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Once Upon a Time with Claudia Cardinale

John Wayne called her a “tomboy”. British actor David Niven said she was “the most beautiful Italian invention since spaghetti”. More than 150 films

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Once Upon a Time with Claudia Cardinale

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John Wayne called her a “tomboy”. British actor David Niven said she was “the most beautiful Italian invention since spaghetti”.

Point of view

Once Rita Hayworth made me cry. She came into my dressing room on set and burst into tears and she said: 'Me too, once, I was beautiful.'

More than 150 films from a career that started by accident and a life that reads like a movie script. From jealous scenes with Robert de Niro, unrequited love for Marlon Brando and the child she had to hide to the masterpieces of cinema like The Leopard, Once Upon a Time in the West and Fellini’s 8 and 1/2.

Meet Claudia Cardinale.

Diego Giuliani, euronews:

Claudia Cardinale, firstly thank you for joining us. You’re a real star with an international background: born in Tunisia, of Italian nationality and brought up let’s say in France. We’ll move onto cinema later but first I can’t help asking but someone like yourself, who came from Tunisia and who found success through the cinema in Italy, how do you feel when you read the stories of hundreds of migrants losing their lives each day simply because they’re looking for a better life?

Claudia Cardinale:

“It’s terrible. I cry whenever I read those kind of things. There have been thousands of deaths, and what shocks me is that some of these poor people, to save themselves, have had to cling to the dead bodies of others. It’s unbelievable.”

euronews:
Can Claudia Cardinale and cinema do anything or do you think it’s a problem only politicians can solve?

Claudia Cardinale:
“We all have to fight, politicians first of all but all of us. I am a UNESCO ambassador and I’m fighting on several fronts. And yet, I admit that when I see these terrible things, all these children…it’s just awful.”

euronews:
Your journey from Tunisia on the other hand ended happily and your path to cinema was something of a fairytale: a beauty contest that you didn’t even want to enter sent you all the way to the Venice film festival. Can you tell us how that happened?

Claudia Cardinale:

+It was crazy. I was there with my mother and there were all these people from the Italian consulate who had organised the contest and all the contestants were already on the stage. Then a man comes and takes me by the arm and puts this ribbon around me that says “the most beautiful girl in Tunis.” The prize was a trip to the Venice film festival, and there were no bikinis there. But I was wearing a bikini and sometimes a Djellaba robe so the paparazzi were all taking photos of me. People started asking me to get into cinema but I told them I didn’t want to. So when I got back on the plane the newspapers called me “the girl who didn’t want to be in the movies”.

euronews:
To describe what Fellini and Visconti gave you, for launching your international career with films like 8 and 1/2 and The Leopard, you said: Visconti gave me wings, Fellini helped me reconcile with myself.” What did you mean by that?

Claudia Cardinale:

“They were poles apart. With Visconti, before filming started we did all the rehearsals, with all the cast, around a table. It all had to be perfect. With Fellini on the other hand there wasn’t even a script, it was just improvised. I was lucky to have spent so much time with Visconti. We were always together, I was always at his house, we went away together, we watched the San Remo festival together. Federico Fellini by contrast, would go down on his knees for me, he adored me, he got angry if he didn’t think I was eating enough. He used to say to me: “You belong to Africa, to the Earth. That’s why you’re my muse.”

euronews:
Marcello Mastroianni admitted publicly that he’d always loved you. Robert de Niro had jealous fits about you. You have always turned away so many admirers but then one day you receive a phone call from the man you’d said was the “most irresistible man on the planet”, Marlon Brando. How did it go that conversation?

Claudia Cardinale:

“When he found out where I was, he knocked on my hotel door, came in and did his best to, you know, seduce me. Then he looked at me and said: “OK, you’re an Aries like me, you won’t be taken for a fool.” Then he left and shut the door behind him and I just thought “How stupid am I? He’s my favourite actor.”

euronews:
What is – and what was – your secret for keeping going forward and not succumbing to the kind of nostalgia that has killed, sometimes quite literally, many stars who have been tied to their image to the point that they couldn’t accept the passing of time?

Claudia Cardinale:

“First, we only live once. But I’ve lived 151 lives in my films. And it’s a magnificent thing to be able to transform yourself like that. But to do this job you also have to be strong on the inside or you risk forgetting who you are. Once Rita Hayworth made me cry. She came into my dressing room on set and burst into tears and she said: ‘Me too, once, I was beautiful.’

“Today, I’m 77 years old and I’m still working. The most important thing is to stay active. I don0t like all these facelifts and plastic surgery, because you can’t stop time.”

euronews:
Cinema gave you many things but also took alot out of you. For years you even had to hide the fact you had a child by pretending to people that he was your little brother. What made you have to pay such a price?

Claudia Cardinale:

“They made me do it. My producer made me hide the fact because at the time I was very young and it would have caused a scandal. It was dreadful. And then one day I’d had enough and I just told him ‘Basta!’”

euronews:
And you kept this secret for 7 years…

Claudia Cardinale:

“Almost that, it was a terrible time for me.”

euronews:
It’s almost impossible counting all your films. Fortunately you did that yourself just now by telling us there are 151. What has cinema still got left to give you?

Claudia Cardinale:

“Recently I’ve been working with young directors on their first film. I’ve done movies in Austria, Spain and two in America. I continue to work and I love helping young people.”

euronews:
A last question, this one on what Werner Herzog said about utopia, which is central to his film Fitzcarraldo. “To satisfy your dreams,” he said, “you have to do the un-doable”. What is your un-doable dream?

Claudia Cardinale:

“In Tunisia it’s called Mektoub. Destiny. What hasn’t happened to me just wasn’t meant to happen to me. I’ve still fulfilled alot of dreams though.”

euronews:
Do you still have one hidden though

Claudia Cardinale:

“No, I’m waiting for the next one.”