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Guns and Gams

Monica Bellucci Knows What's In Store When She's Cast In An American Action Flick

HOOKER WITH A HEART OF...: who cares, it's Monica Bellucci.

By Cole Haddon | Posted 9/5/2007

Monica Bellucci is arguably the most famous Italian actress working in American movies, but, as proud as she might be of her heritage, she identifies herself as more "European" these days. This might have something to do with her career--first as a model, now an actress--which has kept her working across the Continent and living in Paris for much for her adult life. In fact, she acts in three different languages, Italian, French, and English. But, the truth is, as much as Bellucci has become European, she's also become an international star--and one who, rather than losing work after 40 as is the general complaint of American actresses, appears to be getting even more of it.

"This morning, a girl from New Line called and said, `Hurry up, you've got to be here,'" she says, laughing. This is how her American day started from her European point of view. "I said, `Relaaax. Calm down. It's no problem. I'll be there.' It's just the way we see things."

About to turn 43, Bellucci, who is probably best known here as Persephone in the final two Matrix movies, is not about to give up her way of life either. "In Europe, we believe in the quality of life," she explains. "We go on vacations. For me, I love being here [in America], I love the energy"--later, she'll say it makes her feel alive--"but, after a while, I get overwhelmed. Too much stress. I don't know how you deal with that."

In 1992, Bellucci made her American movie debut as one of Dracula's horny brides in Francis Ford Coppola's flop Bram Stoker's Dracula; in 2003, she played the horny bride of a snooty French computer program in the Wachowski Brothers' Matrix sequels; and, in 2004, Mel Gibson used her persona as a sexual icon to slut up Mary Magdalen in The Passion of the Christ. In her latest outing, the hyperstylized action flick Shoot 'Em Up, she plays another prostitute, this one lactating and creatively, unsubtly, called DQ.

"I'm a woman, but I love these kinds of movies," she says, laughing. "I'm not ashamed to admit that. I grew up reading comic books.

"For me, Shoot 'Em Up is an American movie," she continues. "We don't make these kinds of movies in Europe. We like these kind of movies, but we don't know how to make them. So, when I'm in Europe, I do more arty films, a different kind of thing."

It's interesting to note, though, Bellucci's starring role in 2001's Brotherhood of the Wolf, a French movie that became a cult hit here. Full of derivative storytelling and cinematography, Wachowski Brothers-inspired slow motion, and elaborately choreographed fight sequences, it could have just as easily sprang from American or Hong Kong cinema.

"For me, though, it's interesting to do both--to come here once in a while," she says. "I never made the decision to move to America and only make movies here because I feel so European."

Nevertheless, it's refreshing to hear a European do something other than bash Americans as violent ogres. Of course, she is promoting one of the bloodiest movies of the year. "You see all this violence, but you don't get scared because it's so over the top," she says. "Nobody kills people with carrots. Nobody makes love while shooting people--it's physically impossible!"

Makes love while shooting people? Well, yeah, that's one of the scenes you'll get to enjoy in Shoot 'Em Up. It starts with Clive Owen as the enigmatic Mr. Smith helping a woman give birth while he shoots down a gang of assailants with Chow Yun-Fat panache and later reaches an emotional and literal climax when Owen and Bellucci, the hooker with the heart of gold and breast milk to feed the orphaned baby now in their care, have sex in the middle of a gunfight. It's like a cartoon, influenced by spaghetti westerns and Hong Kong cinema.

Bellucci knows the score, though. She has her, as she calls them, "arty films" in Europe, while here she's got an entirely different career. In Europe she can star with her husband, actor Vincent Cassel, in Irreversible, a movie told in reverse about the effects of rape on a relationship, while in the States she makes a living as the style in movies like Shoot 'Em Up.

Consider her insight into the significance of the newborn baby that her character, along with Owen's, sets out to protect from an assassin played by Paul Giamatti. "The baby is so important to the movie because, when you think about it, when the film starts, neither Mr. Smith or DQ know how to love or know what love means, and it's through this baby that comes into their lives, a baby they have to protect and take care of, that they realize who they truly are," she says. "And through giving to the baby, they also learn how to truly love each other."

With her breathy, accented, but always playful voice, she adds, "You see, it's a violent movie, but in the end it's all about love."

And bullets. And cleavage. And Monica Bellucci is OK with that.

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