Sophie, my first girlfriend, was killed in London. When we were both 11, we met at boarding school. I hadn’t seen her in years, but I was devastated to learn she had died. It doesn’t get much more terrible than this.
I escaped three separate boarding schools before enrolling in a circus school and finally becoming an actress. The only thing I learnt in boarding school was that I should never send my kid there. My mother had left my family to move to New York, and my father had no option but to accompany me. She had very little effect on my life for the first ten years, and much less when she departed.
My grandma and aunt were strong female influences on me. They would clean the home while singing Corsican love songs, dressed all in black, and utter melodramatic things like, “I want to die.” Cecile, my half-sister, is considerably younger than me and an actress. We have a really tight relationship, and I have always been quite protective of her. Of course, we talk about our professions, but supporting her would have the opposite impact because of who I am. I am her hindrance.
In my youth, I didn’t have many girlfriends. I was a busy young guy who jumped from one female to the next, never staying with anybody for more than three or four months. Monica [Bellucci, his wife] was my first true love, and we’ve been together for 15 years, so I made the correct decision.
On the set of L’Appartement, we met. I’d already determined I wasn’t the kind of actor who’d date his co-star. I assumed it would be a catastrophe, and that the director had only chosen Monica because she was a model. Our attraction was not instantaneous – amazing, I know – but I did woo her. We’ve collaborated on nine films since then, but I couldn’t watch Monica’s protracted rape scene in Irréversible. Many married performers claim that working together isn’t for them. It does for us. It’s fun to spend all day with someone you like, but we keep work and life separate. We don’t lay in bed before bed comparing scripts.
Monica has been in the spotlight since she was 16 years old. She taught me not to take myself too seriously, particularly in the presence of the media. I like to be in command, but she always tells me to relax. In life, you only have so much power.
I’ve realized that attractiveness isn’t important in acting. Monica is hired because she is an excellent actor. And as for myself, how would I have succeeded with a nose like this? Because I can seem furious, I believe I have landed the roles I have. I may seem harsh. I have that kind of expression. When I act, I like delving into melancholy. I’ve had to act out a couple sequences involving violence against women. I recently had to push a pistol into the mouth of one of my co-stars. That was difficult. However, I believe it is reasonable to claim that women are better performers than males. Actresses are all terrific performers. Because a man’s salvation is his femininity, the more like a woman they are, the better they behave. Women have stronger sensitivities than males, allowing them to go a little deeper on and off the stage. They are superior than males, yet they may also be difficult to deal with. But it is precisely this quality that distinguishes women. They may be very unexpected.
I believe in equal rights and consider myself a feminist, but this notion that women must have balls in order to thrive in the real world? That is incorrect. Women are supposed to be feminine. What if I met a lady with balls? I’d tell her to keep her distance from me.