Isabella Rossellini goes Green (Porno)

When Isabella Rossellini stops at World Café Live this weekend, it will have little to do with her famed previous acting gigs (“Blue Velvet,” “Death Becomes Her,” “30 Rock”) and nothing remotely connected to her life as a model (the Lancôme spokeswoman). Instead, the daughter of filmmaker Roberto Rossellini and actor Ingrid Bergman will perform a one-woman monologue based on her self-written/directed Sundance Channel hit, “Green Porno.”

 

That stirring educational (and hilarious) show’s short films have focused on the scandalous sexual behavior of bugs, birds and marine life, with Rossellini decked out in goofy, rubbery handmade costumes, portraying spiders, bees, earthworms, snails and the like. In an interview from her home on Long Island, Rossellini laughed about her willingness to show off her silly side.

 PGN: When was the first time you held a film or video camera?

IR: I was born into a family that made films …

 

PGN: That I know!

IR: There wasn’t even Super 8 when I was a kid. It was all 16 mm. My mom took a lot of home movies with the babies, my father used them on the job, my grandfather was a photographer. There wasn’t a celebration of the camera in my house, not an introduction to God or something sacred. We were probably told not to touch them so that we would not break them. Besides, I was never attracted to the technology, really. Even now, I don’t know.

 

PGN: You’re not fetishistic about the process.

IR: Not in the least. I do remember my father giving a lesson to a school class about filmmaking. And all the students gathered around the camera — that’s all they wanted to know about. My father just got so angry. “If you were a writer, you wouldn’t go asking about the pen. The film is not made by the technology. It is in the mind of the filmmaker.” That stuck with me.

 

PGN: Did you know throughout your acting career that you would run your own show?

IR: As a kid, I wanted to have my own show about animals. Yes, I was always curious about bugs, birds and such, their behavior. I think I was always more inclined to direct than act. Then I spent many years watching directors that I knew trying to raise funds for their projects.

 

PGN: That could take the desire to direct out of anyone.

IR: Yes, so I began to think more realistically. [Laughs] I began studying to be a costume designer, which led me to modeling. You know, I didn’t want to be in films because my mother … she was very known. It was intimidating to me to say I wanted to be an actress. I was actually relatively old when I started to act: 31, 32. I even started to model late, like 26, 27. I did however act in Europe — I was like 19 — on television with Roberto Benigni. He and I worked together on this comedy show where I made short films. I really did think that I would stay in television forever.

 

PGN: How did you get together with Sundance for “Green Porno”?

IR: I made a film about my dad — “My Dad is 100 Years Old” — with Guy Madden, that Sundance bought for their channel. At first, they were looking for films for the Internet, but for most name directors, there wasn’t enough money, so they sought adventurous types they knew could make films. Robert Redford really wanted to raise the profile of the short film, so after they bought our film, they came calling.

 

PGN: What made you choose sex, specifically animal sex, as your topic?

IR: Animal life was my hobby as a kid. Even now, it fascinates me to the point that I went back to school for it [she’s a graduate student in Animal Behavior and Conservation at Hunter College]. Sex, I thought, would be fun because people are interested in sex. If I would have done a series of films based on the digestive system, it would have been harder to make successful. Sex and reproduction? That’s more appealing.

 

PGN: I have to say that if you did a show about digestion, people would watch.

IR: You have a point. My films may be comical, but they are attractive to this new mood in the air, people being more green, more turned on to the environment and our health. Even a food network could buy that. You just gave me an idea.

 

PGN: As we are a gay-related publication, can you tell me about the gayest animals that you came about?

IR: The funny thing is, after Sundance contacted me, they had this series with a funny name, “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys.” It was very successful and Sundance said, “Listen, do you know of any animals that are gay?” They wanted to link to that series and other gay documentaries. There was also a book that year, “Sexual Exuberance,” about collected data featuring 450 different species where they had witnessed homosexuality. With birds, Canadian Geese in particular, it’s two females who bond together and raise the babies. They go out and make love to a male for his sperm but they do not want his help beyond that. Two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo stole an egg from a female and they raised the baby. The more you research, the more you find “gay” in animal behavior. Gay is part of all nature. It’s not just mammals.

 

PGN: Does your one-woman show count for college credit?

IR: [Laughs] It would be nice. I do the show on weekends so I can study during the week. I have to say, I didn’t realize that this in-person show would take off as it has. My friend Carole [Boquet, the French model-turned-actor] talked me into the idea of a performance monologue and my friend Jean-Claude Carriere [legendary French filmmaker] helped me with it, so it’s been a delightful journey.

 

PGN: So much of this show, though wildly informative, is engagingly silly, especially with you running around in those goofy outfits. I get the feeling that this is the real you underneath the bug costumes. Am I right?

IR: Yes it is. I’m sure that people are surprised that the Lancôme model is now running around dressed as a worm or as a fly. But my family recognizes me more in “Green Porno” than in anything else I’ve ever done.

Isabella Rossellini will perform “Green Porno” at 8 p.m. Nov. 14 at World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St. Tickets are $37.50. For more information or tickets, call 215-222-1400 or visit www.worldcafelive.com