You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Venice: Golden Lion Honoree Redgrave Continues to Tackle Artistic Challenges and Social Ills

At the age of 81, Vanessa Redgrave has no qualms about arriving on the Lido to collect a Golden Lion celebrating 60 years on stage and screen. Not because she feels it’s time to rest on her laurels and bathe in the glow of past achievements, but because her career is still very much in full flow. Last year she made her directorial debut with her Cannes entry “Sea Sorrow,” a documentary about the immigration crisis in Europe, and now she’s playing truant from London’s Theatreland, where she’s appearing in Matthew Lopez’s AIDS drama “The Inheritance” at the Young Vic. A recent film she made, “The Aspern Papers,” is showing at Venice by way of tribute, but whether or not — or even how — this all stacks up as a body of work seems to be of no concern to her. “An actor, or an actress, is always trying to live in the moment,” she beams. “That’s the number one [aim] for my profession.”

It helps that Italy holds a special place in Redgrave’s heart; her husband, “Django” star Franco Nero, is a big deal here, and her resume includes work with some of Italian cinema’s most enduring and diverse talents, from Michelangelo Antonioni, for whom she played “the mysterious girl” in his ’60s masterpiece “Blow-Up,” to Elio Petri (described by Nero as “Italy’s Stanley Kubrick”) and, most surprising of all, erotic cinema legend Tinto Brass, whose “La Vacanza” premiered on the Lido in 1971. Why did she feel such a strong connection here? “Well, Italian was my second language at school,” she recalls. “And that was because, being English and having been in the war, I didn’t feel like studying German. A lot of people felt that way.”

Although Redgrave speaks fondly of past collaborators and masters — Karel Reisz she misses very much as a great director and bridge player, and she confesses to having been star-struck by Luis Buñuel — the actress declines to pick favorites, preferring to lavish praise on “The Inheritance” director Stephen Daldy, who she describes as a “humongous genius.” She also sounds a note of caution there, warning that “there is a darker side to working with great people.” Which is? “You find it very difficult to tolerate people who are nowhere near great. You’ve got to always learn patience. You know that old saying, ‘Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can, seldom found in woman, never in a man’? Well, you only just find it in me, I’m sorry to say. Perhaps I’m partly a man,” she laughs.

Coincidentally, the award marks the 40th anniversary of Redgrave’s outspoken acceptance speech at the 1978 Oscars, where she won best supporting actress for Fred Zinnemann’s wartime drama “Julia.” At the time she was branded a “troublemaker,” but, over the years, that has morphed into “activist” — and she bristles at that label too. “Darling, see, I’m not an activist,” she insists. “People say, ‘Ah, you’re an activist,’ and I ask them: ‘Someone who promotes the knowledge of human rights legislation … and who advocates the conventions that provide for the protection of children, mothers and families … is that an activist?’ Because that’s who I am and that’s what I do.”

Instead, Redgrave suggest that the future is in the hands of the vigilant civilian, and that the more people push back against injustices, the quicker the cracks will start to show. “How does the light get in?” she wonders aloud, referencing the song “Anthem” by her “passion” Leonard Cohen (“There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in”). “I think, really,” she decides, “that the work of any human being is discovering how the light gets in — and we want to help human beings don’t we? We want to help them get a glimpse of the light.”


More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content