Gassman.
Her latest film to be out in theaters, Gli Ultimi Saranno Ultimi (The Last Will Be Last) is a dark comedy that provides depressingly authentic social commentary on the economic crisis in Italy today, and Paola told me that it intends to harken back to the old neorealist films of De Sica, Comencini and Rossellini, with it’s “bitter” (amaro) overtones.
“They tell about the average man who goes to work, does his best, and is beaten down by society, and that’s what we wanted to do with this film.”
“Inspired by a bathtub”, ( in a comical side story, antennas cause the daily mass to be broadcast through the plumbing, an actual problem Nepi, for the town it is set in) Paola says that the film is based on her one woman play, Paola playing 6 characters from the story without wardrobe or makeup changes. She says that she wanted to tell this story to raise awareness for the situation in Italy, because there, according to her, so many people are “the last”, even the bosses, living with impossible situations.
One of THE MOST adorable things about Paola is her legion of fans, and it makes sense that they love her so much.
I asked Paola what the nicest, cutest, or funniest thing her fans have ever done for me, and she told me a story about when she played in the movie Sotto Una Buona Stella with Carlo Verdone and her character’s name was Luisa Tombolini.
“Do you know the game Tombola?” she asked me. (I do now, but I didn’t then.) “It’s like your game “Bingo”.
Apparently some of her fans made her a gift with her name using the “tambolini” (game pieces), to commemorate her character.
I asked the girls from @PCnpf that I know if they’d been those fans, and they told me about a game that they’d made for her, an adorable Monopoly-style game. Paolopoly. Priceless!
When you are a nice person who is also gorgeous, a talented singer and an award-winning actress you are bound to have an amazing fan club!
Note to self: Start a distribution company and get her films over here to the USA. If you have a region free DVD player you’ll want to check out: