Hands, back, eyes, fragments that can tell a lot about a person. Valeria Bilello revealed herself fragment after fragment, from her latest movie “Security,“ where she plays an impulsive mother, nature to which she relates to, but, at the same time, such a different character from her, to the way her approach to a role has changed over the years and how, despite all, cinema still manages to surprise her… just as much as it keeps doing with all of us, after all.
Between lighting and mirror effects, on the rooftops of the iconic The Westin Excelsior Roma, Valeria added another fragment to our passion for cinema.
What’s your first cinema memory?
My first cinema memory is certainly a Friday afternoon, in middle school, where my teacher screened Woody Allen’s movies in class and the debate that came afterward. I thought it was nothing special, at the time, but later I realized she was an extraordinary woman.
“Security” has just come out, what was your reaction when you read the script, and what was the first question you asked the director, Peter Chelsom?
I always try and read the scripts for the first time in the way I would watch the movie, without losing myself in my character and its dynamics, but rather trying to lose myself in the storyline. I think it’s the only way for me to understand “my color,” or “my note” inside the story. If I don’t clearly get what happens to all the other characters and where the script goes, it’s impossible for me to solely work on my character.
The question I must have asked Peter was: “Why me?!”
“I always try and read the scripts for the first time in the way I would watch the movie […] It’s the only way for me to understand “my color,” or “my note” inside the story.”
In “Security,” you play Elena: how did you build your character? Did you let Stephen Amidon’s novel inspire you?
I tried to skim through the book, even though they often advise us to avoid doing that because it can be misleading, as the movie is based on the novel, but completely readapted in an Italian version. As it often happens during all my prep processes, I mostly try and save some time for myself to explore the place, whether it is with walks, dinners on my own, or conversations with strangers from the place. This has always helped me find pieces of reality that are useful for the character, even though, what obviously matters the most is to observe human beings, in life in general.
Perhaps, Elena’s character comes from a study carried on someone years ago. Sometimes, you only need to listen to someone telling stories about someone else and, if your imagination is wild, you can recall them at the right time, and there you already have the skeleton of the character.
Between the “difficult” relationship with her son, Dario, and her love for Roberto, Elena feels a wide range of different emotions: how did you build these relationships with Giulio Pranno and Marco D’Amore?
Luckily, on this set, we had the possibility to rehearse. I met Peter Chelsom, Marco D’Amore and Giulio Pranno during some readings of the script, it certainly brought us closer and got us to observe closely our characters.
What’s the most significant thing you and Elena have in common, and what’s the biggest difference between you two, instead? All characters, each in their own way, are looking for a sense of safety for themselves and their loved ones: what makes you feel safe?
I guess it’s Elena’s most instinctive and impulsive side the main thing we have in common, but I’m a real control freak, I don’t think I would have ever lost control over an alcoholic son the way she does.
My family is by far what makes me feel the safest. My partner, my family of origin, but also my friends, all these people are my safety net.
“My family is by far what makes me feel the safest.”
Elena experiences an interior conflict between wanting to be a good mother, wanting to do more and, sometimes, not succeeding, turning a blind eye or giving priority to other things, and she’s only one of the many characters representing the idea of family with all its dynamics and all its highs and lows, especially nowadays. Is there anything that you found useful to convey this feeling to the audience? And, if you could, what would you say to Elena?
I am not a mother, and I don’t know what it means to put yourself aside to give priority to someone else’s needs, but I’ve had a chance to meet people who had children at a very young age and who raised them a bit like Elena does, with a foot inside of the house and the other one outside of it. With their minds and hearts focused on other things, personal stuff, maybe unfulfilled. It happens, sometimes, to see absent-minded parents, and I’ve found it interesting to be able to play one of those.
How would you describe “Security” in one word?
How has your approach changed over the years, when it comes to the building process of a character?
In the past, I used to get on set on the first day of shooting with clear and set ideas about my character, almost as if the game was made inside of me. Now, I’m not afraid to fix things along the way, leave the door open. I’m aware of how important the relationship with the other characters on screen is in order to understand my own character, how vital it is to step into the character’s shoes, the work with costume designers and the hair and makeup departments are important as well, and, as I said before, how important the location is. It’s impossible to visualize a character if you’ve never been in their habitat.
“Now, I’m not afraid to fix things along the way, leave the door open.”
“It’s impossible to visualize a character if you’ve never been in their habitat.”
What does it mean to you to feel comfortable in your own skin?
I think it’s one of those precious moments where you feel satisfied with yourself, proud of your thoughts and choices. At least, that’s it for me, if I don’t like what I have in my mind, I can’t possibly feel good in my skin.
“…if I don’t like what I have in my mind, I can’t possibly feel good in my skin.”
What’s the latest thing you’ve found out about yourself?
I’ve recently discovered that I can be really brave when I’m facing major difficulties and, surprisingly enough for me, I can have enviable patience when it comes to the things I believe in. I am a “patience pro” when it comes to important things, as for the rest, zero patience, instead.
What’s the latest lie you’ve told?
It was a lie to myself about the workout and the exercise to do, for sure. I keep telling myself I’ve done them, but I actually haven’t.
Your happy place?
Sicily or Calabria, at the beach, with the people I love, possibly in midsummer because I can’t stand the end of summer. Way too much nostalgia.
The first 3 songs in your playlist?
“Sometimes” – My Bloody Valentine
“Be My Baby” – The Ronettes
“Heads Will Roll” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Anything from “Primal Scream,” by Radiohead, Cat Power, but also Battisti.
“Be my baby”
The character from a movie or TV series you would want to be friends with?
Bill Murray, for sure, since forever.
In which way can the big or the small screen still surprise you?
It happens when I start watching a movie in a certain mood and finish it in a different one. Then, I once again realize the great miracle that cinema is, its power to take you far away from your own self and, at the same, time, inside of yourself.
“It happens when I start watching a movie in a certain mood and finish it in a different one. Then, I once again realize the great miracle that cinema is…”
Your favorite movie quote?
“No one puts Baby in the corner,” it’s always been useful.
Your latest binge-watch?
Awww! I’m a huge binge-watcher, I’ve just finished watching the last season of “The Kominsky Method.”
Your guilty pleasure movie?
See the question about the favorite quote.
You’re afraid of…?
My biggest fear is to be afraid, for sure and, because of that, to miss out in life due to the fear of not making it.
An epic fail on the job.
There have certainly been more than one, but an episode that’s stuck in my mind is an audition with Joe Wright, who met me after seeing my self-tape as Tiger Lily for his movie “Pan,” I had also recorded Hook’s lines faking a male voice because I had no one who could say his lines with me. He was impressed, but once in London, he decided that my mouth was too opened when I breathed and he hated it. I think he eventually chose Rooney Mara!
Your must-have on set.
My flask of tea, it’s been on many sets with me.
What can you unveil about your future projects?
My next film is a remake of “C’est la vie,” it will be an Italian comedy with a nice cast of actors and amateurs, and we’ll spend the whole time in a castle in Piedmont.
When are we going to see you again behind the camera?
As soon as I have a “necessary” story and the courage to direct it.
Photo & Video by Johnny Carrano.
Makeup by Chantal Ciaffardini.
Location Manager Luisa Berio.
Location The Westin Excelsior Rome
Styling by Other Srl – Sara Castelli Gattinara & Vanessa Bozzacchi
Total look: Zimmerman
Sandals: Jimmy Choo
Jumpsuit: Stella McCartney
Sandals: Jimmy Choo
Total look: Zimmerman
Sandals: Jimmy Choo