This is a movie about love lost and found again – after 50 years. In Italy, it’s a tradition to write letters about love to ‘Juliet,’ as in Romeo and Juliet, and placed them on a wall in Juliet’s Garden in Verona. Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) wrote such a letter 50 years ago, when she was 15, about a young man she loved, Lorenzo (Franco Nero). When her letter is discovered by American tourist Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who writes back to her encouraging her to search for her first love, Claire decides to travel to Verona to find Lorenzo, after 50 years…
The casting couldn’t be better, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero have been married since 2006, but have had a relationship lasting many years and have worked together several times, beginning when they first met on the set of Camelot in 1966.
Both of them speak about the movie, their awkward first meeting and sharing the screen throughout their careers.
Tell us about, Claire, your character
She was a lady that got frightened of the love she felt for a young man and knew her parents wouldn’t allow her to marry him and ran away from him and wrote a letter to Shakespeare’s Juliet in Verona. And 50 years later an American girl named Sophie finds the letter by chance and, joining together with volunteer ladies who answer all these letters that come in from all over the world, she replies. And surprisingly Claire turns up in Verona after Sophie’s letter encourages her to go on a search to try and find the guy she loved 50 years before.
How was it working with your husband Franco Nero?
I worked with Franco way back in Camelot and then we did quite a few Italian films together, which was great. We have terrific rows usually, and a good rapport. I like working with him very much, I’m so happy that he’s playing the guy that I met when I was 15 and finally find 50 years later. It’s lovely
Are there parallels between your life and Claire’s?
The first time I ever went abroad it was to Italy and this story takes place in Italy and it’s about finding a long lost love. That’s a parallel track especially as I am with Franco and we’ve been together for a long time.
The Italy I knew as a child is pretty much gone and most of the tourists go to the same regions, but I think this movie will show them a little more than what they thought Italy was about.
Who is Lorenzo?
He was the first love of Claire, played by Vanessa, and she met Lorenzo when they were 15, when she was a young girl in Tuscany. But then she went back to England and they lost sight of each other and they haven’t met for many, many years. So Lorenzo had a family, grandchildren, Claire had a family and grandchildren.
The good thing about the movie is the script, because you can do an American movie in Italy but if the movie’s bad, who cares? But if the movie’s good like this one, it’s something special. Especially because we always think that Italy is a romantic place generally, it’s the place of Juliet and Romeo.
What was it like working with Vanessa again?
Working with Vanessa is a delight. I think she’s the best actress of this century. These are not my words, these are the words of Tennessee Williams, the words of Arthur Miller, they both said she’s the best, and I agree with them. Her talent is a gift that astonishes directors. I’ve been very lucky in my life because I’ve worked with her about 10 times in the last 43 years, we’ve done many movies together, so I really know her, I know her work very well. Apart from that, she’s a great, great lady.
Do you remember the first time you met Vanessa?
We worked together in 1966 in Camelot, and that was the first time I met her. When I asked the director, Josh Logan, who was going to play Guinevere, he mentioned Vanessa Redgrave, but I didn’t know her.
Actually the first meeting was not very nice. I was already working in the movie, and had (filmed) for two months in Spain and finally we went to the Warner Brothers back lot in Los Angeles. One day I was walking with Josh and this girl with blue jeans with big holes in them, and freckles on her face and glasses on, [was walking by] and [Josh] said, ‘Oh there she is. Franco, this is Vanessa.’ Then we walked a little bit more and I said to him, ‘Are you crazy? She’s ugly, how can she play Guinevere?’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll see.’
I went back to my dressing room and there was note written in Italian from her saying, ‘It was nice meeting you and I would like to invite you for dinner tonight at my house on Napoli Drive.’ So in the evening I went to Napoli Drive, I knocked on the door and this beautiful woman comes to open the door, and I said, ‘I was invited for dinner by Miss Vanessa Redgrave.’ She said, ‘I am Vanessa Redgrave.’ [he laughs] She was completely transformed.