6 Questions With…Isabella Rossellini

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Photo Source: Andre Rau

The actor and model known for her iconic roles in “Blue Velvet” and “Death Becomes Her” chats with Backstage about her acting crush, her worries about living in her famous mother’s shadow, and her most challenging role.

Tell us about your latest project.
Right now I’m touring with the “Green Porno” monologue that’s inspired by my short film [about sexual behavior in animals]. And I’ve been doing it now for a year, touring from Australia to Europe. And now I’m in the States, and I’m doing seven cities.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Well, my mom is Ingrid Bergman, so for a long time I did not want to be an actress because I thought that my mom’s career would always overshadow mine and I wanted to be independent like all kids. So I became an actress only when I was 31. And it actually came out of modeling because I realized that part of modeling is acting—even if it is one frame, you still have to have emotion in front of the camera. And so I thought that I could evolve my modeling, which you know is always limited in time, and become an actress.

What’s one thing you wish you knew before you started acting?
The amount of advertisement that one has to do. I didn’t realize how much contact with the press, how many interviews you have to give every year, how many red carpets, and how much promotion it was. Today in my 60s, I’m working relatively little—I might give 300 or 400 interviews, and I imagine actors at the peak of their careers might give 1,000 or 2,000 per year. It really is almost a full-time occupation and I didn’t understand that. I thought acting was more about acting, but so much time is spent promoting the films you’re doing.

Who do you have an acting crush on?
I think I’d go see all films with Nicole Kidman. I generally go see directors more; I’m more attracted to films and pay more attention to directors, or if I hear a film is good, I’ll go see it. But Nicole Kidman mesmerizes me, so I go see her films no matter what they are—even if they get bad reviews, ’cause I really love to see her.

What’s been your most challenging role?
The most challenging and probably most satisfying role was the one in “Blue Velvet,” because it was a very unusual part. I had to play somebody who was probably mentally disturbed and had arrived there after being tortured and ritually raped. So that was a very unusual role. Generally you play a love interest or a lady who’s been left or is sad—something much less complex than Dorothy Vallens. So it was challenging, but also was one of the most interesting parts.

Which of your performances has left a lasting mark on you?
Well, actually, I did a Dutch film called “Left Luggage” and the director is Jeroen Krabbé. And I played a Hasidic Jew and the film was very successful in Europe. The film was wonderful because it really sort of plunged me into another culture. I felt like an actor-anthropologist learning everything about that culture.

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