This article is published in number 43 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until October 19, 2021
Accussì: I am like that. Me, Miriam. Everything else happened for this chased and fed nature: the limelight, the acting talent and hard work, the impetus of a carusa that left Catania with the load of 20 years, having become the protagonist of Italian cinema after “The blessing of Miss Italy” and the passages as a TV presenter. Until the marriage with “the man who is he”, celebrated last September and nourished by a discretion broken only for happiness.
Stubborn, wild and to put it to Joan Didion: “Made of what I want and what I fear.” Accussì, the sound that boils from the earth where one comes into the world, Miriam Leone.
Yet something is missing in this Sicilian girl who owes her characters a pact of iridescence. There is a reflection in her interpreted souls that returns to her, and again, to the point of marking a reflection that is never quiet. It is the fruit of those who cross, to then reappear to themselves with a new part. As in Marilyn has black eyes, the work of Simone Godano where Miriam plays Clara, an adorable mythomaniac who understands the destinies of others and releases them. It is here, in this space of unpredictable and very free audacity, that Clara and Miriam coincide. The same flash in the shy and reckless eyes of a human who wants to keep wondering who he really is. Ask yourself, and really risk giving yourself an answer.
And so, who is Miriam Leone, really?
Researcher of what?
“It doesn’t matter what. In the sense that they are constantly looking. I have to go a little further, ask myself new questions. Because if I think I understand something about myself or the things of the world, I end up not understanding anything. I’m a container of question marks. And to be honest: I am unfinished ».
“Hanging,” said Goliarda Sapienza. And he said a lot of his strength came from that suspension.
«They are wonderful forces, the best. My best energy is in incompleteness, in research, otherwise living would be not only very boring, but also very arrogant ».
She is lucky with the work she does. Today she is Clara in Godano’s film, tomorrow she will be Eva Kant in that of the Manetti Bros. In the end, being an actress means being able to live off interruptions and blows in the towel.
“That’s my job. But the research concerning my profession always borders on the human. It is a work that has a lot to do with the psyche, with the soul, with the spirit, with the emotions, with the bodies. Even in a tightrope walk. And this is where I can do things that I probably wouldn’t do in life. And so I learn. For example: do you need to know how to ride a horse? I take lessons and on stage I am a professional rider, while in real life I may be afraid of riding. So that kind of search for possible and probable worlds gives me the possibility to discover the new and to launch myself, even if I am afraid of failing ».
Are you afraid of failure?
“Yes, of course, all the time. Even since you entered the house here ».
He looks around, then sinks onto the sofa of this Buzzatian attic, on the top floor of a condominium with a solemn yet welcoming facade, adjacent to the neighborhood where Dino Buzzati told of streets that concealed intimate and opposite existences from appearance. «My husband Paolo’s house», nestled on the Milanese roofs, a long and narrow terrace and the absolute feeling that it has repaired them in these years of almost secret love story. The tiny wooden framed photographs, him, her, an image of their wedding and the watercolor of Clara that was given to him on the set. It is Milan that looks like Paris, as Buzzati used to say. It is Miriam and her nest, beyond the fear of making mistakes.
How are you afraid of failure? What are you afraid of telling you?
«Not that they tell me, that I tell me. I am the severe one. And I could tell myself that I am not up to it, that I have too big responsibilities for one person alone. Maybe that’s why I need to leave and always come back. Go away and play it, and then take refuge here, in this house. Or in Sicily ».
Sicily from which it crosses, and refines it.
«The biggest metaphor of who I am is Sicily. A continent that has no borders but only horizons. And from these horizons I have always been able to dream and look beyond. My parents’ house almost overlooks the Strait of Messina: Calabria appears every now and then and disappears. There are days that you see it, days that you have less, good days, less good days. And every time it seems that the horizon is shifting and you with it. Maybe I never left there. “
“My grandmother always said that while she was cleaning the house – my grandmother was a serial cleaner, the whole house had to shine all the time. He told me they would never marry me because I didn’t clean properly. ‘
And instead someone married her.
“But someone married me, grandmother!” I often talk to her even though she is no longer there: “You know, grandma, things have changed a bit, and I’m sure you would like them too! We women from this part of the world are a little better … ”».
“On this side of the world”: do you mean our age?
“Yup. A woman in my grandmother’s time often had to fulfill herself in marriage, not today. I chose it and I’m happy, but I didn’t feel compelled. We would have to thank the previous generations who have brought us some fundamental rights that we enjoy ».
And don’t you regret absolute freedom before marriage?
“It depends. I got married at 36 and until now I have lived alone, really free, around the world without being either a father or a husband. It’s a lot. But now I’m married. And I did it in Sicily, in Scicli, with a Sicilian ».
What won you over from him?
«It is not said, but we have many things in common and many that fit together in the right way. I tend enough to protect it from the spotlight, to give us a chance to stay anchored to a normal life. And what is a normal life but a form of transgression? Among other things, I had never had a Sicilian boyfriend, not even when I lived there. This is a return, I am a bit of Ulysses ».
