Madame Bisset, what is the secret of having such a long, lasting and successful career in the film industry?
Change. Keep trying to find interesting work and try to change yourself. I feel like I am a character actress now, and I enjoy it very much. Sometimes I still am sort of a lead in independent projects, like the one I have just done now with Gérard Depardieu and Abel Ferrara, but it's simply about the work, I don't give myself limitations. When I read a script it's like my own little journey, and in some level it's a personal thing. So this award is an encouragement, it's not the end.
You worked in big budget Hollywood hits, and in more personal, intimate European films. Which did you enjoy the most?
I never wanted to do box office. They just happened when I was in Hollywood, a time when the American films I wanted to make were really few and far between.
I felt very much at home there, but I didn't expect to stay in America more than three weeks. My dream was to make an Ingmar Bergman film instead.
Tonight we will watch Rich and Famous, where you worked with legendary director George Cukor, in what proved to be his last film. Do you have any specific memories of working with him on this project?
Very mixed, it was not easy. He was nice in some areas, but he was tough, 'old school' in many ways. He just wanted us to go very fast, it felt like whipping – "... faster, faster!". He used to say, if you slow it down and leave a space, you will lose the audience. I was trying to warn the other young actors when they entered the production, if you don't want to be shouted at, don't try and milk your scene! And some of the fight scenes were very difficult to do because he pushed us emotionally beyond what I felt was depth. Acting-wise, Rich and Famous has lots of body language, stuff which I absolutely adore when I see it. I had learned the power of body language from John Huston while working on Under the Volcano, the fact that you don't necessarily need close-ups.
Newsweek magazine once declared you "The most beautiful film actress of all time". Did you ever feel exploited because of your beauty?
It was not a fact, just a statement! I didn't believe it for one minute, and it was openly rude to all the other women. That said, I never felt exploited enough. They exploited me in The Deep, the whole wet shirt extravaganza had nothing to do with who I was. But you want the director to come in and see you, you want to be seen, so in a sense you want that.
Looking back at your career, was there an artist that inspired you or that you wanted to work with?
I loved John Cassavetes's work. I started rehearsing a film with him and Peter Falk once, which unfortunately didn't happen. And Bergman, what he did to women's faces.Massimo Benvegnù