Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi gets a little ‘Crazy’

A guest at this year’s Haifa Film Festival, the French-Italian actress discusses her latest role as a flamboyant mental patient.

FRENCH-ITALIAN actress Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi at the opening ceremony of the Haifa International Film Festival. (photo credit: GALIT ROSEN)
FRENCH-ITALIAN actress Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi at the opening ceremony of the Haifa International Film Festival.
(photo credit: GALIT ROSEN)
Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi plays a flamboyant, permanently manic mental patient in the newly released movie Like Crazy, the opening attraction of the Haifa International Film Festival (which runs until October 24), and she is utterly convincing in this role.
So you might expect the French-Italian actress, who was a guest of the Haifa Film Festival and appeared at the opening ceremony, to seem just a bit unhinged, a little over the top.
But in person, she is soft spoken, even reserved. In an interview just before the festival opening, however, she said that playing Beatrice, the uninhibited, uncooperative, demanding and bizarrely charming patient, came quite naturally to her.
“I didn’t really do research” to play Beatrice, says the actress, who has also written and directed several acclaimed films. “I worked with myself and my own emotions. I thought that Beatrice was me, without my superego. There is that interior policeman we all have, and I asked him to go out. And I thought that this is what would happen to me if he wasn’t there.”
The experience of playing such a volatile character “was painful and fun at the same time. I had to be in touch with pain, the desire to survive and the joy.”
This feeling wasn’t alien to her, she says. “I don’t feel far from those who are considered sick. It felt familiar in a way. I feel a certain empathy for people like Beatrice... I feel farther away from people who seem to be perfect.”
Although Bruni-Tedeschi clearly put her heart and soul into this part, she says she didn’t improvise in this role, even though the dialogue sounds so natural it seems improvised. Director Paolo Virzi had Bruni-Tedeschi and her co-star, Micaela Ramazzotti, who plays an even needier, more damaged mental patient who brings out Beatrice’s maternal side, stick to the script.
“But there is a kind of improvisation in the scenes,” she said. “We always stayed with the words, but we didn’t know where the scene would go emotionally.”
Bruni-Tedeschi also worked with Virzi on the 2013 drama Human Capital, in which the actress played a character who starts out as a kind of polar opposite of Beatrice – a polished trophy wife, whose world gradually unravels after her son is involved in a traffic accident.
Bruni-Tedeschi won the 2014 Best Actress Award at the Tribeca Film Festival for this part. Both of these characters are women who are defined and transformed by their maternal impulses.
“Working with Micaela [who is Virzi’s real-life wife] was powerful. I felt kind of like a big sister to her. We found out as we worked that when the two characters meet they recognize that they have the same kind of pain, the pain from not being loved by their mothers.”
Like Crazy has become a huge international hit, winning awards and delighting audiences in theaters and festivals all over the world.
“I’m always surprised when a movie gets a big reaction.”
One of the most emotional screenings of the movie came in an unusual setting.
“It was shown at a women’s prison on a beautiful sunny day, and there were only about 10 women there – I was surprised that so many even came because it was so nice out, and the women were so moved. They were different ages, and had very tough stories, but they felt very close to it. They loved the movie.”
The actress, whose sister, Carla Bruni, is a model/singer who is married to the former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, said she enjoyed working with “powerful directors who have a real vision of life.”
She said she writes and directs movies when she comes up with stories she wants to tell. Her latest film as a director, and her first documentary, is the film A 90-Year-Old Girl, about a choreographer who works with Alzheimer’s patients, which she co-directed with Yann Coridian.
“I need to do movies both an actress and director,” she said, as she headed out for the festival opening.