Bond girl Caterina Murino being hailed as the new Sophia Loren
With more than a hint of the young Sophia Loren about her, Italian actress Caterina Murino played Daniel Craigâs lover in Bond movie Casino Royale. But even that thrill is eclipsed by getting to kiss Rufus Sewell â a man she describes as a âgodâ â in hot new detective series Zen, reports the Daily Mail
Caterina Murino looks madly out of place pulling her suitcase down a shabby street a stoneâs throw from St Pancras station. The 33-year-old Italian-born actress has so much natural glamour that even after a tiring Eurostar journey from Paris â bare of make-up and dressed in jeans â she gives the industrial North London setting a touch of la dolce vita.
Ten minutes after her arrival at the YOU photo shoot â espresso in one hand, BlackBerry in the other â she has taken control of the studio in a way that is just a little intimidating. The ex-model and former Bond girl (she played Solange in Casino Royale) is here to talk about her role in three feature-length TV adaptations of Michael Dibdinâs Aurelio Zen novels. Caterina is Tania Biacas, the love interest of the cult Italian detective, played by Rufus Sewell, and she is â apart from the locations used in the films â probably the only truly Italian thing in the series. So Italian, indeed, that even the story of her first audition has her wiping tears of passion from her huge brown eyes.
âMy Rufus! I was in love with Rufus from the first time I saw him in the film Dangerous Beauty 12 years ago. I have watched that movie more than 20 times â I know it by heart in English, in French and Italian, and for me Rufus is one of the best actors in the world. He is a god! So I panicked when I had to do an audition with him. I cannot look him in the eyes â but he is so generous, so humble, so there to help and support me. At the end of the casting he came over and said, âI hope you get the part.â I was so happy when I did,â she says in an accent that, along with her body and her bearing, creates the effect of a latter-day Sophia Loren.
It was Caterinaâs love of British theatre and actors (she also regards Kenneth Branagh and her Casino Royale co-star Daniel Craig as âgodsâ) that inspired her to become an actress. Growing up in Sardinia â in a family that prized education â she originally intended to become a doctor, but when she failed to get into medical school she entered the Miss Italy contest (coming fourth) and became a model.
âModelling was not very satisfying for me. I came to London to model and I fell in love with the theatre. I was eating yoghurt every day so that I had the money to go to the theatre. I saw everything. Itâs still my dream to be on stage in London,â she says.
Caterina returned to Italy to study acting â against her parentsâ wishes â at the School of Cinema and Theatre of Francesca de Sapio, and embarked on a career that made her a star in Europe (she is fluent in French and Spanish) and eventually led to her Casino Royale role.
âMy parents wanted me to be a doctor and they werenât very happy at the idea of me choosing acting as a career. Everyone in my family went to university â my older brother is a lawyer â but when they saw me for the first time at the theatre they thought, âOKâ. They like it very much now,â she says with a smile.
Caterina lives in Paris and enjoys the kind of celebrity there (the French refer to her as the ânew Monica Bellucciâ) that has led to her becoming the âfaceâ of Omega watches, a muse to designers Dolce and Gabbana and a goodwill ambassador for Amref, a charity that provides health care in Africa. She regards France as her second home, although she is a little dismissive of the food (âit is all fat and foie grasâ) and the politics (âin Italy we just shrug our shoulders and say âOKâ, in France everything is a revolutionâ). She shares a flat in the Montmartre district with her boyfriend of two years, the French international rugby star Pierre Rabadan, 30.
âWe met at a charity event. It was good timing. I wasnât looking for someone but I was free and he was free and looking for somebody. I didnât know anything about rugby; I still donât. I go and watch and I scream for him like an idiot, but I donât understand the game. It is such a dangerous sport â last year he broke his nose four times in the same month,â she says, putting her hands up to her face to signify her horror.
The only problem the couple have is finding time to be together, as their respective careers involve long periods away. Shooting the three upcoming Zen films in and around Rome meant that she and Pierre were apart for three months â Pierre apparently less taken by the idea of his girlfriend co-starring with her âgodâ Rufus Sewell than Caterina was. Filming her first screen kiss with the actor â in a lift â was particularly difficult.
âAt first I was blushing in every scene, and then one day I said to Rufus, âI have to understand that you are a human being; that you eat like me, that you drink water like me. I have to break up this image I have of you as a god.â It was very hard having to kiss my favourite actor in the world,â she says, shaking her head at the memory.
âI have a dream of re-creating the fantastic family I grew up inâ
Shooting scenes together became even more fraught, she reveals, when both of them developed a skin condition that prompted on-set gossip and involved doctors and dermatologists.
âRufus and I had this strange thing where we came out with this very painful rash. None of the other actors or the crew were affected, and everybody started thinking âthatâs a bit oddâ; even the doctors asked, âjust you two?â And we had to tell them, âNo, no, this is not a romantic thing at all!â In the end they discovered that his trailer and my trailer were infested with, I donât know how you say this, a small animal that bites youâ¦â
If the Zen films are as critically acclaimed and popular as Wallander (the award-winning series starring Kenneth Branagh was created by the same team) they will serve as a further boost to Caterinaâs international career. We meet shortly after her return from Toronto, where she was filming a role in the forthcoming Canadian-French co-production XIII: the Series, based on the popular conspiracy theory comic books created by Jean Van Hamme and William Vance. But Caterina is not interested in a Hollywood-based career (in XIII she has an American accent, thanks to her âbeautiful dialogue coach Penny Dyerâ) because her first love remains theatre and she wants to keep her life ârealâ.
âI have to lead a real life. Being away, I miss going to the supermarket, cleaning the house, cooking for Pierre. Just after I got back my agent rang with another job and I said, âDo you know what I have to do now? I have to sit on a sofa, see my friends, do the washing up â the normal things in life.â I do have ambition â I can dress up for a premiere, get in a limousine, but itâs not my life. My life is wearing jeans and tennis shoes and travelling on the mÃ©tro. I have to do that because otherwise my acting is going to be false.â
Other components of Caterinaâs real life are nights out in Paris with her two best friends (most of her friends are female and she is, she says, a âwomanâs womanâ), running marathons and talking on the phone every day with her mother (she doesnât use Skype because she is, âA woman who should have been born in 1800, I am no good with computersâ). She wonât be drawn on whether she and Pierre will marry, but she definitely wants children one day.
âI have a dream of re-creating the fantastic family I grew up in with my brother and my parents. I am lucky that I have such a good image of family life â my father and mother are still in love, still happy,â she says, with yet more evident emotion (she is, she admits, âa very emotional personâ).
Caterinaâs passionate nature has made the make-up artistâs job (we have been talking while she is being made up for the photographs) very difficult and she needs drops to clear her tearful eyes ready for mascara. As we part I confess that I had misjudged her at the outset of the interview, thinking that she would be aloof and distant rather than the warm, wonderfully funny and open woman I have discovered.
âI know, people always think I am cold and hard. My mother always says to me, âCaterina, you appear so dry. When they meet you, people think you are from the Queenâs family â very distant â but after they know you, they love you.â And itâs true of me, and true of all people from Sardinia. We are very proud but underneath we are soft, we cry all the timeâ¦â
Thanks to `danslittlefinger` for the alert. Discuss this news here...