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A very passionate Celentano

The daughter of Italy's most famous couple stars in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ

By Angela Baldassarre

Her name is barely known on this side of the Atlantic - unless you're of Italian descent. But in her native Italy the word Celentano is synonymous with music, film and superstardom. The daughter of renowned singers and actors Adriano Celentano and Claudia Mori, 39-year-old Rosalinda Celentano has had a tough time living up to her pedigree. But following a brief music career and roles in Italian films, the stunning actress has hit the big time in Mel Gibson's controversial box-office hit The Passion of the Christ.
The film, which chronicles the final hours of Jesus' life, showcases a remarkable Celentano as the androgynous Devil who tries to lure Christ into doubt.
Tandem talked to Rosalinda Celentano from her home in Rome.

How did Mel Gibson offer you this part?
"I was working on a short film with [director] Francesca Neri, and while I was on the set I was told that a very important director wanted to see me for a very important and very particular role. The person wouldn't tell me anything else because she didn't want to disarm me but said I should study Aramaic under this particular professor. One month later they call me, and I go in for an audition. I walk into this room and I see Mel Gibson and this professor of Aramaic. Gibson had my photograph and asks me to read some Aramaic with this professor. I do and everything is fine. We start laughing, and he made me very comfortable. After a while he says, 'I'll see you on the set. I want you to do this part. You're perfect for it.' It was incredible."

So did you already know how to read Aramaic?
"No. No. I didn't know how to read Aramaic, but I have a good musical ear, so reading with this professor was very easy for me. Also, I believe if one studies hard enough, one can learn anything. So that's what I did."

In order to keep the Devil androgynous, it's my understanding that Gibson dubbed your voice with that of a male's.
"No. The voice was mine. It was deep, I dubbed it myself in a heavier tone. What they did then, with my voice, is they altered it with a harmonizer to make the voice more metallized. It was a pretty natural process. They did it in a way that the voice could be attributed to anyone, a man, a woman, an old man, a young woman, or no one in particular. That was their intention."

The film hasn't been released in Italy yet, but here in Canada and in the U.S. it's caused plenty of controversy. It's also been accused of anti-Semitism. What are your thoughts on this?
" I don't believe this film is anti-Semitic. Certainly in the film the Jewish people are depicted as responsible for his death. But it was the Romans who tortured him. So if you want to be historically accurate, as the film is, then you have to condemn the Romans for having tortured and killed Jesus Christ. In essence humanity killed him. This story is disconcerting for most people; it's the greatest story of all time. I believe that this story condemns everyone, every type of man and not just the Jewish people. It so happens that in that place and time the people were Jewish. If it happened in Rome, it would've been the Romans; Milan it would've been the Milanese. That's the way I see it. It's not that Mel Gibson made anything up. Gibson stayed faithful to the gospels and to history. I just think that people look for controversy in anything. I was expecting this to happen, however."

Gibson and actor Jim Caviezel are highly religious people, and they both admitted they made this film for spiritual reasons? Did you look at this job purely as an acting gig?
"No. Doing this film, and working with Mel Gibson, was a spiritual, intellectual and physical challenge for me. You have to understand that I'm a pretty atypical actress. First of all I'm a privileged person because I do this kind of work, I work in cinema. And even more privileged because the more I move forward, the more choices I have in the kind of work I want to do. I'm very fortunate to have worked with Mel Gibson, and to have done this type of role in this kind of film. So I found this experience to be spiritually enriching. I found Gibson to have a very deep soul, so as soon as I had access to that kind of person I was immediately enriched. Regardless of how the film does, under both a personal and professional point of view, I've already won. However, if the film is a success, I'll be even happier. But I was not born and raised to be in films. I was put on this earth to love, I need to be loved. I wasn't put here to make films, but I use acting to make people understand me, and to be loved."

This brings me to another question. This need that you have to be listened to, to be loved... does this come from being the child of one of Italy's most famous couples?
"Yes, of course. My childhood... I had huge problems when I was a child. I was stuck in the middle of two legendary milestones as my parents are, in addition both my parents have strong personalities. So in order to evolve somewhat you had to leave, you had to separate paradoxically from them in order to understand who you are, what you are, what you want to do, and if you can do it alone. I was 18 years old when I left home. I took flight quite early because I had to know if I could do it on my own. Living on this earth is not easy."

But you managed.
"I'm not sure. Every day for me is a conquest. Every day for me is a test. Thank God, otherwise I'd be terribly bored. Life wouldn't make sense. For me life is a huge mystery. A beautiful mystery."

The Passion of the Christ is currently playing in local cinemas.

Publication Date: 2004-03-21
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