Greta Scacchi, 1980s.
Text below © Paul Page.

20.01.13: biography intro.

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    "I believe children conceived in the ultimate orgasm are happy, sensuous children." - Greta Scacchi

For me, Greta Scacchi is one of the great actresses of her generation and is at her peak now and yet, because of the movie industry's obsession with youth, she doesn't seem to get the major parts her talent deserves. In this she is not alone and it really does seem cruel on actresses. With all her experience she is always watchable no matter the quality of the script. Aside from her obvious beauty, she just has screen presence like a Brando or a Caine. She fills the screen until everyone else is sidelined, dismissed to the edges of the screen. Enigmatic, ethereal, you just know you are watching someone at the top of her craft.

A real waste.

- Paul Page, 2013

20.01.05: biography

    Once Hollywood's sexiest siren, actress Greta Scacchi gave it all up for a refuge in Sussex after a love affair went wrong. Now she reveals why she's starting all over again.

Greta Scacchi once had it all. Thanks to films such as Heat And Dust, which made her a star, followed by White Mischief and Presumed Innocent, she looked set for a long and successful acting career. But her love life was not running so smoothly, and when her two-year relationship with Vincent d'Onofio, star of Men In Black, broke up, she left Hollywood and with only their baby daughter Leila for company, became a virtual recluse. She says:

    'I had been at the peak of my earning power. I could even afford to turn down the leading role in Basic Instinct, which was to make Sharon Stone a star, because I didn't like the director. But I made a wrong choice in my personal life.'

Only now, 12 years on, is she slowly beginning to re-establish herself, with several important film roles. Her private life is settled , too - controversially, she and her first cousin Carlo Mantegazza fell in love and have a five-year-old son, Matteo. Her new film Beyond The Sea, starring Kevin Spacey, is released in November 2004. He plays singer Bobby Darin and she is the mother of his wife, Sandra Dee. She is also about to work with Jodie Foster and George Clooney in two movies.

SCACCHI
heat and dust
(1983)

At 44, and still hauntingly beautiful, she jokes that the only parts she is now offered are mothers of betrayed wives. Motherhood, she believes, almost killed her career:

    'I always knew it was going to be difficult when I got beyond 40, but I didn't realise it would start at 35. Once you announce you are a mother, it is as if you're rendered redundant.'

When she split up with Vincent, she left the U.S. for a cottage in the Sussex countryside, where her own mother had also taken refuge after her marriage to Greta's father, an Italian painter, broke down when Greta was three.

    'The only work I did for the next five years after splitting from Vincent was work I'd already lined up. Otherwise, I was unemployable. I didn't read a script or go to an audition. After two years I was asked if I'd had a relationship since Vincent. I said, "I have nothing to report." It made headline news here, and in France, where the headline said that I had not made love for two years. In Italy, it was "Greta - a cloistered nun for two years."'

It is hard to imagine Greta, the mother of two, in a wimple, save perhaps in a remake of The Nun's Story. She is a woman of strong opinions and strong passions. She once said:

    'I believe children conceived in the ultimate orgasm are happy, sensuous children.'

Now she acknowledges:

    'I remember saying that. I found the force of nature overwhelming.'

Ismail Merchant, of the celebrated Merchant Ivory film-making team, who made Heat And Dust, says:

She has the wistful look of a vintage movie heroine. Recalling her time at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, she announces:

    'One of the most important things about going there was that when I was 18 I met Daniel Day-Lewis. I was madly in love with him and got to glimpse him before others.'

How did their affair end and are they still friends? She teases:

    'I'm saying no more. I've given you my sound bite.

    'It's been frustrating for me to find there is no work. I recently spent over a year unemployed, without a job I could bear doing coming my way. And I wasn't even that fussy. Once, I had so many scripts coming to me that I could hardly read them all. Sharon Stone found herself in a crtain hemisphere of mega bucks because I didn't want to do Basic Instinct, and I sometimes chuckle when I think of what would have been my huge Hollywood fee for that. I would have been in that situation, but I didn't like the script, and I loathed the director, Paul Verhoeven, an intolerable person. I was dismayed, but feminists regarded the film as a step forward for women. Now my morals and principles about the quality of the script would go out the window if someone dangled $20million at me.'

Heat And Dust, which she made when she was 22 - with only an episode of Bergerac and an obscure German film under her belt - is released on DVD in September 2004 in a set of 20 Merchant Ivory titles, which include A Room With A View, Howards End, Maurice and A Passage To India.

SCACCHI
the player
(1992)

She returned to Los Angeles in the summer of 2004 for a series of screen tests - her first for 20 years; in the old days, directors used to take her out to lunch and beg her to star in their films.

