For nearly 40 years, questions concerning Onica Bellucci’s beauty have been asked. Many male journalists have become overheated by the Italian-born actor, who was once a model and has the somewhat questionable distinction of being the oldest Bond girl. When describing her in an interview in 2004, the interviewer focused on the way “she sweeps the cappuccino froth from her lips with the long, unpainted nails of her exquisite fingers,” calling her “a distillation of every Italian perfection.”
Bellucci is seated next to me in a quiet area of a hotel bar in Paris, drinking her coffee as if it were nothing special (and politely worrying when I don’t order any). She pauses before answering my question regarding these gasping accounts, “It’s funny. It is merely a fiction that persists pointlessly since no one believes it. I don’t think so. Neither does the other person. Even so, does she read them? “No. It can be extremely dull,” she quips sourly.
Unusually, Bellucci, whose career includes blockbusters like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and the Matrix sequels in addition to Italian and French arthouse movies, isn’t here to discuss a movie. Instead, she just expanded her repertoire by making her stage debut in Tom Volf’s production of Maria Callas: Letters and Memoirs. It began in Paris and travelled to Italy, Greece, and Turkey after that. Omicron struck before Bellucci could perform it at Her Majesty’s theatre in London in December. Now, April has been chosen as the new date.
The programme is based on Volf’s book of the same name, published in 2019, which included 350 of Callas’s letters in addition to her unfinished autobiography. Bellucci overcome a lifetime of stage shyness because she was so driven to perform the great soprano’s writings. She has declined countless invitations to appear in plays throughout the years. She claims, “I wouldn’t have dreamed of it.” She laughs staccato when I inquire about how she was feeling in the months leading up to the 2020 premiere. “Bad. Even now, I’m always afraid because you have all those people in front of you and have to cope with all these energies.
He says over the phone that Volf met Bellucci through a friend and visited her in Paris to persuade her to accept the part. He is a photographer and filmmaker who has built a living since 2013 as something of a Callas devotee. He also directed the 2017 documentary Maria by Callas, which featured the opera star’s own words and was one of three volumes about the vocalist. You’re aware of the concept of “love at first sight”? Volf describes the first time he heard Bellucci read Callas’s letters. It appeared as though she understood her feelings and mental state right away. I could see a bit of Callas through the glass that let light shine on Monica’s face.