We have to accept ourselves at our best and at our worst
Written by Diego Lanuto
“spank them and then buy them ice cream. Let’s talk about women: we are strong, independent, tough a** now […]”!
These words perfectly reflect Serena Grandi – she herself uttered them just over a decade ago – and condense the essence of her long artistic and personal journey into a few lines.
She was only a girl, in fact, when she began to fantasise about establishing herself as an actress. Yet, despite the fact that the world of cinema has proven on several occasions to be a purely male-dominated world that is seldom lenient towards women, she has managed to live up to that dream and realise it. Once she finished her studies, in a short time she was able to consecrate herself as one of the major Italian film icons of the 1980s and 1990s, having the opportunity to range across different genres. From Joe D’Amato‘s horror to Tinto Brass‘s Eros, which brought her success, passing through Dino Risi and Sergio Corbucci’s comedy, films with Roberto Benigni, Alberto Sordi and Paolo Villaggio, the association with Pupi Avati, the participation in the making of Paolo Sorrentino‘s Oscar-winning film ‘La Grande Bellezza’, projects for television and those for the theatre.
An authentic uphill journey, which has seen her alternate between small and big screen, theatre stage and television studios, and in which, over the years, there has also been room for writing. In fact, there are several publications to her name, to which we can add the recent thriller ‘L’uomo venuto dal Po’ (2022, Giraldi Editore) written in four hands with Carlo Alberto Biazzi, director and producer who will also be working with her on the forthcoming short film ‘Al di là del mare’.
In short, Serena Grandi’s life has been (and will continue to be) a life full of excitement and success, but also of difficulties and sorrows that have made her, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the symbols of an artistic era destined never to return.
Ever since she was young, she has been distinguished by her bursting beauty, so much so that she herself has revealed on several occasions that she has been the object of numerous compliments and appreciations. Did this factor ever weigh on you or did you always consider it a strength?
To tell the truth, I have never been fully aware of my beauty, which certainly did not go unnoticed in the eyes of men and which for women, perhaps, could have been a source of conflict. I often look at photos of myself from long ago and say to myself: ‘If only I had known I was so beautiful…’. I am a simple person, I would never have speculated on my physical appearance and indeed I did not. I will certainly be a good looking woman, but with the soul of a child unconscious of her exterior. And honestly speaking, I think that’s my strength.
From a professional point of view, however, do you feel that your beauty has conditioned your career?
Well, there are times when there are ‘gaps’ that cannot be filled, and this applies to anyone doing a job like mine. Maybe you are too old to play certain roles or you are not mature enough, professionally and age-wise, to give a character the right credibility. And the same applies to outward appearance. For example, it happens that someone with a particular beauty, and why not, even a little provocative, may be unsuitable for the part of a mother. Or, on the contrary, of a younger girl. When I was still a budding actress, I used to pay more attention to these things and regretted not being able to play the role of a parent or an older person because of my appearance. Nowadays, however, being in a much more mature phase of my career and life, I don’t mind it so much and I wouldn’t see myself in matriarchal type roles at all. So yes, my aesthetics have undoubtedly conditioned my path, but I am nevertheless happy with all those lines I have managed to cross.
She is a woman with a very strong character and has never hidden it. Was she like that even as a girl, when she still dreamed of making it on the big screen? Or did time and the artistic path she chose to follow influence her?
I have always been a good and emotional girl, empathetic and also very determined. However, as the years went by I realised how insidious the world around us can be, especially the world of show business. It is a difficult environment and the various obstacles I have had to overcome have helped me realise that I am much stronger than I thought. I would never have imagined it, but all the experiences I have gone through, for better or for worse, have made me the woman I am today.
The world of show business, particularly the world of cinema, has continually imposed canons and nurtured stereotypes related to the female figure. Have you ever been asked to change anything about yourself in order to conform to the ‘dictates’ of the period?
Artistically, I was born in a generation where pin-ups and curvy women were the model of the moment; such requests would have been out of place and against the trend. From this point of view, therefore, I have never been asked to change anything and whatever work experience I have had I have always enjoyed it. I do remember, however, that Pupi Avati once told me not to go on a diet before the start of filming because, he repeated over and over again, I was ‘perfect and wonderful’ the way I was. Clearly, times have changed, today I live my curvy being in a more modern way and I am even more proud of my body and my shape.
