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Monica Bellucci, queen of The Brothers Grimm: Mirror, mirror

Mirror, mirror

La bella Bellucci

The fairest of them all casts her spell on Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm

Monica Bellucci walks into the room at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons wearing a long, black cocktail dress, looking, at 12:30 in the afternoon, every bit the reincarnation of every legendary Italian diva, from Anna Magnani to Sophia Loren to Gina Lollobrigida. Her hair is cut into a flapper-like bob. She looks slightly amused by it all, but not in a stuck-up way – more like she’s playing her latest role, that of the Italian movie star jetting into L.A. to do a little press. "Hello, everybody," she says, before pulling up a chair to chat about her role as the Mirror Queen – one part Snow White’s evil stepmother, one part Cruella De Vil – in Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm.

Gilliam’s warped portrayal of the famous German brothers responsible for some of the world’s most famous fairytales stars Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, who travel through the backwoods of rural Germany during the reign of Napoleon fraudulently vanquishing make-believe monsters and demons in exchange for cash. It all goes perfectly until the French royalty find out about their schemes and the brothers face a real magical curse in an enchanted forest where young maidens keep disappearing. Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel all appear in the film as the Brothers Grimm try to conquer the consequences of their rich imaginary lives. Gilliam’s vision is dark, twisted, fantastical and ultimately upbeat, and his most evil character of all is no exception. The Mirror Queen is an over-the-top role even for Gilliam, who loves over-the-top performances. But Bellucci doesn’t worry about being bad.

The world’s most beautiful woman may live in Paris and star in films in three different languages – French, Italian and English – but she actually started out on the far, far outskirts of show business. Bellucci grew up in the small town of Città di Castello, where her dad owned a trucking business. At 18 she left home to attend the University of Perugia, where she hoped to study law. To pay tuition she started modelling. Two years later she quit school and moved to Milan to model full-time, including a memorable black-and-white ad campaign for Dolce and Gabbana.

Bellucci did a number of small Italian and French films, then did Malena in 2000, for which she earned worldwide attention. Since then, she’s bounced between the European film industry and Hollywood. She played Gene Hackman’s wife in Under Suspicion, Bruce Willis’s sidekick and a Doctor Without Borders in Tears of the Sun, a character in two Matrix sequels, and Mary Magdalene in The Passion of the Christ – oh yeah, add Aramaic to the first three languages. She also starred in Spike Lee’s latest, She Hate Me, and recently completed her first movie since the birth of her daughter, a Bertrand Blier-directed film titled How Much Do You Love Me?

Her most memorable role, though, may be in 2004′s Irréversible, where she played a victim of a graphic rape who, along with her husband (played in the film by her real-life husband Vincent Cassel), seeks vengeance from the rapist. Bellucci is not afraid to tackle parts that go to the dark places in the heart. "I’m not a good girl," Bellucci laughs, "but I am a good mother."

"I didn’t want to play her as simply mean," she says of the Mirror Queen, "but as someone whose fate has become quite sad. She’s going to live forever, but little by little she’s becoming old and decrepit – so there’s something tragic about her, which is part of what interested me."

Gilliam was impressed by her acting from the start. "She really surprised me," he says. "I remember the first day of shooting – she came in, and all the gear was on her. It was almost impossible to move in that costume – you wouldn’t know that the way she does move. It’s the scene where Will’s dying, and she comes in, and speaks in that little baby doll voice…"

(Here Gilliam does his own version of Bellucci doing that baby doll voice, which makes him sound like a cross between Tiny Tim and Pee Wee Herman.)

"It took me a moment to hear it. I had all these ideas how it would come out in my head, and it was so far from what I expected – and it was spot on. Brilliant. From the beginning, she got me."

"Terry Gilliam is considered in Europe as a genius," Bellucci retorts. "He has this freedom as a director – this fantasy. And he discovers what he wants from actors as he directs them, so you have to be on your toes."

Matt Damon, sporting mutton chops, plays the Grimm brother most likely to win Bellucci’s affection in the film. Showing up at the Four Seasons with co-star Heath Ledger, he recounts how tantalizingly close he got to kissing La Bellucci.

