(What this blog is about happened 2 weeks ago. I was going to post it when I left Switzerland but I left my MacBook Pro lap top in my hotel room and only now have returned to Switzerland–Davos this time– and been reunited with it. Since I wrote this I feel as if several lifetimes have passed, the most dramatic and formidable part of which was receiving an American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award. I will be blogging about that next but I did want to post this, albeit belatedly, because I spent so much time on it and because my website community lets me know they like to know what I’m doing and where I’m doing it. So here it is!)
What a life I live, swinging between extremes, trying to maintain a balance within the tensions of opposing realities. Within the last 10 days there’s been a first trip to Cannes to work for L’Oreal which has meant walking the red carpet in a gorgeous red Ellie Saab gown; shooting a commercial with four other L’Oreal actor/ambassadors, Blake Lively, Zoe Saldana and Laetitia Casta. Again this year, the photographer was the brilliant Norman Jean Roy who will, when it is all done, combine different shoots so that a dozen or more women, all dressed in white, will be together in one film, wearing vivid red lipstick— because we’re worth it.
I have never considered myself glamorous nor been considered glamorous until my seventies when, because I look pretty good for my age–76–and am paying more attention to what I wear in public, my perception has changed and while walking red carpets isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do, I pretend I’m playing a character, try to copy some of Gwen Stefani’s moves and enjoy the company of the other L’Oreal Ambassadors. We tend to laugh a lot together. In fact L’Oreal Paris is an unusually great company to work for in no small part because the president, Cyril Chapuy, hires talented, nice people and enjoys a good time himself. Plus, the products are good!
The 2nd night in Cannes, I attended the big party held by the jewelers, Chopard, whose gems I wear. For this evening I wore a shining, golden beaded ombre Gucci gown. Here I am in the dress with “The Glam Team,” left to right: Juan Carlo who did my hair, me, Michael Angel who styles all the L’Oreal women (& is a real angel!), Charlotte Willer who did my makeup and her assistant, Sonya. Great people all!
At the Chopard party I ran into pals Cate Blanchett and Penelope Cruz but it was too crowded to take pictures. Then I attended a fundraiser for FinancePlanet, an organization that provides micro finance loans to women in developing countries and managed to get to bed before 1am because early the next morning I flew to Zurich, Switzerland and was driven 2 hours to the little town of Flims, nestled in the beautiful Swiss Alps. Talk about a study in contrasts!
Two weeks earlier, Paolo Sorrentino, the Italian writer/director who won the Oscar this year for Best Foreign Film for “The Great Beauty,” had begun shooting his new movie, “Youth,” starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Paul Dano. I play a terrific character unlike anything I’ve ever played before. Paolo is keeping things close to the chest (no press allowed) and i don’t think he’d be happy if I revealed what my character looks like, but it’ll be a shock–a very wonderful shock I feel. I hope. This marks the 5th woman I’ve played in a little over a year, all of them very different–two of them have already appeared publicly–Nancy Reagan in “The Butler” and Leona Lansing in “The Newsroom.” (Last week I shot a scene for Newsroom’s 3rd season. It was another kick ass Sorkin gem)
When I arrived on a Saturday at the Hotel Waldhaus in Flims, the hotel had not yet officially opened and there was no room service, almost no hotel staff and it was hard to find my way around. Fortunately two resourceful production assistants, Anna and Rebecca, managed to find me the right plugs to charge my iPhone and computer and directed me to the gym. With all the flying, red carpets and pressure to be on top of my game, my body was crying out for sweat and endorphins.
The place appeared virtually empty despite the fact that the entire cast and crew of the film is living and working here. Everyone must have been hold up in their rooms and it all felt spooky, rather like the hotel in “The Shining.” The next day, Michael Caine and his wife, Shakira, took me to lunch at a beautiful restaurant on a golf course in Flims, (the only one open anywhere it being Sunday). He said that he found this location the strangest of his career which, given the number of films he’s made, is truly saying something. In 1966, I made a movie with Michael, “Hurry Sundown” (not very good, I’m afraid) and it was fun to reconnect with him low these many decades later. He remains tall, trim, funny and a true gentleman and Shakira is an elegant, beautiful woman.
I want to try to describe this 5-star hotel which is 138 years old and famous throughout Switzerland and beyond. There are several different buildings, all with their own personalities, connected by eerie underground tunnels (for the winter months, I presume). Here’s the entrance to one of the tunnels.
Here’s what it looked like once you’re inside the tunnel:
The tunnels span out in all directions and it’s easy to get lost in them. Above ground, one walks from one building to the other under these metal roofs:
This is the main hotel:
This is another building, also 125 years old.
There are a number of lovely, gnarled, moss-covered trees like this one (below) in the hotel garden.
Below is the Pavilion which houses the lunch and dinner restaurants and ballrooms and beneath it is the fantastic spa and gym. Far in the distance, you can barely see the mountain which has one of Switzerland’s largest, most popular ski resorts and I was told that because of this, winter is the hotel’s most crowded season. I shot my main scene with Harvey in a ballroom in the Pavilion. Like so much of Sorrentino’s work, the ambiance in the huge empty ballroom with just the two of us seated in elaborate, high-backed leather armchairs having an intense conversation, had a decidedly surreal quality about it.
Here we are, Harvey and I, getting ready to run lines together in the Pavilion. I like how the landscape is reflected in the mirrored post between us. What a sweet, interesting face he has. I like and admire him so much! My boyfriend, Richard, has known Harvey’s talented writer/director wide, Daphna Kastner, for many years and is godfather to their son, Roman.