    'They remembered me in the past tense. They hadn't heard even a ripple about anything I've done since, such as my films in Australia and Italy and my theatre work. I had to curl my hair, plaster on the make-up and put on high heels. They wanted to see a youthful, sexy fable. It was quite humiliating and these were only small roles, but I had to start on the bottom rung.

    'When they asked where I'd been, I didn't want to say I had become emotionally allergic to Hollywood. It was a place of heartbreak to me because I was trying to make my relationship with Vincent work. I was afraid to talk about it at the time, but now I can say that I threw a spanner in the works of my Hollywood career. I was madly in love with Vincent [they met making Fires Within] and things were bubbling away for me, work-wise. But Vincent was less established then, and not getting as many offers as me and the pressure of the differences of our circumstances became too much.'

When they split, she associated Hollywood with her heartbreak. Greta won all the roles she auditioned for in Hollywood this year and will film three. Inevitably, she has been cast either as a mother or an ex-wife.

    'Actually, in one film, I'll be playing a current wife, but she's tetchy. I have great reservoirs of experience of playing that role. My husband is played by George Clooney. He is gorgeous, with huge, seductive eyes. He looks at you when you're talking and his mouth begins to smile and you forget what you're saying.'

Clooney has bought a home near Italy's Lake Como where Greta was born and where most of her large Italian family still live.

    'I was once its most famous daughter. Now all my aunts go round boasting that they share a cleaner with George Clooney.'

She will also appear in Flight Plan, a thriler starring Jodie Foster.

    'I'm playing a psychotherapist, a role I will relish.'

Her third role is in Casanova as the mother of the legendary lover, played by 25-year-old Heath Ledger.

    'Hollywood will accept actresses playing ten years older, but actors can play ten years younger.'

In Heat And Dust she played Julie Christie's grandmother.

    'Between them, the films of Julie Christie and Alan Bates taught me everything I needed to know about sex at the age of 13. A year before I made Heat And Dust, I attended a CND meeting with a surprise guest. Tony Benn walked in with this gorgeous, tousled woman dressed like a schoolgirl - Julie Christie. Watching her, I decided I wanted to be a film star. That was the moment. A year later, I stepped off the plane into the soupy, tropical Indian atmosphere and met her. It felt like a dream. She was so warm and supportive and there was nothing starry about her.'

On the plane out, Greta sat with Christopher Cazenove, who was to play her husband.

    'There was a line in the film in which the Indian prince says, "I expect your husband went to one of those great public schools like Harrow or Eton" and I reply, "Rugby, actually." I said to Christopher, "I bet you went to one of those public schools like Rugby or Harrow" and he said, "Eton, actually." So he was the character. He moddycoddled me and the night before we began when I was paralysed with fear, he took me somewhere quiet and went over my lines with me, again and again.'

Greta was aged up to 40ish for some scenes.

    'I looked younger when they aged me than I do now that I'm really that age.'

But Ismail Merchant says:

    'There's a scene in Heat And Dust where she walks through a courtyard and it is the sexiest of performances. You look at that walk and you think, "Forget Marilyn Monroe."'

Perhaps because the audiences are always struck by her inherent sultriness, she feels she has been unfairly tagged as a sexy actress.

    'I avoided nudity unless a film couldn't be told without those scenes. If you look at my films, few of them have that element, yet nudity and male fantasies have become emblematic of my work.'

When Greta was pregnant with Matteo, now almost six, she was shocked to find herself the subject of lurid headlines. The baby's father is Carlo Mantegazza, her first cousin, his mother and her father being siblings.

    'He's been my best friend for 20 years and only because he is my cousin did it take so long to realise he was the perfect companion for me. I was really worried when the story hit the papers because I was well into my pregnancy. I was quite shaken and very troubled that they though it was such a lovely, scandalous story. I felt mortified. We were living in a village and I didn't need to have people's prejudices stirred up about a child who would be growing up there.'

She was disappointed about the reaction to her relationship with Carlo, who works in imports and exports, because she had resisted falling in love again.

    'I felt very cynical about love. Two people can make love but that isn't necessarily love. I had the conviction that lovemaking fools you. The overpowering emotions it induces make you think you're sharing the same feelings as the other person and that they're imagining the same as you.'

Although she and Carlo are still a couple, Greta has never married. She says:

    'I'm a heathen when it comes to marriage. I'm more keen on the person I'm involved with showing me his commitment rather than going through a marriage to display commitment to the world.'

So is she happy now?

