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Say hello to Isabella Rossellini, but goodbye to ‘Green Porno’

November 13, 2009
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Isabella Rossellini, in a starring role

The most beautiful woman in the world showed up at Miami Book Fair International Thursday night to promote her short film series, Green Porno, and its companion book. Isabella Rossellini at 56, no longer a model, and getting very little acting work, said she is free at last to be funny.

“That’s the great thing about being older,” Rossellini said. “You don’t care anymore. You can be funny.”

Or anything she wants to be — like, say a film director.

The daughter of neo-realist master Roberto Rossellini, ex-wife of Martin Scorsese, and former long-time girlfriend of David Lynch, Rossellini said she could not imagine announcing she would be directing.

But the Green Porno films, one and two-minute haiku-like movies about the sex lives of animals, were so modest in scope, Rossellini thought, “Maybe this is something I can slip in.”

Before a rapt audience of 1,000 or more at Miami Dade College, Rossellini spoke with an unaffected enthusiasm for the creative life she has found in writing and filmmaking in recent years. No hint of diva surrounded a woman who was once one of the world’s top print models, and a busy film actress.

Rossellini explained the genesis of Green Porno in a short film, My Dad is 100 Years Old, that she wrote in 2006. She played all the roles except that of her father, who was depicted by a “an enormous belly.” Rossellini said, “He was very fat, and envied pregnant women.”

IsabellaMy Dad is 100 Years Old caught the eye of Robert Redford, who was searching for ways to present short films on his Sundance website that could be viewed on computers, iPhones and other digital devices. Rossellini, always interested in animals, had recently moved to the country. Reading up on local bugs, she became “amazed what happens in my backyard.”

When Redford said he’d be more inclined to finance films with environmental themes, Rossellini suggested a series on the sex lives of bugs. Voila! Green Porno was born.

But no one, Rossellini said, was prepared for the popularity of Green Porno. More than four million people viewed the first series of eight films, leading to two more series — and the book. HarperStudio, trying to figure out how to attract readers in the new media environment, just as Redford was pushing the boundaries with short films, came calling.

“They thought if Isabella has four million viewers and we get one percent of them, then we’ll have a best seller,” Rossellini said.

Rossellini , who writes and directs, showed six of the Green Porno films, all minimalistically droll, on the sex lives of flies, bees, worms, shrimp, squid and anchovy. She played the male of each species in simple paper costumes. It was kind of like Sesame Street for adults.

She also showed a film on elephant seals, featuring marine biologist Claudio Campagne. At six minutes, Rossellini said, “It has been my epic.”

Although Rossellini’s films have environmental themes, she stressed that she considers herself a comedian and an entertainer, not an activist.

“I’m not scientist,” she said. “I have no authority to tell people what to eat or what to do. But if we show what the animals are like, then I hope the audience will find its own way.”

Besides, she said, while not everyone is interested in animals, most people are interested in sex.

But, Rossellini said, you can say goodbye to the “Green Porno” title for future films.

“We didn’t know Green Porno would be so successful,” she said. “When we thought of the title, we laughed. But now we want to get rid of the word ‘porno’ so we can find sponsors.”

Miami Book Fair International continues with Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk tonight at 7:30 (Admission: $10). The street fair also starts today, continuing through Sunday with a slate brimming with more than 300 national and international authors. All events are at the Wolfson campus of Miami Dade College, 300 NE 2nd Ave., in downtown Miami.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. alexis permalink
    November 13, 2009 12:03 pm

    Well, shoot, I am very sorry I missed her last night.

  2. November 13, 2009 12:09 pm

    Which goes to show that interested people are always interesting!

  3. rachel permalink
    November 13, 2009 12:32 pm

    Ask! Ask! Ask!

    I found the films delightful, hilarious, clever and artistic. I thought Isabella Rossellini was not only beautiful but charming and enthusiastic.

    I want to be able to be funny. And able to write from 6 to 11 everyday.

    I also liked what she had to say about beauty and emotion, that the former cannot exist without the latter.

  4. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    November 13, 2009 12:49 pm

    Yes, Rachel, alas, many good quotes and stories were left on my cutting room floor. Like how Isabella Rossellini talked of her primary challenge as a writer of these films as how “to collapse something complicated into something simple in a one-minute” film script. And to do that, she “writes and writes.”

    I also loved the way she described writing, and the way there is no secret to it: “What helps is to write like any other writing, get up at 6 and sit in a chair until 11. Sometimes it’s awful, and sometimes it comes.”

  5. November 13, 2009 1:25 pm

    Uoo Ah. Ros

  6. November 13, 2009 1:46 pm

    The films, particularly the insect ones, were inspired. I don’t know if they would have worked, though, with anybody else in them but Rossellini, who is, as you noted, still gorgeous. I covet the red velvet jacket she wore.

  7. Lizz permalink
    November 18, 2009 11:41 am

    Green Porno swept through philadelphia some time ago (6 months?). All my friends became obsessed. I think it is ingenious and would have loved to meet Isabella–she is obviously incredibly talented. Although she is not a model anymore, I hear she’s still amazingly beautiful and an extremely vivacious woman. I imagine that this will get even bigger, but would be sad to see it’s name go!

  8. January 20, 2014 10:39 pm

    Answer a casting call and see if you have what it takes.
    Contrary to some reports on the Internet, her scholarship has not been revoked.
    Who knew “Kony” 2012 would inspire so much sexual substance when the driving point was suppose to be about helping children in the country of Uganda.

  9. January 23, 2014 10:36 am

    Hey there, You’ve done a fantastic job. I’ll certainly digg
    it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m confident
    they will be benefited from this website.

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