Catching Up With Isabella Rossellini

12.7.2010

By Noah Michelson

Throughout your life, you yourself have been sexualized as a model and an actress -- you've been called one of the world's greatest beauties. What are your thoughts on being objectified?
Women never really like it, you know. I was born one way, with a certain look that allowed me to be a model or even an actress and it was to all my advantage. It's incredible what a beautiful woman has in terms of power. [Female] models earn more than male models, which is an unusual situation because in most other situations the male earns more money. So I can't really complain. But on the other hand, we don't just want to be sexual objects, that's clear. But I think if I had to choose a period in history to be born in, I would choose this one. It has been the moment when women have been able to express themselves not only as sexual object -- that was a given from the beginning -- but also, look at me. I've been a model, I became an actress, I'm a writer, I'm making my film, I'm becoming a filmmaker. I don't know that this was allowed a few years ago, when I would have just stayed a beautiful woman. That was it and then they would say, 'She used to be beautiful. Life is tough.' Now, I can evolve. I think that's what this generation allows.

Speaking of evolution, as you've gotten older, how has your approach to sexuality changed? Do you look at it differently now than when you were in your 20s?
I look at it differently now because I was born in Italy, a Catholic country, where I grew up thinking you should be a virgin at marriage. And now if somebody says, 'I'm a virgin and I'm getting married,' I would be a little worried. Maybe she hasn't had enough experience, like, oh my God, how can she even say that word? How much you can change. I was born in a country where gays were looked as something that had to be re-educated. Maybe they weren't the most compassionate, they would look at it as a disease, and most radicals had to be thrown in jail. My cousin was gay and he was hiding it and not talking about it and by the time we were 40, I was going out with him and his gay friends. There was an enormous change in my generation. Finally, a feeling that my cousin -- he died, unfortunately -- that he was great and it was such a waste of time that he had suffered for so many years to keep this a secret. It's all for the better to be more open.

Lastly, I'd be a failure as a gay man if I didn't ask you about Madonna's Sex book. It's been almost 20 years since you were shot for it -- looking back, what do you think of the book now?
I was working a lot with the photographer Steven Meisel. I didn't know Madonna and Madonna had approached Steven to do a book about sex. And of course, sex is very interesting. Even me, when I'm making my own little films, I address how animals have sex. It's very interesting, sex. And Steven was tempted -- instead of doing a book about all his photos he did for Vogue and all the past photos as a r'sum' of his life -- to do something challenging. So I thought he had a point. Sex is interesting. But I don't think the book worked, even though the photos were extraordinary and some of them quite memorable. I think there was a little bit of a moralistic sort of "I'll teach you how to be free!" and that bothered the hell out of me. Because I think if you want to practice abstinence and that makes you happy, you are OK. If you want to be gay, that's OK. If you want to screw anything that moves, that's OK. It's funny to use the word moralistic for that book because people probably don't put those together, but it was a little bit of "I know better!" and didn't like that.

The new season of Green Porno: Seduce Me airs on Sundance Channel on December 8th at 8:00 p.m. EST and PST. The series is also available via Sundance Channel video-on-demand and at SundanceChannel.com/GreenPorno.

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