"There’s that scene where I say, ‘You’re the fairest of them all,’ but then [at the moment I'm about to kiss her] Jacob – Heath Ledger – breaks all the mirrors, and she turns and screams. So we do the scene like nine times, and finally, on the 10th take, I get really close to her lips, and say, ‘You’re the fairest of them all,’ and then, before he has a chance to do it, I turn [to Ledger] and say, ‘Don’t break that fucking mirror!’"

Bellucci is the best sort of beautiful woman: someone who makes the distinction between her beauty and herself. "They might be fairy tales," she says of the stories in The Brothers Grimm, "but behind every one there is a meaning. I think The Mirror Queen is very appropriate for actors. We [actors] are victims of our own vanity."

The moral of this story? "Don’t," says the most beautiful woman in the room, "take your image too seriously."

The Brothers Grimm

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  • by Hieu Ly - August 25, 2005, 1:04 pm

    I’m not expecting much of Gilliam’s lastest effort. (It’s better so). We heard so much bad previews. The brothers Weinstein didn’t like Gilliam’s first cut of the movie., the script is not from Gilliam but was written by Ehren Kruger (writer of Arlington Road, Scream 3.)
    Looking at the movie poster with close up on Damon’s and Ledger’s face with a dull tagline saying “Eliminating evil since 1812″, “The Grimms Brothers” looks to me like Gilliam’s equivalent to Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes”, a studio product in the hands of an auteur in need of work.

    BTW Monica Bellucci is almost 41! She was fairly exposed in french cinema landscape before Malena. And she didn’t only play sex goddess. As such Bellucci is a diva more comparable to Rita Hayworth or Sophia Loren rather to shallow Gina Lollbrigida or Raquel Welsh.

  • by Vladimir Joseph - August 25, 2005, 4:21 pm

    I’ve followed Monica Bellucci’s career for a while now and to be honest this is her second most wasted moment on the screen since Matrix Revolutions. She’s barely in the movie and if your only reason to see this movie is her then stick to Malena because she’s barely here and when she isn’t the movie barely works. Just awful. Worst terry Gilliam movie ever.

  • by Oliver Domenchini - August 25, 2005, 9:27 pm

    She’s got it! Mia bella Monica.
    Why not adore her,she’s a classical beauty,not a hollywood Barbi or anorexic.We all know that she’s going to become a Rubanesque lady with a moustache when she’s older,just like our moms and grandmas.That makes her even more real and beautiful.
    How unfair is it that a woman can be that lovely, and talented as well. She is definitely blessed.Malena was an excellent film,and how about the committment she made in Irreversible?I’m not sure if it’s just me projecting my own fantasies,but in interviews,she seems like a humble and down to earth person as well.I’d hold my breath for her.
    How lucky is that Vincent Cassel guy.I hope a bus hits him just enough to fini him.Then I would write the letter she’s been waiting for:

    Dear Monica,
    Sorry to hear about your loss.I know your a goddess and I’m just a royal fool,but if you like to laugh and don’t mind a guy with a bicycle sized spare tire,I’m your dreamy, creamy Canolli.I promise to keep you warm always and kiss your feet whenever you ask.
    Ciao !
    Interestingly though,I wouldn’t go and see this film because of Senora Belucci.I would go and see it for Terry Gillium,who is a creator of beauty.

  • by Nathalie Verbruggen - August 26, 2005, 9:23 pm

    Im not a groopie pf matt damon .. and as usual in the metro I read the hour! and I read the article on the movie with monica belucci and matt demon ( oh yes and Heith ledger eurrk ! )
    and must admit the whole fairytale idea kind of appealed to me. I think this is a great idea! making monica the bitch of the movie … ( he he he ) Shes a good actress dont get me wrong .. the movie Malena that she did a few years ago still gives me shivers her performance was so real. This is on my list to see and if I hadnt read the HOUR I wouldnt havesen it. The advertisements are not great and do not make it as intriguing as you did!
    thanks … now Im going to have to go to a smelly theater to enjoy it ( too bad its not like in germany with no popcorn and wrapping paper sounds ) … maybe one day we will evoluate in this area!