And how are you now, Ulysses?
«He is more serene, with fewer things to prove, with more desire to be. The more to be, the less to prove. With a love that has everything I needed to stop. Paolo is an honest person. And he knows parts of me that maybe even I don’t really know, and that then at some point maybe they will appear. It is a thought that I had even as a child, discovering myself in the future, when I looked at the Sicilian sea and imagined ».
What did he imagine?
“I wanted to travel.”
And what else?
“I imagined some scenes that would really happen in my life, extraordinary situations like having a wall of photographers in front of you. The strange thing is that when they really came true they already had the shape of a memory, as if I had already lived them so much they had been imagined in my head ».
Imagine or wish?
«I don’t know that, I was too young to be able to tell you the difference. At the time I was always between imagination and desire. Probably what I imagined I wanted, and vice versa, it was all together. A child imagines, wishes, one day you want to be an astronaut and the next day you no longer want to be ».
What was Miriam Leone like as a child?
“I made my own costumes – I’m lucky enough to have a family of embroiderers and seamstresses. And I put on shows, I wrote them, I composed the music, the songs, I interpreted them. I built them not for the public, but for me ».
Do you see that she already wanted to be an actress?
“I wouldn’t be so sure. I was very sensitive, and being very sensitive means great responsiveness to everything. There was a plant that represented me a lot, it belonged to my aunt Graziella: the fern. The one that withdraws when you touch it. I wanted to know the world, to participate, to live it and at the same time to look at it from afar without being discovered, spying on the things of the grown-ups ».
Is it still a fern?
“I’m becoming a bamboo, which is what I aspire to at maximum power. For the broad and resistant roots, and for the harmony and speed with which they grow. If I look back I have grown up fast. I was very tall from an early age, always at the last bench ».
It seems to me that she grew up fast on everything. And that the supreme accelerator was Miss Italy.
«For me that stage is very important. Otherwise I would have absolutely not known how to take the path of actress. I would have liked a public competition, had there been! Thanks to Miss Italia I won a scholarship with Anna Strasberg who made me work on the Actors Studio method. From there began an underground work that reaches today ».
Clara absorbed it, her Marilyn character has black eyes. Mythomaniac, overflowing, stubborn and wonderfully strong.
«The champion of the mad. I really enjoyed having to play someone who thinks she’s an actress. This already amused me from the start. The nice thing about this soul is that it doesn’t believe in itself at all, but it believes a lot in others. In the potential of others, understanding that there is also something that belongs to them in them ».
It is a political film in its own way. Go beyond appearances. Be guided beyond appearances.
«Psychotherapy helped me in this. When I feel that a leg of the table is collapsing, even compared to the great responsibilities that I take in my family, I do not run away. I have a job that gives me great escape routes that are harmless with the imagination because in reality I am very present, very concrete, a point of reference for my family. I feel pains and joys, but I am more focused on the latter. Even in suffering I look for what he can give me, and he has always given me something. And can I tell? I would be delighted if psychotherapy was done in schools because it is entrusted to parents too much. Too much chaos. We need a reference figure for those who grow up, an educator of the soul. I invite anyone who has some money to spare to give themselves a gift. However, I realize that in some cultures, places and families, it is still considered a taboo. But it is a wonderful help to change one’s gaze on others and on oneself ».
The others. Go back there.
“Because if there is one thing I discover every day in my profession, it is that every part of the other is within us and could come out based on life circumstances, at a crossroads, a right or wrong person. For this reason the choices are fundamental ».
And how do you prepare for the fundamental choices?
«With silence. And I understood this by looking at Etna. From Catania I grew up with my feet on an active volcano and also on earthquakes, which are normal here. When you go to see an eruption – and I went there with my brother even though it is dangerous – it is the absolute magic of life. There is a surreal silence, but if you sharpen your ear you hear the noise of the earth going boom, boom. And there, what do you have to say? ».
I guess, her, Etna and her brother. And I imagine her chasing that silence now, maybe before accepting a character or not.
“There is an activism in the choice of characters, on my part. I have never consented to functional roles to the male one, since I was able to choose what to do in this profession. It is fortunate. My characters weren’t supposed to be the wife of, mom of, the daughter of… but a human being in their own right. A woman is a human being in her own right, a man is a human being in her own right. Every woman has adventures, misadventures, opportunities and equally a man ».
The Sicilian cadence came out.
“I only get pissed off in Sicilian.”
I guess she’s the earthquake when she gets pissed off.
But in the end there is no beauty without shocks?
«It is so. And then I believe in beauty with a capital B. Not in the physical aspect, in the banality of beauty. I believe in a broad beauty that we all have potential. In dark times, one sometimes believes that the beautiful part of oneself can be blocked by nature, or because we are told that the worst is never ending. For me it is the opposite: at best there is never an end. You can always make the most of a situation, even when it’s tiring or painful. This is what counts: seeing beauty in it ».
Photo: Fernando Gomez
Service: Simone Guidarelli
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