Italian Star Matilda De Angelis on Netflix’s ‘Robbing Mussolini’

Italian Star Matilda De Angelis on Netflix’s ‘Robbing Mussolini’

Matilda De Angelis has a moment.

The Italian actress, who roared onto the European film scene as a race car driver in Matteo Rovere’s Italian Race (2016) and has been a regular feature since, named one of the European Shooting Stars in Berlin in 2018 and winning the David di Donatello honour for best actress in Venice for her performance in Rose Island in 2020. US audiences may recognise her from her supporting role in David E. Kelley’s HBO series The Undoing alongside Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, or as Caterina da Cremona, a fictional noblewoman and muse to the legendary renaissance artist, played by Aidan Turner, in RAI’s Leonardo, which aired on The CW stateside.

International audiences are about to see a lot more of De Angelis. Her new feature, Robbing Mussolini, hits Netflix October 26 and she is currently in production on the Russo Brothers’ Amazon Prime multi-series Citadel.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke to De Angelis in advance of the world premiere Robbing Mussolini at the Rome Film Festival. Directed by Renato De Maria and produced by Bibi Film, the period drama sees her playing Yvonne, a nightclub singer in Italy in 1945 who gets caught up in a scheme to try and steal the treasure of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini amid the chaos as of war as allied forces are advancing.

What appealed to your about this character?

I believe that I have chosen roles that are quite different from each other over the years, but with a certain depth. Yvonne could be considered a supporting role, rather than a protagonist. I liked her. I also liked her because she reminded me of Madame Gina from Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso [the animated classic set in 1930s Italy.

What do these two films and their characters have in common?

According to me, the connections are everywhere. It was an automatic connection for me. When asked about inspirations or references [for this role], Porco Roso . is the first thing I mention. There are many differences. One difference is the tone of the narration. I liked Yvonne for her singing and the way she brought together such a fractured world. You have men fighting for glory on one side and she is deeply feminine, level-headed on the other. Extremely level-headed.

You’ve also starred with Liev Schreiber, in Across The River and into the Trees , based upon the Ernest Hemingway novel. How was that experience?

It was an incredible experience. During the shooting, I was going through the worst time of my life. I used that sadness and sense annihilation to help me. Renata, my character needed it. She is very melancholic. It was also a very emotional experience to work alongside Liev Schreiber.

Why?

I am a big fan of him and he was a great help to me on set. Director Paola Ortiz is someone I will never forget. We became friends and we still keep in touch. But Liev taught so many things. Josh Hutcherson was another amazing discovery. I feel blessed when I can work with actors who are super normal, super calm, and accommodating. We shot it in Venice at night, in midwinter. I was so cold that I had to freeze my face. Physically, it was perhaps even tougher than Citadel, which I’ve been training a lot for.

Was The Undoing , The HBO series starring Nicole Kidman & Hugh Grant, an international career launch pad?

Yes. Although I believe I was first noticed by international producers in 2018, with the Shooting Stars Award in Berlin. Nowadays, it doesn’t make sense for international actors to be mentioned. With Netflix you can easily reach 190 countries while simply acting in your own language, in a local production. Borders are a little more temporary. This is easier. It is still difficult to get work in America as an actor in Hollywood. The Undoing was an initial point, but it would have probably still happened.
In Italy, certain genres like action are rare. I am thinking of Matilda Lutz who is currently on the international set for Red Sonja. Matilda is however following a more international path and taking on more action roles. Personally, I’m attracted by roles that require a certain physical effort, like in Citadel. There aren’t many jobs in Italy, so I like to think I’m up for it. These jobs are also enriching.

How so?

This training has been a great learning experience. It’s allowing me to develop a new level in my mental and especially physical awareness. An actor is his body and his mind, it’s true. Yes, I would love to play more roles like these.

Has there been any change in the Italian TV and movie industries in terms more interesting roles for women in these industries?

Certain things have changed. My awareness has also changed. I now realize that I am more critical and have different needs. I miss arthouse cinema. I’m not being victimized. I’m happy and I’m still working. I miss reading stories that are fresh, personal, and most importantly real.
In Italy there is a short-circuit in between local productions, and the audience: theaters are still struggling.

This trend is not something I can reverse. It could be because we produce so many things. There is just too much stuff. People lose interest and enthusiasm after a while. The average attention span of the audience decreases.

What kind of stories do you want to see as a viewer?

I am an omnivore. I look for a new point of view when I go to the movies. I don’t like stories that have been told before or by people who have never lived those experiences. Movies can’t only tell beautiful things; sometimes movies have to show us the worst. It is precisely so that we can appreciate it. Beauty is the result of hardships. Of ugliness. This is what I seek: movies that enrich me, make my wonder.

Are you curious to see Luca Guadagnino’s [cannibal love tale] Bones or All ??

Yes, I do. Guadagnino is a man who has never failed me. I also enjoyed his TV series for Sky & HBO, We Are , very much. Guadagnino always presents things from his point-of-view, depending on his needs. His characters are first and foremost human. They feel fear, love and make mistakes. This is something I’ve seen in other series, almost all of which are aimed at teens like Skam [on Netflix Italy] or Prisma [Amazon Prime]. These stories feel real and authentic. They remind me of the true nature of life.

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