  • by Velizar Zecevic - August 27, 2005, 2:23 am

    Monica Bellucci!
    Another hollywood beuty to add to the mix? Yes, but she has talent too.
    Her numerous successful roles prove that she does have a place in films on the big screen, and on our tv screens aswell. If she keeps it up she could be compared to such talented actresses as Catherine Zeta-Jones, they look a little alike. Terry Gilliam did the right thing to cast Monica in The Brothers Grimm. He got the right fit for the mirror queen.

  • by Vanessa Hasid - August 27, 2005, 2:29 pm

    I’m very picky about which actors and actresses I give credit to, because fame is something that should seriously be earned. However Monica Bellucci seems like one of those who’s success has been well-deserved. On a strictly superficial level, I at first didn’t understand why people were naming her one of the most beautiful women in the business. But as I watch her act, I see that most of her beauty comes from her real talent and her incredible onscreen presence. Tackling the Aramaic in a very unglamourous role as Magdalen in The Passion of the Christ took a lot of guts, but she faced the challenge head on and was just brilliant in it. Need I even mention her incredible role in Irréversible? What’s great about Bellucci is that she doesn’t choose the safe roles that limit her showcase of talent. She chooses meaty roles that have a lot of substance and that add not only films to her resumé, but actual skill.
    There exist a crop of actresses from foreign countries who can barely speak the language but that get roles in major Hollywood productions by showing off their bodies à la Salma Hayek. But she’s upped herself since, with a great role in Frida. Penélope Cruz who started off not impressing me at all, is slowly getting there. Bellucci however, has always been a great actress. None of her roles in Hollywood have been earned simply by her body, but rather because she can actually act, and I respect that. And this article has just made it more clear what an intelligent woman she is. Not only that, but now that I see more what beauty people speak of, I see that her beauty is a natural one and is something that is not always easy to achieve without layers of makeup. She is curvy, she is down to earth, and she is the epitome of a real woman, and it’s refreshing to have someone like her popping up in Hollywood. She deserves to be “It” rather than yet another blonde twig.
    Too bad Heath Ledger isn’t mentioned more – he’s also still fairly unknown and just brilliant.

  • by Dawn Manhertz - August 27, 2005, 6:21 pm

    This woman is definitely gorgeous.
    No doubt about that.
    But it = nice to know that she’s got an actual working brain inside her pretty head. I mean sure, I don’t know her at all, but some famous people really portray their true selves in interviews, and she seems like the type.
    All things considered, I’ve appreciated everything I’ve seen with her in it up until now, and not been disappointed, so I think that I just might see the Brothers Grimm. Despite the major downfall of the film starring the likes of Matt Damon, I may actually splurge and overlook that minor detail.

  • by Joyce Ostroff - August 28, 2005, 12:35 am

    What a total waste of several hours of my life which, resentfully, I can never get back! This film for me has not one redeeming feature. It is not clever nor well-acted. Supposedly funny, it contains only one humerous line in my opinion, and that comes right near the end! This film goes up, down and all over the place. At no time could I care less what happened to any of the characters, even when terrible fates awaited. Now that’s a difficult feat for a film to accomplish!
    It is loud, violent, unrelenting in its horrific images, evil befalling all the innocents, and its killing off of the same main characters numerous times. Mainly it is a mindless insult to the intelligence of its audiences. The Gazette’s John Griffin seems to be the only promoter of this BOMB and that begs the question as to what he may have been on while viewing this wreck…

  • by Helen Lin - August 28, 2005, 11:05 am

    Okay so its not the best movie out right now. But give it a break, its not THAT bad. Some positives:
    The movie has a not too bad story thats reminicant of Van Helsing at a first glance.
    The movie has some pretty good special effects, although it does seem that they spent more time in this area due to a lack of time spent on story, etc.
    Now some negatives:
    The movie has some pretty cheezy acting from Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. Wait, was that really Heath? I mean at first glance I didn’t even realize it was him. They’re fake accents seem to slip up a bit at times, causing a lack of focus of whats going on.
    Some parts of the story certainly lack detail and the dialoge seems almost ridiculous at times.
    However, after leaving the theater I had a feeling that the movie did acheive its entertainment goal.
    So when seeing this movie, be warned. It’s not meant for the thinking man, but yet for the person who simply wants to be entertained.