I ran into Rachel Weisz one evening when I went to watch some night shooting. She plays Michael Caine’s daughter. A wonderful role for a very talented actor. Her husband is Daniel Craig. I don’t know how many of you saw my scene in the 2nd season of “The Newsroom,” (quite a scene it was!!) when my character goes on and on, drunk and stoned, about how mad she is that she went to a fundraiser in order to meet Daniel Craig and he never showed and she berates Jeff Daniel’s character for not looking like Craig. “Everybody should look like Daniel Craig,” she shouts. I want to try and send a DVD of the scene to Rachel and Daniel who should get quite a kick out of it.
I love glass elevators and the Waldhaus has a very nice one.
Here is my bedroom. Spare and clean, like most hotels in this part of the world. I especially like their beds with the duvets folded on top rather than tucked in like we do in the U.S.
My living room.
Views from my window:
This is the breakfast dining room which wasn’t open my first time there.
This first trip to Flims, lasting 3 days, was taken up with makeup, costume and wig fittings. I wear 3 different wigs in this film and while I can’t show you a photo of me in full character, I can’t resist these pictures of me when the makeup and hair stylists are preparing me for one of my wigs. (I had to first be made bald!)
Below Is Aldo Signoretti, working on my wig. He and makeup artist (next to him), Maurizio Silvi, are renowned in their fields, working with the best of the best such as Bertolucci, Visconti, Fellini, Baz Luhrmann and, of course, Sorrentino. It is fascinating to watch them work. For instance, I play an 80-year-old diva of the old school. In that capacity, Maurizio has me wearing bright red lipstick and, much to my surprise, he lines my lips in black, “The way they used to do,” he says. Who knew? Aldo is so focused on detail that he makes me bald so that when the blond wig comes off in a scuffle (in a scene I will shoot in Rome in July!), my gray hair beneath (another wig) is revealed and, beneath that one can see my scalp because the hair is so thin. It’s a process that takes 3 hours!
On my day off I went for a 3 hour hike with a local yoga teacher, Carmen Clavadetscher (below). We started walking through the town of Flims.
The forest is a combination of deciduous and pine trees. This is Cauma See lake. It has a Romanish name because in this one region of the world there is a Roman language only spoken by very few people. Some say it is a bit of a combination of Latin, Italian and Portuguese. The Swiss government is taking pains to not lose the language which is taught in schools in this region.
The remarkable color of the lake, Carmen told me, is the result of the minerals leeching into it from the mountains. Beautiful, huh?
We looked down onto a tributary of the famous River Rhine. You can see a landslide on the far bank.
Here is more evidence of the frequent landslides experienced here:
Here’s a town of mostly vacation homes. Given the risk of landslides I wouldn’t want to risk building in such a place. Carmen told me that the rock mountains are filled with water.
Here’s another lake, Cresta See Lake. Also a gorgeous blue-green.
During the trip, I was reading the great novel, “The Snow Leopard” by the late writer/field biologist Peter Matthiessen, and it seemed the perfect accompaniment to being in the alps as it tells of his arduous trek into the Himalayas in search of the rare snow leopard and blue sheep. The book is both a description of his journey but also a profound Zen treatise/life lesson that took me deep into a soulful place that I cherish but, no sooner had I begun to relax into it and into the beauty of the mountains, than I was required to return to Cannes for another day of interviews (They were not uninteresting since 2 of the interviewers were Irish and Israeli) and then into another gown and red carpet for the annual AMFAR benefit in the fight against AIDS.
It wasn’t exactly a hardship as the gown was a drop dead rose-lavender beaded gem by Versace. Here I am with stylist Michael Angel who sat at Cyril Chapuy’s table with me. I have to say that no one does bead work like Versace. On this dress, it was actually 3-dimentional. Never saw anything like it. Gianni Versace was my friend and he gave me some spectacular beaded tops when he was still alive and told me how his mother beaded. I’m glad that Donatella and I are friends as well.
There was a long outdoor reception and there I met Kylie Minogue. What a perfect little bundle of beauty!
Inside, the auction raised $38 million!!!! It was quite a show. (When I got back to the US several days later, I watched “The Normal Heart” on HBO, a true and beautifully made story about the beginnings of the fight against AIDS. There I learned that at the very first fundraiser organized back in the day when the powers that be refused to take it seriously as an epidemic that affected everyone, they raised $13,000)
I left the event early because I was afraid I’d caught a chill outside and I had to fly back to Switzerland early the next morning and film my scene for Sorrentino the following evening. Whew!
So, anyway, I filmed the 5-page scene with Harvey which was a trippy (in a good way) experience. I had a fun time but Paolo had us do the scene many different ways so I have no idea what he will create out the potpourri we gave him. At the very end of the evening after doing it over many times with 3 different cameras, Sorrentino put his camera waaaaay down at the very opposite end of the cavernous ballroom so that Harvey and I were little more than specks and had us do the entire scene from start to finish—and we did without missing one line!!
We Finished around 1am, I was driven back to Zurich the next morning and flew home.
I am now back in Switzerland to shoot another scene–Davos, this time–having received the AFI Award.
Stay tuned for the AFI blog. One of the most memorable events of my life.Tags: AFI Award, Aldo Signoretti, AMFAR, Blake Lively, Cannes, Charlotte Willer, Cyril Chapuy, Daniel Craig, Davos, Ellie Saab, Flims, Gianni Versace, Harvey Keitel, Hotel Waldhaus in Flims, Juan Carlo, Kylie Minogue, L'Oreal, Laetitia Casta, Maurizio Silvi, Michael Angel, Michael Caine, Norman Jean Roy, Paolo Sorrentino, Peter Matthiessen, Rachel Weisz, Switzerland, The Snow Leopard, Zoe Saldana, Zurich