In Rob Marshall’s musical Nine Daniel Day-Lewis portrays Guido Contini, a famous director on the verge of a nervous breakdown, who is attempting a comeback. As he struggles to come up with an idea for his new film, he goes in and out of reality, facing the many women in his life in search of inspiration.
Sophia Loren plays his mother, who appears to him in visions when he needs someone to speak with, and Penelope Cruz portrays his mistress, Carla.
Sophia, how did you become involved with this movie?
Sophia Loren: I was very happy when Rob Marshall called me up and said, ‘We are going to do this film and I would like you to be in it.’ I was very proud of it because I was the only Italian in the film to be able to say that Italian movies are still wonderful all over the world, so I accepted. In a very nice way Rob told me, he was lying of course, that he was not going to do the film if I was not in it. So I said, for the sake of his career, ‘It’s okay, I’m going to be in it, so don’t you worry.’
I understand that Daniel stayed in character throughout the movie, could each of your talk about how he related to you off screen as Guido.
Sophia Loren: I love Daniel very much indeed, and I really admire the kind of work he does when he starts to make a film. He’s completely concentrated in what he has to do, and his mind is in constant thought about what he has to do next. For an actress, he was very intimidating because he was somebody that was not reachable sometimes. But then, at the same time, he was with you all the time. He’s very strange, and I love him a lot.
Penelope Cruz: I have to say I was a little bit nervous about meeting him because he’s one of my favorite actors, and I think he’s one of the masters of acting. I heard all these different stories about the way he works, and I tried not to listen to any of those stories and see for myself.
I arrived and I went into the stage and they were rehearsing a number that he was not part of, and I saw this man dressed in a suit in a corner just watching. I was there for two hours and I didn’t recognize him, and they told me, ‘That’s Daniel.’ And I said, ‘Why is he here?’ ‘He’s always here watching the others, he’s always on the set,’ and I went and said hello.
I think he was really one of the greatest partners to work with, really kind, really generous. I tried to make him part of my game of self-criticism. After a take, I’d ask him, ‘Daniel, I think I was terrible, what do you think?’ He said, ‘I will never engage in that game with you, let’s go and do the next take.’
That was a huge lesson for me about somebody that never looks at the monitor; he’s always in the present. What’s next? It’s a huge lesson for acting about not engaging in your own [negativity] and I think that way Daniel has no ego, because he’s always moving forward.
You won an Oscar for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, where do you keep it?
Penelope Cruz: I have it in my house in Spain, and I still haven’t found the right place for it, but for the first month when I won I was so excited about it that I took it everywhere with me. I even took it to the beach one day and laid it on the towel.
Is being Italian now different than it was 40 years ago?
Sophia Loren: Why should Italians not be the same now as 40 years ago? We will be the same always. Italians are people that have a lot of heart, a lot to say in every field, and we will always be very successful all over the world, and very proud of being Italian.