  • by Maria Jankovics - August 29, 2005, 6:15 pm

    I suppose I can say it is high time that finally an actress of great beauty and a good actress at that has come to do magic on the silver screen. It was really high time as lately there is just too many actressess floating about and not all I can say are that impressive. But then I can say the same for actors there are just too many actors arriving on the scene so it is hard to know them all. In Hollywood you had choice actors and actresses that really made it big and those names we all know and respect to this day. But frankly can you say the same for all the latest new talents that keep popping up lately. there are in my opinion too many actors and actresses that want to make it big but somhow they might get a good shot at it but then it is over in a few years they are not surviving til old age like Katherine Hepburn or Betty Davis or Joan Crawford; we cannot compare the new additions of actresses to the likes of these great stars. The actors too when will you have another great Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Yul Bryner, Charleton Heston, Gregory Peck etc.etc You won’t see the likes of these stars ever again. So I hope that Monica Belluci is not only beautiful but a lasting actress that will make her mark in movie industry and also leave her mark as a great actress now and much later on in her lifetime. As we seriously need well-rounded actors and actresses that can really act to produce classics for the next generations to come.

  • by Luciano Santavicca - August 30, 2005, 3:47 am

    I have to admit, I was waiting anxiously the release of this movie. The Grimm Brothers is a fabulous story book. It has an impressive collection of fables, to scare children and adults alike. Now add Mr. Terry Gilliam, who made the Monty Python movie and other bizarre movies, that mix is bound for success. The Grimm Brothers are con artist who fight against witches and monsters. It reminded me at times of the little red riding hood fairy tale. The film and musical score are enchanting and very entertaining. The scenery and decor are amazing. It can be compared to Sleepy Hollow or Harry Potter. Heath Ledger, I found was great in the role of Jake Grimm. As for Gilliam, he has a wicked imagination. I am sure that a sequel will be in the works.

  • by Pedro Eggers - August 30, 2005, 1:53 pm

    “Mrs. Rabbit: Thumper!
    Thumper: Yes, mama?
    Mrs. Rabbit: What did your father tell you this morning?
    Thumper: If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.”–from 1942′s “Bambi”.
    This was the golden rule we all learned as kids, and as applied here in regards to Terry Gilliam’s “The Brothers Grimm” if you can’t say something nice then distract the people by talking about the Italian bombshell in said film. Sorry but not to go against the whole ‘Monica Bellucci is a timeless beauty/incredible actress’ vibe that this site’s got going but isn’t this a bloody given? Hey, I could wax poetic about how beautiful she is and how people tend to overlook her skill as an actress but too many people have already done that. I guess that was the intent of the review…if you could call it that.
    Oh, I’m sorry, was I the only one who noticed how horribly mangled Terry Gilliam’s “The Brothers Grimm” was? I’m pretty sure I can’t be because it’s pretty much impossible to avoid. Focusing this article on Bellucci was a fine bit of journalistic bait n’ switch because you essentially have to look past her and what’s said to read between the lines about this movie…or rather what’s not being said.
    Terry Gilliam is now and has always been a visual genius and the fine cast assembled for this flick is nothing short of sublime but was this project ever a disjointed mess. The genius is there in every shot and if you were to dissect the whole thing you’d conclude that this is a gem but to sit through it in one shot is painful. This movie just doesn’t work because it just doesn’t hold together. There are scenes and there are moments…there’s just no movie to speak of. Monica Bellucci is in it and she plays her part but is that supposed to distract me from the fractured fairy tale that is this production. Terry Gilliam’s failed Don Quixote project held together better than this.