    'A relationship requires a lot of work and commitment. It helped me when I decided that we're on this planet to learn to live together and get along. Bringing up Matteo is a different experience because two parents are involved/ I had been surprised when I found myself a single mother to Leila, following the pattern of my childhood, because I know how much I suffered and hid my parents' separation from friends.

    'I have done everything I can to make sure my daughter knows her father because you form your own identity by rebelling against your parents - but first you have to know them.'

Greta's father visited her and her twin brothers, both now craftsmen, a few times a year when they were childen, arriving from Italy laden with delicacies and treats.

    'My father was absent and he was a hero to me. But it has been a difficult relationship. We had a few arguments in my early 20s about my wanting to be an actress. But I admire his painting. That's an easy thing to do.'

Inevitably, Greta's time is torn between her family and her work, enduring seperations of up to three weeks at a time from her children. She is also under pressure to continue earning.

    'When I was bringing my daughter up alone, my bank manager came over for tea so he could tell me how worried he was about my overdraft. Builders think I'm rich and add 20 per cent to their quotes. I have invested some money and I have a home, but people don't realise that you might only be working for a few weeks of the year and remain unemployed the rest of the time.'

Greta gives her dazzling smile and says:

    'I want to come across as a positive person. I feel lucky, happy and philosophical about it all. I've been through some very difficult stages in my life, but I wouldn't change anything. It helped me to grow up and, hopefully, become wiser.'

The Merchant Ivory Collection is available now.

20.01.05: biography

  • Birth name: Greta Gracco
  • Date of birth: 18 February, 1960
  • Place of birth: Milan, Italy
  • Category: Actor
  • Nationality: British

    Greta Scacchi's mother was an Italian dancer and her father was an Italian painter. She grew up in Milan and later moved to London. In 1975 her parents moved to Australia, and Greta worked as a cowgirl and an Italian commentator. At 18 she returned to London and had lessons at the Old-Vic-Theatre. She played small parts as a stage actress and worked as a model for commercials. The young film maker Dominik Graf discovered her and her first film was Zweite Gesicht in 1982. She learned German for this movie.

    Greta Scacchi - Coca-Cola Kid
    greta scacchi
    1980s

    After Heat and Dust (1982), she played roles in Australian and English television. While playing in a modenised play by Anton Tsjechov in 1988, (directed by Margarethe von Trotta), she was discovered by Hollywood. Greta Scacchi became an internationally renowned film, theatre and television actress. She has worked extensively in Australia, America and Europe.

    Her theatre credits include Easy Virtue (Chichester Festival Theatre), Simpa Tico and Miss Julie (Sydney Theatre Company), A Midsummer Night's Dream (Original Shakespeare Company), A Doll's House ( Festival of Partti), Uncle Vanya ( Vaudeville Theatre, London), Airbase (Oxford Playhouse and Arts Theatre), In Times Like These (Bristol Old Vic) and Cide With Rosie Phoenix Arts Theatre, Leicester) .

    Greta Scacchi
    greta scacchi
    1980s

    Greta's television credits include Michael Bogdanov's Macbeth, The Odyssey, Rasputin with Ian McKellen and Alan Rickman ( and for which she won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress), Waterfront, Dr Fischer Of Geneva with Alan Bates and James Mason, and The Ebony Tower with Laurence Oliver.

    20.01.13: books, dvds & prints

    Direct page links to Greta Scacchi books, dvds & videos available at amazon.co.uk & amazon.com.

    Photographic prints & posters available at allposters.com.

    Address | Biography | Filmography | Gallery | Books | Dvds | Videos | Fires Within
    Hindenburg 2011 TV Movie Review
    Browning Version Movie Poster | Burke & Wills Movie Poster | The Coca-Cola Kid Movie Poster
    Cotton Mary Movie Poster | Country Life Movie Poster | Country Life Movie Poster B
    Country Life Movie Poster C | Fires Within Movie Poster | Heat and Dust Movie Poster
    Heat and Dust Spanish Movie Poster | Heat and Dust UK Movie Poster
    Jefferson in Paris Movie Poster | Jefferson in Paris Movie Poster B
    A Man In Love Movie Poster | A Man In Love Movie Poster B
    The Odyssey Dutch Movie Poster | The Odyssey Hungarian Movie Poster
    The Odyssey Movie Poster | The Odyssey Spanish Movie Poster
    Presumed Innocent Movie Poster | Presumed Innocent Spanish Movie Poster
    Rasputin: Dark Servant Movie Poster | Shattered Movie Poster | Shattered Movie Poster B
    Shoot on Sight UK Movie Poster | Turtle Beach Movie Poster
    White Mischief Movie Poster | White Mischief Spanish Movie Poster

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