Claudia Cardinale: ‘Armenians Come to Me, Kiss Me and Thank Me!’


Artsvi Bakhchinyan, the journalist, with Italian actress Claudia Cardinale

By Artsvi Bakhchinyan

YEREVAN — This year the legendary star of European cinema Claudia Cardinale was among the honorary guests of the seventh Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival. This 72-year-old charming actress with a permanent smile and laughter on her lips — who starred as Araxi Zakarian in French-Armenian film director Henri Verneuil’s last film, “Mayrig,” stayed in Armenia for two days. This short interview with Cardinale was held on July 12, in the Golden Tulip Yerevan Hotel.

Artsvi Bakhchinyan: Signora Cardinale, have you already tasted Armenian apricot?

Claudia Cardinale: (laughing out loud): They are a lot, a lot in my room, but I had no time to try one. But I will try one, of course!

AB: Of course! So! The origin is always important for an artist. You are originally from Tunisia. Do you think that this fact has some influence on your artistic character, on what you have done on screen?

CC: Well, I don’t know. When I was young, I was like a boy, because I always wanted to prove that women are stronger. It was terrible! And I did not speak a lot, that’s why

I have this voice (Cardinale is famous for her unusually deep voice). I was always fighting with boys (laughing).

AB: Can we say that your temperament is Eastern, if not say African?

CC: Well, I think it’s a mixture of a lot, East and West. In fact, I like very much the Orient, Africa, because I was born there. But I like to travel and meet people. I think this is very important, to be all together.

AB: In the ’60s, you were one of the symbols of European cinema. Do you think there are such symbols in today’s European film world?

CC: I don’t know! It’s not for me to say, you have to say (laughing).

AB: In my opinion, there are no such female symbols anymore.

CC: Oh, come on! Well, you know, before, cinema was a dream, it was fantastic. There were fantastic directors. We were very lucky to start in the ’60s. With the Beatles!  (laughing).

AB: What do you think about the change in female images on screen? They were quite different before!

CC: Well, because, before, a woman was very important in film. Now women are a special effect.

AB: Not iconic anymore, as you were…

CC: Well, not only me, lots of actresses were: Brigitte Bardot, Anna Magnani… Now in many movies women have small parts.

AB : Many Armenian women requested that I ask you: How do you keep your charm? What is the secret of always being beautiful?

CC: I am smiling all the time. I never had facelifts. I don’t like that! And maybe because I am always busy, I am always working.

AB: A female film critic told me: Please ask Claudia…

CC: What?

AB: …does she use Italian or French cosmetics?

CC: My God! No! Swiss! (Laughing). Sorry! It’s very important for women to put crème, but I don’t like having facelifts! Otherwise all the women are all the same! All with big mouths (laughing).

AB: And how do you remember your lessons of “Armenianism” that Henri Verneuil taught you?

CC: Fantastic! Henri Verneuil was great. And for me it was incredible to be the mother and to do his story! We started in Marseille and I was surrounded by marvelous actors.

AB: Do you know that after Verneuil’s film Armenians used to call you mother, “mayrig” of all Armenians?

CC: But you know? When I am walking, in Paris, for example, all the Armenians come to me and kiss me and say: “Thank you!”

AB: May I also say thank you and kiss you?

CC: (laughing): Of course!

(I presented Claudia Cardinale with a ceramic medallion made by my wife with an image of pomegranate. I truly hope that the “Mayrig” of all Armenians will wear this piece of Armenia on her heart.)