  • by Maria Cecillia Silva - September 1, 2005, 12:07 pm

    I really liked the idea of this story with the incorporation of all those fairytales we grew up with. it was dreamy and funny and very entertaining. There is a child in everyone of us and this movie appeals to our inner child. I was relaxed and almost felt cradled watching this story unfold. It was a very pleasant feeling.

  • by Carmela Sicurella - September 3, 2005, 3:24 pm

    Monica Bellucci is one of the best actresses ever to come out of Italy. She is beautiful and she could act. I have been watching her films before she ever came to America to make movies. When she made the smash 2000 film called “Malena” she became an instant star. That film showcases her to the world as a beautiful talented actress who can tackle any role and play it with grace. I look forward to watching future films that star Monica Bellucci and one day she will win the Oscar.

  • by Alain Tremblay - September 6, 2005, 5:32 pm

    Is a movie reality or is it a fairy tale that scares us? Terry Gilliam has accustomed us to excessive movies, excessive scripts, excessive gesture and we will be served beyond our wildest wishes with this new film of his! However, I won’t be going out to watch it! You see, violence irritates me: I already live in a violent world, as I realize every day when riding my bicycle to work. Often, I have to ask myself: “Will I be alive at the end of my ride, yes or no?” So I don’t need scary special effects to get shivers. Reality makes me shiver, not movies. Movies are merely projections of life on a chemical device and a plastic support which transposes motions of comedians who PLAY life without living it! Why would I care and be scarred by a chemical emulsion? Why would I agree to be frightnened by special effects, which are just what the word says: “effects”, designed to scare moviegoers who think that ketchup is real blood? Reality is far simpler, like a 10 ton truck going through a red light and missing you by a millimetre. That’s the kind of reality that scares me.
    I shall therefore stay at home reading the Brothers Grimm, or Bruno Bethlehem (Bettelheim), or maybe Stephen King (excellent writer except when he adds devils and demons in his work. Devils and demons are unreal, just like ketchup that isn’t real blood. They are special effects of our imagination!) and let other people go and watch that movie in order to be scared by ketchup and special effects.

  • by Elise Doucet - September 6, 2005, 9:24 pm

    When i first got tickets to go see this movie,i expected it to be a happy movie(fairytale) but it turned out to be much more”grim” than i would’ve thought!But behind all the darkness of the story,it was still a very good movie.Monica Belucci gave it a frightening yet exciting twist!She’s very talented and quite pretty.Even if this movie is rated g,i don’t suggest bringing small children.Its quite frightening.Matt damon and heath ledger worked amazingly together and played-off a realistic brotherhood.If you haven’t seen this movie yet ,run to the box-office and get tickets!Its really amusing!

  • by Zachary Masoud - January 17, 2006, 11:44 am

    The Brothers Grimm were con artists. They created the most brilliant of stories and would con all the villages in Europe to believe these stories and fear these made-up creatures concocted by the Grimms. Then, the villagers would believe that one of these fictional creatures were haunting their village and would call the Brothers Grimm to save the day. The Grimms would put quite a show on and for a healthy sum of money they would promise all of the villagers that they would destroy this creature. Naturally though, everyone gets caught eventually and in this case, it was one of the French Revolution Generals who happened to figure out what cons the Brothers Grimm were behind. Now, this general has made a deal with the Brothers. He will let them be free and not kill them if they go to a village and discover exactly what is happening. The only thing is, what if there really is something supernatural causing all the horror in the village?
    So, there is the premise to the Brothers Grimm film and it sounds just awesome. The story has so much potential but the film is quite disapointing. Poor directing, poor acting, what is the cause for the letdown? Well, I can sure without a doubt that one thing is not a letdown and that is the beautiful and stunning Monica Belucci. Yes, her part isn’t the biggest, but whenever she’s on the screen, she just puts us in awe. She always takes rather peculiar parts and always ends up highlighting the films she stars in.
    Ultimately, this film was a let down and it was quite a disapointment for those who watched it. It didn’t progress well and it just felt long. One of the many summer bombs this year.

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