François Truffaut once said: “Three films a day, three books a week and records of great music would be enough to make me happy to the day I die.”
Music has always played a decisive role in the life of Valeria Bilello, former VJ on MTV, who started when she was just 16. That was the beginning of a career with
“great responsibilities and sweet lightness, at the same time.”
And between movies and books, Valeria Bilello talks about herself today.
Music is still her constant companion, especially during her travels. Destination: cinema.
Valeria, how are you?
This is a very hard question!
I’ll think about it.
Your first childhood memory.
The first one is about my family having lunch, I was not even able to sit at the table and I was enjoying the scene from the opposite side of the room. It’s a very clear memory, yet I was two or three years.
A person, a feeling, a memory that you carry with you from the period as a VJ?
Huge crowds at the MTV Day, taking the stage in front of 80.000 people, the adrenaline of the countdown before going on air. Great responsibilities and sweet lightness at the same time.
My 18 years, the faces of the people I worked with, some of them very young at that time. A smile above all, the one of Cristiana Paolucci.
What has changed? What did you learn?
I learned, a lot: when I landed at MTV I was not yet of age, I knew nothing about television, my English was okay and so was my music knowledge. After a few years I was ready for everything, I had a mother tongue tutor, and my training to become the perfect “host” ended in 2005.
Since then the way I see things is changed and also at work everything comes more naturally than before. I feel like I don’t have to make the enormous efforts of the past. No more performance anxiety!
From VJ to director to actress: which satisfies you the most?
All three in different ways. As a tv host I was always amazed by my own level of concentration, having everything under control from the timing to the live phone calls and the interviews.
Working as a director, in my case, still remains an experimental playground. As for the acting, it changes each time. What I see in the editing room always shocks me, I never recognize myself!
Purple presents a film by Olivier Zahm&Can Evgin featuring Valeria Billelo wearing the Emporio Armani F/W 2011 collection at the Maison Louis Carré.
Are you sentimental when it’s time to choose a part to play?
Sometimes I am: sentimental about the story, and I choose to be part of it. Sometimes I think about it in a very clear and pragmatic way, and I choose a role because it makes me grow, puts me to the test and I come out stronger than before.
What happens when you watch yourself in a movie?
Very often, many months pass from the shooting to the first screening in a theater, so what I feel is a bit of nostalgia, more than anything else. But, actually, I hardly ever like to watch myself again. If on set the director asks me to do it, for me it’s a torture!
In the theater it’s different, you get excited about the work that has been done with your colleagues. At best I can look at myself as if I simply were a character in the movie, and that’s it! Sometimes my voice becomes unbearably familiar, and I get embarrassed!
Tratto dal film “Happy Family” di Gabriele Salvatores, Colorado Film 2010.
For many years you were the one asking the questions, how does it now feel to – often – be on the other side?
The others’ questions bore me, as well as some answers did.
Journalists and artists are both quite lazy when it comes to interviews.
But right now I’m really having fun!
Which character from which book would you like to play?
Eli, a vampire girl from “Let the right one in.” The Swedish film is beautiful.
What is the favorite part of your job?
The preparation, the first take, shooting at night, arriving on set at dawn.
Except the goodbyes at the end of the shooting.
How is life on the road?
Last year I spent many hours in transit, perhaps three-quarters of my time. At this level anything happens on the road. You sleep, you eat, you get changed, you rehearse lines, you call the family, friends… you also take important decisions while you are transported back and forth.
You can also see a lot of things. You learn to recognize your “peers”, those who take the same plane or the same train every other day. You also learn to pack up in ten minutes!
If I say Milan-Rome?
I think of Grimes’ music that will keep me company, the movies in my iTunes download queue I could watch, and how to avoid another vegetarian lasagna on board of Frecciarossa!
How do you imagine yourself when you’re old?
Good, tired, happy.
With long but collected hair, I will have long walks on the beach in the morning, and will make a lot of cakes!
How do you vent your anger?
I hardly ever get angry – It’s been a long while since I last did.
I have memories of me screaming like a fool. Someone told me that I become red and a vein pops in my forehead.
What a horror!
Cinema: cult directors?
Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti, Paul T.Anderson, Terrence Malick, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog.
Literature: books you would recommend.
Lutheran Letters by Pasolini, Just Kids by Patti Smith, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Art and photography: two names above all?
Egon Schiele and Francesca Woodman.
* About the first question, I’m fine thanks.
In a state of becoming.
THE LAUNDRY ROOM
What are you most proud of?
Of all the times that I’ve looked foolish, and I became unforgettable.
In a past life you were…
Certainly a cat.
If you would have to pack up your life to leave suddently, what would you take with you?
My photos, all of them. Family stuff, all my records. But also shoes, movies, books, posters, and my glasses!
Is there a question that no one has ever asked you and you would always have wanted to answer?
No one has ever asked me about my first TV appearance in the nineties. I was eight and I took part in a quiz show for smart kids, made it to the final!
The skeleton in your closet.
Flat foot and dental caries. Enough?
A secret mania.
Opening all the curtains to check every single corner in the hotel rooms.
Three adjectives to describe yourself.
I do not know, I can only think lazy!
A city that describes yourself.
Milan. NYC. Palermo.
They’re three actually!
Three movies to laugh.
Stardust Memories by Woody Allen. I Love You, Man by John Hamburg; and anything by Pierre Richard.
Three movies to cry.
2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick always move me.
Me and You and Everyone We Know by Miranda July and Casablanca by Michael Curtiz.
Plainsong by The Cure.
The Pixies in Benicassim.
The happiest day of your life.
The one when a baby called Sofia was born.
The mistake you would be proud to make once again.
Almost getting arrested on the Hollywood sign in LA, while I was climbing the hill with my friends.
Your biggest dream.
Wrap myself in grace.
Copyright images © Adriano Russo, Olivier Zahm, Giacomo Prestinari.
Interviewed on April 26th 2012, original version in Italian.