Actress, singer, director, polyvalent and multicultural, Maria de Medeiros was born in Lisbon, grew up in Vienna and has lived in Paris for the last 20 years.
So she is in every sense a genuine citizen of Europe.
“Yes, it’s true I feel like I’m a citizen of Europe and I thank my parents for having educated me with this European perspective. As a child I lived in Austria and often went home to Portugal by car for holidays.
“So from a very early age I was used to travelling across Europe, going via Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. Each time we changed language and culture. My mother was always very strong in languages, so each time we crossed a frontier we automatically changed language, which left us pretty surprised.
“It was a very good school. It’s true, I grew up with this idea that at heart I am a citizen of Europe.”
– What does Europe mean to you?
“I think that Europe is a very ambitious idea, a very idealistic concept that inspires me. It’s a concept that involves finding unity in extreme diversity, in a long shared history that was often constructed out of conflict, but which unites us and gives us a rich common artistic and linguistic culture. It’s a wonderful project.”
De Madeiros starred in her first film at the age of 15 but it was her role as the author Anais Nin in Phillip Kaufmann’s “Henry and June” in 1990 that first brought her to international attention.
On the other side of the camera, she’s directed several short and full length films, including “April Captains” her tribute to the heros of the 1974 Carnation Revolution in Portugal.
“April Captains was the project of a lifetime. I began working on it when I was 21-years-old. I realised it was an enormous privilege to have lived through the Carnation Revolution in my childhood and witness a real creation of democracy. I say real, because on the television, they’ve got us used to believing that you establish democracy through the power of bombs, by killing civilian populations… in fact it’s not in that way that democracy is established. Portugal has taught the world a lesson, it has shown this example, unique in the world, of how you can achieve real democracy via a pacifist, humanist path.”
Outside the realm of cinema, De Madeiros has also pursued a musical career. Following on from “A little more blue” she is working on a second solo album, and has also participated in the tribute album and show in honour of the Italian composer Nino Rota.
-The Italian singer Mauro Giola, who worked with you on the Nino Rota project, descibed you as an activist, somewhere between revolutionary and child. Do you recognise yourself in that description?
“Yes because I believe there’s an idealism in the idea of revolution that you should never lose. It’s something to do with childhood, in the sense that you’ve always the hope of improving things and changing the world. There’s an energy in the idea of revolution…
“What’s more, what seduced me about the idea of the Carnation Revolution was that it was carried out by people who were very young, they were 29 or 30 at the time, who had already lived through very difficult and very significant experiences, but still had that energy, that hope in the future, that you have when you are young.
“In that sense, for me revolution is linked to a certain idea of youth, of hope.”
What was it like being an actress in the United States?
“I didn’t grow up with the American Dream. I wasn’t even meant to become an actress. Of course I adored Betty Davis and American cinema, but I didn’t grow up idolising cinema culture, or even American Rock and Roll. I’ve always considered myself much more European.
“But of course, every time I’ve been called up to make a film in the USA, I’ve been delighted. But it’s something that’s begun in Europe. All the American directors with whom I’ve worked have come to look for me in Europe. I’ve never set myself up in Hollywood, I’ve never tried to build a career there.”
“I’m very much a city dweller. I like to sense the city, I like to go the theatre, the cinema or to a concert. I like urban living.
“Paris is a difficult city. Of course when there’s sunshine like today it’s super, but everyday life is hard. But for artists, for all these years, Paris has always been very attractive, because there’s a cultural offering which I hope will be maintained and because it’s a city which helps artists and cultural production, at all levels to a certain extent.
“These grants are in in danger now, but it’s that which brought us here to Paris. It’s a city where for many years it has been possible to live as an artist. And I hope that it’s going to continue like that.”