More than an actress and Italian cinema icon, Gina Lollobrigida is a great lady with many talents. Her high spirits, charming smile and strong personality have made her a living legend. The Florentine caught up with her in Sant’Agostino church in Pietrasanta, surrounded by her marble and bronze sculptures for her first exhibition in Italy.
Ten years ago, the actress came to work in Pietrasanta, where she was given honorary citizenship. These days, you can see her shopping perfectly at ease with the town and its people, who are accustomed to mingling with the internationally rich and famous.
At the vernissage, ‘La Lollo’ had smiles for her fans of every age, leaving a lasting impression of admiration and respect for her talent, and also for her lasting beauty. After all, it was Humphrey Bogart who said, “When it comes to sex appeal, Lollo makes Marilyn Monroe look like Shirley Temple”.
Her private life is taboo, but she was very keen to talk about her first love: sculpture.
Why did you choose Vissi d’Arte, the title of a Puccini aria from Tosca, for your exhibit?
Though this area is the home of Puccini, it was more of a homage to one of my dearest friends, Maria Callas. She, like me, was a “self-made” woman. We
were very close, both with strong characters, and we both struck out alone without anyone’s help.
What does art represent for you?
Art is beauty. I was lucky to be born with many talents. I originally wanted to be a sculptor, but destiny had other plans. While I was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, I was continuously asked to make movies. It was just after the war and I needed extra money to keep studying. However, it was only after I met the great director Vittorio De Sica that I became an actress. Then, as I had many interests, I also went behind the lens and for many years travelled the world
as a photographer. I am constantly searching for new projects, so in 1990 I decided to go back to sculpting. I landed in Pietrasanta because of its marble production and renowned artisans. It was a big challenge for me to have my first Italian exhibit here in Pietrasanta, as there are so many artists and everyone is a judge. But I have never been one to opt for the easy route, so here I am.
Though you are one of the most famous and prestigious representatives of Italian cinema in the world, this exhibit highlights your other talents. Which is closer to your heart: acting, photography or sculpture?
Sculpture and photography.
How would you define your artistic style?
Critics call my works strong, dynamic and expressive. Some say they bring to mind Manzù, who taught me about the humility and passion necessary for sculpting. But really I do what I feel. I don’t follow trends; rather I try to express the emotions I have felt in my life. Take my bronze statue in piazza del Duomo, for example. It represents hunger in the world; I knew what it was like to be hungry during the war. But then immediately after the war was over, we had to think positive, to smile and be full of imagination and energy, so I sculpted characters from my movies, like La Bersagliera, the Queen of Sheba, Venere Imperiale, and Esmeralda.
Beauty, talent, goodwill, luck and connections: which is the most important for being successful?
Talent and good will. Success doesn’t come by chance. You have to really want something and go for it, no matter what. But you also have to work very hard.
Is there any director you would like to work with today?
Cinema is very different now from what it used to be in the golden age of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, but I couldn’t say no to Spielberg, if asked.
How do you like living in Pietrasanta?
I feel at home. Nobody bothers me. It’s very different from Rome, where they chase you constantly. Here I can work happily and relaxed, among competent people who respect me and my privacy.
What’s next for you?
I am receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in Washington, D.C. in October and I’m opening an exhibit of my photographs in the Santa Barbara Museum in January.
Until November 16
Piazza del Duomo and the Sant’Agostino cultural centre, Pietrasanta
Getting there: trains run regularly between Florence and Pietrasanta