- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Fairy tales appeal to evil queen

ou don’t have to be a child to enjoy fairy tales.

“I love fairy tales because I think that behind fairy tales there is always a meaning,” Monica Bellucci says.

In director Terry Gilliam’s “The Brothers Grimm,” Miss Bellucci plays a legendary evil queen whose vanity causes a crisis in a German village. Brothers Will (Matt Damon) andJacob Grimm (Heath Ledger), portrayed in the story as con men who make a living off gullible people’s faith in fairy tales, face a real threat as they try to thwart the queen.

“I think the film is a metaphor that touches anyone who believes in their image, anyone who believes that their image is who they are, and when the image or the myth is destroyed, the person gets destroyed along with it,” the Italian-born actress says.

“So it’s a perfect film for all of us, especially for actors because we are the first victims of vanity,” she adds, chuckling.

Best known as the curvaceous Persephone in “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” and the bereft Mary Magdalene in “The Passion of the Christ,” Miss Bellucci welcomed the chance to play another icon in “The Brothers Grimm,” which was filmed in Prague.

“I loved the script because there are so many references in this movie to all of the Grimm fairy tales, like ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel,’” the 40-year-old says. “All these fairy tales came together to make a new tale, which is a combination of fantasy and fear. Because of that, we can recognize the Terry Gilliam trademark, a bit like ‘Baron Munchausen’ and ‘Brazil,’ which are my favorite movies.”

Although her scenes are full of special-effects movie magic, Miss Bellucci says she wasn’t working alone.

“There [were] a lot of special effects, of course,” she says, “but for me, it was great. … I loved to work with Matt and Heath. They were very nice and very generous.”

Miss Bellucci, who has homes in London, Rome and Paris, was hyped as the new international superstar when her 2000 film, “Malena,” bowed in the United States. Though she has since added such American titles as “Tears of the Sun,” “She Hate Me,” the “Matrix” films, “Passion” and “Grimm” to her resume, she says she feels no pressure to move to Hollywood.

“I come here just when I have to do interviews,” says Miss Bellucci, married since 1999 to French actor Vincent Cassel. “I’m a European, and I live there. I work in European films, and then once in a while, I make an American movie.

“I’ve been working with good directors — the Wachowski brothers (Andy and Larry), Spike Lee, Terry Gilliam, Mel Gibson. … I love American movies, but I love European movies, too, and I want to do both.”

One problem with U.S. movies is their target demographic, Miss Bellucci says.

“Now, all the movies are for teenagers,” she says. “It’s very difficult for an actress to find really deep, beautiful characters to play. Can you imagine all the characters Bette Davis played?”

The situation is different in Europe, she says.

“In Europe, we have many actresses like Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Fanny Ardant and Nathalie Baye,” she says. “All those actresses between 45 and 60, they work a lot. So I think this is more an American problem that actresses after 35 don’t work anymore.”

The Hollywood landscape isn’t hopeless, she says.

“You make incredible movies: big blockbusters like ‘Matrix’ and more intimate films like ‘Magnolia’ and ‘American Beauty.’”

Miss Bellucci went against prevailing wisdom by signing on for Mr. Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

“When I did ‘The Passion,’ nobody believed in the movie,” she recalls. “Everybody was telling me, ‘You shouldn’t do this movie,’ … But I wanted to play Mary Magdalene. I thought that I could do something strong and deep with this character.”

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