Saturday, December 26, 2009

In the Making of NINE [6/10]

She was equally enticed by the filmmakers at the helm. NINE was the film everyone wanted to do,” she says. “Rob Marshall had his pick. He came to me and said, ‘Would you play Claudia?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I was sitting with him in the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel, in the middle of a press junket, so it was a very movie star moment!”

She continues: “At that stage, they didn’t have a male lead, so we all kept our fingers crossed . . . and as fate would have it, Daniel Day-Lewis stepped into the role. He’s so true to his art and it’s so beautiful to be in the orbit of someone like Daniel, to be one of his many women.”

Another of those women is Guido’s nurturing confidante and costume designer, Lilli, who is played by Judi Dench, the venerable British star of stage and screen who won the Oscar® for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and has been nominated six times. Dench took pleasure in the very different kind of relationship Lilli has with Guido; and in Lilli’s flamboyant personality, evidenced by her spectacle-admiring number “Follies Bergere.” “Lilli is obviously older than Guido, and knows him very, very well, has worked with him many, many times and, yet, like the other women in his life, she is utterly bewitched by him,” says Dench. “Who wouldn’t be?”

Lilli, Dench notes, sees herself as Guido’s self-appointed protector. “She wants to remind him that he doesn’t have to be so full of apprehension. She’s trying to catch his imagination again, and remind him of the fun they’ve had making beautiful movies. She sees that he’s bogged down and her goal is to break through that so that he can become the person she knows he can be.”

Life also imitated art for Dench in the role. “Strangely enough, I started out training to be a costume designer in the theatre!” she explains. “So that was nice, to kind of understand the world my character inhabits. I couldn’t put it into practice now—and I never had to worry about the costumes on this film because Colleen Atwood is a miracle worker—but I know that world very well.”

Dench previously worked with Day-Lewis under different circumstances, playing his mother inHAMLET at the Royal National Theatre, and knew the degree to which he penetrates his roles. “It was just lovely to get another opportunity to work with him,” she says. “He became completely Italian; and that’s Dan. That’s the way he does it and it was wonderful for the rest of us, because when you’re doing a scene with him, he makes the work completely seamless.”

A mischievous flirtation for Guido comes in the form of the impeccably fashionable Vogue journalist Stephanie, a new role created for the film.Kate Hudson, an Oscar® nominee for her vibrant performance inALMOST FAMOUS, takes on the flashy role. “Stephanie,” she notes, “is an obsessive fan of Guido Contini. She adores his films and Italian culture in general. She is one of many women who all want a piece of Guido!”

For Hudson, the very notion of doing a musical was completely new and refreshing, and she was particularly excited to perform one of Maury Yeston’s new songs: the buoyant pop ode to style, “Cinema Italiano.” “I’ve never had an opportunity to do something like NINEbefore,” comments Hudson.

“I’ve taken dance classes and worked with different choreographers, but I had never done a big number with hair and make-up and lights before this. Luckily, Rob and John prepared us with six weeks of rehearsal which was like a training camp. We sang and danced every day on a mock up stage.”

Then came her big moment in front of the camera. “It was an entirely different and terrifying experience,” she admits, “but also absolutely incredible and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Also joining the cast is a veritable Italian screen legend in real life:Oscar® winner Sophia Loren, who says she was bowled over when Rob Marshalloffered her the role of one of the most important women in Guido’s life: his always influential mother. Marshall told the internationally beloved actress that he could not contemplate makingNINE without her. “He explained it was a small role, but said he would only make the film if I would play Mama,” Loren explains. “So I joked to him that I would do it to save his career because I liked CHICAGO so much. But it was really something I wanted to do. I mean for an Italian girl to be in an American musical is something.”

Loren loved having the chance to perform the third new song from Yeston: the lullaby“Guarda La Luna.” She also was thrilled to work with a cadre of today’s most illustrious female stars. “To work with Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, I wondered if we would all kill each other!” Loren laughs. “But no. It was like family. It was wonderful because none of us had ever done a real Hollywood musical, so we were rooting for each other and we really became lasting friends.”


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