Recently our esteemed columnist, John Llewellyn Probert caught up with Claudia Gerini the star of Tulpa, the brilliant celebratory pastiche of Italian exploitation which we were fortunate enough to catch at last year’s FrightFest extravaganza.
Tulpa is released in Italy this month and plans for a UK release are still ongoing.
Claudia, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed by This Is Horror. I’d like to start by asking you about the movie Tulpa. I saw it last year and, being a big fan of Italian cinema in general and the subgenre of giallo in particular, I thoroughly enjoyed both the film and your performance in it. Did you find the making of the film hard work or was it an enjoyable experience?
CG: Well, I wouldn’t say that it was difficult but it was different. Personally, it was a wonderful experience and because there was a limited budget, we had to work really long hours to shoot everything on schedule and so there was quite an exhausting work rhythm. It was a very interesting experience and I think I was even able to discover some parts of my acting skills that I didn’t know.
Lisa Boeri, the role you play in Tulpa, is a strong and beautiful woman who goes through an emotional rollercoaster during the film. Her character is very much in the tradition of roles played by actresses such as Edwige Fenech and Suzy Kendall in some of the classic gialli of the 1970s. Are you familiar with the work of these actresses? Did you study any of their movies to help prepare you for the role, and if so which ones?
CG: I was more inspired by the typical Hitchcock female protagonist; blonde, cool and calm. I know Edwige Fenech very well as she was the producer of a film that I made about four years ago and I think that not only is she a wonderful actress but she is one of the most beautiful women that I know – even now. So, in answer to your question, my inspiration goes a little further back to more mysterious yet vulnerable actresses such as Kim Novak in Vertigo or Janet Leigh in the role of Marion Crane in Psycho.
What was it like being directed by your partner, Federico Zampaglione?
CG: It was a great experience and obviously it was easier because not only do we understand each other personally but there is a deep professional understanding between us on the set – this allowed us to reach the objective quicker. It was a very positive experience and sometimes a glance was sufficient communication between us.
You are perfect in the role. Did you have to audition, or was it obvious to Federico that you would be the best actress for the part?
CG: Right from the very start of the project, the role was written for me or rather, written with me in mind for the role of the protagonist and so playing that part was rather like stepping into a familiar set of clothes.
Were there any moments during the filming of Tulpa where you and Federico disagreed on the portrayal of Lisa? And who won?
CG: Not really. The character was very clear and the scenes were straightforward, so there was very little need for discussion. Perhaps when we talked about some nuances or final touches… but obviously Federico, being the director, would decide the scenes. As actress, I always had the last word when adding ‘colour’ to the scene. I suppose if we were to rank each other then we were equal – it was a draw.
Moving on to Labyrinth, what attracted you to the role of Marie-Cécile?
CG: Marie-Cécile is the CEO of a big multinational pharmaceutical company who is also the leader of a sect involved in various dubious and shady trades. She is a single-minded woman with one desire; to gain possession of the Holy Grail which she needs to achieve eternal youth. She is very determined, powerful and evil – the complete opposite to me. These traits are so foreign to me and so I had to work a lot to try and express them which was a very liberating experience as I was interpreting a character that was so very different from what I am in real life. I also had to work a lot on her way of dressing, how she used her clothes, her femininity, her make-up and her high heels as a weapon.
Labyrinth has been referred to as ‘the thinking woman’s chick lit’. Had you read the book before you were approached about the role?
CG: The first time I heard about the book was when I was contacted by a casting agency for the part so I hadn’t read anything beforehand. When I was called in for the second audition in London I really got down to studying the plot and understanding the various characters and their relationships.
Labyrinth’s director, Christopher Smith, has a very good reputation amongst film fans and horror fans in particular for his excellent work on movies like Triangle and Black Death. Have you seen any of his other films? And if so what did you think of them? What was it like working with him on Labyrinth?
CG: Working with Christopher Smith is always great fun because he is like a child when he’s on the set and his sheer enthusiasm and love for what he is doing is transmitted to the actors and the troupe. He loves all the blood and gore and isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty and generally, is a really great director to work with. I had previously seen Black Death which I found quite ferocious with a series of wonderfully horrific scenes and a great rhythm in which you can see Christopher’s incredible capacity to set the scene.
What future projects can we hope to see you in?
CG: At the moment I am busy promoting some works that I completed last year. Tulpa is ready for release in Italy this month so that keeps me quite busy. For the future, I have a couple of proposals which are scheduled to start in July and August for the cinema; both are comedies but one is a more romantic plot whereas the other is just a pure fun and games comedy.
Claudia, thank you so much for taking the time to talk and we all at This Is Horror wish you well in you future projects.
JOHN LLEWELLYN PROBERT