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Rossellini on stage

Posted at 12:17 PM on November 5, 2006 by Euan Kerr

Isabella Rossellini charmed a capacity crowd at the Walker Art Center last night for two hours. During her Regis Dialog with critic John Anderson she covered a broad range of topics from the backlash after the release of "Blue Velvet" (her agency dropped her and the nuns at her school back in Italy said special masses for the redemption of her soul,) to how she develops a character.

She also talked how she is regularly approached by complete strangers who tell her earnestly how much she looks like Ingrid Bergman, her mother. David Lynch even did it the first time they met, as he was trying to get her to ask Helen Mirren to agree to take the role of Dorothy Valens in "Blue Velvet." (Rossellini says Lynch called the next day to say he had been thinking and wondered if she was interested in reading for the part. The rest as they say is history.)

She also related a story of going into browse through an antique store, when an elegant woman in the store caught her eye. Rossellini says she was struck by how much the woman carried herself like her mother, and then was taken aback and then amused when she realized she was looking in a mirror.

She described how she based the famously traumatic scene in "Blue Velvet" where she rises naked from the bushes on the iconic image of the girl, naked with her arms outstretched, fleeing a napalm attack in the Vietnam War. She says she wanted the scene to be horrific not titillating.

The crew shot the film in North Carolina, and used a street in Wilmington for the scene. As they set up Rossellini says he saw local people gathering around to watch. Some came with folding chairs and even picnics as they settled down to watch the action. She told Lynch she thought it was bad idea to have an audience for a scene like this. He went to ask the people to leave, because they were about to shoot a very disturbing element of the film, and it could well be very upsetting.

She said however it was as if they were watching a film. They thought it was part of the action and they didn't move. So Rossellini herself went to talk to the crowd, but she got the same reaction. They all stayed right where they were.

So they did the scene, people complained, and the next day the "Blue Velvet" crew was banned from shooting any more scenes in the street. The rest of the film was completed with interior shots.

November 2006
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