Italian actress and MO Fan Caterina Murino is a former Bond girl who enjoys nothing more than being on stage. She tells MO about growing up in Sardinia, her love of tea, and why Italian food is the best in the world
Talented, beautiful and fluent in four languages, Caterina Murino first came to international attention playing Solange in the critically acclaimed Bond film Casino Royale. Born and raised on the idyllic island of Sardinia, she initially planned to become a doctor, but fate intervened and she found herself in the spotlight as a model and an actress. Having come fourth in the Miss Italy contest, Murino moved to Milan to pursue modelling, before shooting her first commercial in Paris. It was here that she discovered her love of acting, returning to Italy shortly afterwards to study at the renowned Scuola di Cinema e Teatro di Francesca de Sapio. She has worked all over the globe, acting with the likes of Jean Reno and Richard E Grant, and won praise for her role as Tania alongside Rufus Sewell in the BBC drama series Zen. Based in Paris, but frequently abroad, Caterina loves the challenge of combining film work with interesting stage roles.
You’ve been very busy recently. Can you tell us a little more about what you’ve been up to?
I have just finished filming a joint French, German and Italian production of L’Odyssée, inspired by Homer’s epic poem. I play the role of Pénèlope, the wife of Odysseus. I have also been playing the title role of Medea on stage. We started in Corsica and then the production transferred to Paris.
You’ve acted in films, for television and on stage. Which medium do you prefer most?
It’s hard to say, but mostly I think of myself as a stage actress. I began my career in the theatre and at least once a year I feel I have to go back to the stage. It’s not that I necessarily prefer it to film or television acting, but I feel that I need it more.
What do you love about the theatre?
The ritual of preparing and then going on stage, the audience, the adrenaline you experience every night, all of it is fantastic. In the theatre, you never know what’s going to happen next. You could have a great performance where everything goes right one day, and then it could be terrible and everything goes wrong the next. It surprises you and challenges you every single night.
You speak a number of different languages – has it been important in your career to be multilingual?
I quickly learned that to do better in my career, it was very important to study languages. I speak Italian, English and French, and as I’ve played a few roles in Spain and Argentina, I’ve also had to learn Spanish. The terrible thing is that I’m not very good with accents. They offer me a great part and I get really excited, but then I have to work really hard to get the accent right. But it’s very important to speak other languages and be flexible as an actor because there’s so much competition for roles. If I had only spoken Italian and stayed in Italy, then I definitely would never have worked as much as I am doing now.
You were born in Sardinia, which sounds like a wonderful place to grow up. Can you tell us about your childhood there?
Sardinia is a beautiful, idyllic island and I enjoyed such a wonderful childhood. I grew up close to the beach and there was sunshine every day; it’s a totally different life to the one I’m living now in Paris! Sardinians have a very particular culture, which is completely different from the rest of Italy. It’s a land of superstition and a land of magic. It’s not just the beauty of the beaches or the wonderful emerald sea, it’s this amazing energy that comes from the land. It’s such a wonderful place to live, although, unfortunately, because of work I don’t get to visit as much as I’d like to.
When did you decide you wanted to become an actress?
When I was young, my dream was to become a doctor. I never even thought about becoming an actress! But unfortunately, I failed my exams to get into university – although in a way I think it was fate, and that my life chose me rather than me choosing it for myself. After my exams, I took part in the Miss Italy contest, and decided to move to Milan to become a model. Modelling wasn’t for me, it was so boring, although it did take me to Paris where I worked on a film commercial. It was my first time acting, I was about 20, and I felt something, I really felt something – so I decided to go to theatre school back in Italy.
Were your parents supportive of your decision?
Everyone in my family went to university, so in a way, when I decided to become an actress, I was a bit of a black sheep. For many years, even when I was earning good money, for my father, it meant nothing. Thankfully, the moment he saw me on stage, he started to understand and see that it was something that I was really passionate about.
We probably know you best for your role as Solange in Casino Royale. It must have been an incredible experience to be a Bond girl. Did you enjoy being part of such an iconic film?
It was such a fantastic experience and opened so many doors. During 50 years of Bond, there have been 74 Bond girls and, all over the world, everyone knows the film. I know that some actresses feel they have to move on from Bond, but I am really proud of it. It gave me huge international exposure and it’s an experience that will never happen again. I know that I’m still working thanks to having been a Bond girl. It had such a great impact on my career and I am very grateful for it.
Being a Bond girl was such a fantastic experience and I am very grateful for it
Bond girls are known for their glamour. Do you like getting dressed up for premieres and film festivals?
To be honest, it’s not my favourite part of the job. Of course, everyone loves a beautiful dress, but I prefer to wear a beautiful dress to go to dinner with friends than dressing up for a premiere. I love going to the theatre and watching movies, but I like to do it with friends instead.
Caterina Murino with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
Is there a role you’d love to play? For instance, Lady Macbeth or even perhaps a female James Bond?
Tricky question! There are so many films and roles I’d like to do. I would love to be in something like A Royal Affair, the Danish historical drama that was nominated for an Oscar. It was such a wonderful film. Actually, the role of Pénèlope in L’Odyssée is a dream role for me. I studied ancient Greek for five years at school, so I’m really interested in all those stories. I think I’m more of a classical actress than an action actress, although I do love a good psychological thriller.
If you had one day off where you could do anything and go anywhere you like, what would you do?
Just one day? It’s going to be a quick trip! I think I would like to go back to Africa. I’m an ambassador for Amref, an international organisation working towards health development in Africa, and for four years, every year, I went there to see the work they were doing. I haven’t been back recently, but if I could go anywhere, it would be to Africa to see the projects they are working on.
You live in Paris, but what do you miss about Italy?
Most of all, I have to say Italian food. Everyone says that French cuisine is the best in the world, but not for me, it’s definitely Italian! It’s a much simpler kind of cooking than in France, and much less rich. I find that French cuisine can be very heavy and a little too much for me.
In Paris, which shops do you rely on?
I love to drink tea, and in Paris, Mariage Frères is a wonderful place to buy it. But I often go to Shanghai, and when I’m there, I make sure I stock up on a lot of Chinese tea to bring back. Jasmine tea is my favourite.
Where in the world do you hope to be, and what would you like to be doing, in 20 years’ time?
I hope to be living in Paris and I hope I will have children, although growing up in the city, they will have a very different childhood to mine. I also hope that I’ll still be acting, perhaps doing one movie a year, one play a year, and the rest of the time taking care of my family.
You travel a lot for work – do you find it tiring?
When I’m at home I love to be in my apartment and see my friends, and I love my normal life. But I also love to travel. I really like meeting new people, learning new things and experiencing different cultures. One place I’d really love to go to is India.
What do you like about Mandarin Oriental hotels?
I like the way they are luxurious but in a discreet way. Everything is so tasteful and they are so comfortable. It’s comfort that really means luxury to me. What is luxe? To make a dream reality. And the dream for me is to sleep in a beautiful comfortable bed; that is the best thing in the world.