What are the ingredients to become a successful star like you?
Never forget your own path, always have goals, do not get discouraged in front of ‘no’s’ and live with an extra bit of lightness, letting yourself be carried away by your dreams. Then, it also takes a little faith, a lot of personal pride and the desire to share yourself and your emotions with the public and the people you interact with.
There are many women, including many stars, who rely on plastic surgery in the hope of achieving an ideal of perfection, to conform or simply because they cannot accept themselves and their appearance. What do you think about this?
Although surgery has now become a faster practice than in the past and there are far fewer prejudices about it, I firmly believe that we should all learn to believe in ourselves more and to love ourselves. Sure, what can be improved can be improved, but we should still accept ourselves at our best and at our worst and try to value imperfections as works of art that make each of us unique.
Many unpleasant events in the film industry have come to light in recent years. Several actresses have revealed that they have been victims of abuse and harassment. Have you ever been involved in such situations on a film set?
Unfortunately, I say this reluctantly, it is not difficult to come across such unpleasant incidents within a world that appears extremely beautiful and extraordinary when seen from the outside. It has happened to me too, of course, but I am a woman who can defend herself well. I am of the opinion that compromises are not needed when talent and determination are present, and this has helped me a lot to avoid any kind of unpleasant circumstance. For goodness sake, it is not easy to express an opinion on this matter since every situation is different and not everyone has the strength to react or denounce. Fortunately, however, there are many of us and I am convinced that, one day, by being more and more in solidarity with one another, we will be able to finally eradicate this evil at the root!
Many claim that women have to work twice as hard as men in order to achieve their goals. Based on your experience, do you agree with this statement?
Women think twice more than men. It must probably have been a man who made these statements! (laughs)
For the past couple of years, she has also dedicated herself to writing. Women writers, like actresses, are often given less credibility than their male colleagues. In light of this, what has it meant and continues to mean to you to be a woman in a reality that grants more prerogatives to men?
Fortunately, I have always enjoyed the support of my audience, both on the big screen and in print. Ever since the publication of my first book, The Federal Lover, my fans have supported me. It is true, men have a monopoly and more credibility than women in certain areas, but in the end it is the viewers and readers who have the final say. Just think of the critics who, in most cases when a woman chooses to try her hand at something innovative, to experiment, are usually hesitant, only to soften later as soon as the first positive feedback begins to arrive. When this happens, on one hand there are those who continue to stand firm on their position, often based on prejudice or preconceptions. On the other hand, there are those who have changed their minds. After all, you know, the public is and will always remain the one and only ruler!
She has always been driven by a desire to establish herself on the showbiz scene and has succeeded. Looking back on your path, however, is there anything you would change?
Absolutely not. I don’t particularly like to think about what might be regrets. Who knows, maybe I could have been more astute in certain situations or perhaps taken certain opportunities differently, but I prefer not to spend too much time mulling it over. I wouldn’t change anything about my path, I would do everything again, from the first to the last.
Actress, author, writer. Is there any other dream you would like to see come true?
I would really like to create a clothing line that combines the useful with the pleasant. Clothes that meet the standards of elegance and comfort, suitable for any type of physique and that enhance the beauty of the one who wears them. To create something that accompanies women at every moment of the day, from the most ordinary to the most exceptional that requires more care and attention.
What did you leave to the cinema and what did the cinema leave to you? And what has writing given you?
You never forget your first love. My relationship with cinema has always been a relationship based on do ut des. We have given each other, taken each other away, loved each other and will continue to love each other. Writing, on the other hand, has given me a new dimension and the opportunity to put into practice those tools I acquired working for the big screen. If the actor has to bring something to the stage, the writer must be at the same time actor, scriptwriter, set designer, director and casting director, because he needs to study and think about the scene, characterise the characters and situations as best he can, to make the whole story work. In short, a kind of change of frame.
A message for female readers or newcomers who would like to take your same path?
Never give up, life can be rewritten at any time. The important thing is to never stop dreaming and not to stifle your creativity because if you really believe in it and work hard, you will be able to do anything you want!