A few months had passed since my accounting analysis diploma when, at the age of 18, I decided, with the consent of my mother, to join Salsomaggiore Terme for the Miss Italy competition.
It was 8:30 a.m. and Messina central station was already crowded with people going to work, who went to school or who just came to town for shopping.
The Intercity IC 2345 train from Palermo to Milan Central was 8 minutes late.
– Maria Grazia! I put in your backpack a few pieces of focaccia (typical bread) that I prepared last night, a few apples and a few bottles of water, because the journey will be long.
– Thank you, mom, don’t worry. You know I’m crazy about your focaccia!
The train arrived on platform # 1, as expected.
I kissed my mother with a loving hug and got on the train.
My seat was number 25 in car 11.
I settled in after putting the suitcase on the luggage rack.
I greeted my mother from the window, while the driver whistled to confirm the departure of the train.
A few minutes after departure, a nun entered the cabin.
She saluted politely, put away her suitcase and sat down across from me.
While searching for her gospel in her backpack, she placed her rosary and a sacred card on her table, which she held in her hand.
My eye fell on the holy image and I noticed with happy amazement that it was the effigy of Saint Anthony of Padua. This brought me back to what my mother had told me.
The nun smiles kindly at me as she sets her veil over her head.
– Can I read the prayer on this holy card? I asked.
– But it’s a pleasure! she replied.
I read the prayer on the back of the holy card with devotion and gratitude, thinking intensely of the wish my mother had made before I was born.
After reading it carefully, I gave it back and thanked her.
Late in the evening, I arrived at Bologna central station and after greeting the nun, I took the suitcase and got off the train.
My brother Gaetano was waiting for me on the quay. As soon as I saw him, I ran to him to hug him.
– What a pleasure to see you again! he said, hugging me tightly.
– I too am very happy, my big brother!
Daughter of a housewife and a postman and third in a family of four, two older brothers and a little sister, Maria Grazia Cucinotta was born in Messina on July 27, 1968.
For her mother, the sweet wait had not been really easy. Indeed, it was a difficult pregnancy. After losing two children and with the fear that it would happen again with Maria Grazia, her mother made a vow to Saint Anthony.
At the age of 18, she Maria Grazia left for Salsomaggiore Terme, to participate in the Miss Italy competition, where she ranked among the finalists. Back in Sicily, she decided to join her older brother in Brescia, with the intention of finding a job in accounting. It was Gaetano himself, always accomplice and aware of the physical characteristics of his sister, who made her first “book” and, together, they went to present her to a Milanese fashion agency. She thus asserted herself as a model in fashion shows all over Italy and appeared in numerous advertisements.
In 1987, Renzo Arbore wanted her as a showgirl in the show “Indietro tutta” (All Back). It was there that she was appreciated by the general public and film producers. Meanwhile, Zucchero Fornaciari chose her as the protagonist of his Diamante music video.
Her cinematographic career began to take off in 1990 with Vacanze di Natale ’90 and Abbronzatissimi 2, continued in 1994, when she made her debut in auteur cinema with Oscar-nominated The Postman, by Michael Radford. She played the role of Beatrice, the girlfriend of the postman Mario (Massimo Troisi). As an actress, she asserted herself not only in Italy, but all over the world. The emerging artist says that she owes a lot to Massimo: “Massimo Troisi changed my life, he was a director and an actor who had the patience to teach me everything, because I came to this audition recommended by a wife, Nathalie Caldonazzo, Massimo’s girlfriend. The Postman is the film that changed my life. 25 years have passed since Massimo’s death, and I’m glad we’re still talking about him and the movie with which he brought Italianity to the world. “ This is what Maria Grazia said to Caterina Balivo during the program “Vieni da me”, broadcast on Rai 1, on January 29, 2020.
Leonardo Pieraccioni, a talented director, wanted her in 1995 in his film I Laureati, nominated for two David di Donatello awards and one of the most popular made in Italy films of recent decades. On October 7 of the same year, she married Italian producer and entrepreneur Giulio Violati. Giulia was born on September 9, 2001. A girl, the actress tells me, to whom she tries to pass on the experience of a mother who is aware that teenage mistakes make you grow.
Maria Grazia Cucinotta has 111 films to her credit, in Italy and abroad, including 12 as a producer, to which are added countless appearances in television programs. Among them are his participation in the American series The Sopranos and the film on the most famous secret agent in the world, Agent 007: The world is not enough, in the scene of the initial chase. Shortly after, we find her again with Woody Allen and Sharon Stone in Selected Songs. Then we find it in Stregati dalla luna, by Pino Amendola and Nicola Pistoia with Megan Gale, in Husbands for Rent and in Vanilla and Chocolate.
Maria Grazia Cucinotta is today a fulfilled woman, full of enthusiasm, radiant, symbol of Mediterranean beauty and who feels obliged to transmit to young people the same luck she had. Between 2005 and 2015, she directed twelve films, among which we remember Tous les enfants invisibles, in collaboration with UNICEF, to finance programs for African children, and Father Christmas does not come from the North.
The ten years spent in America taught her to rely only on her and to feel creative and productive, helped in this by the teamwork typical of the American mentality. His love for the United States and Italy earned him the title of president of the Los Angeles Italia Film Festival. On this occasion, she presented her latest film, Tutto Liscio, a bittersweet comedy about family, adolescents and the attachment to traditions.
Besides the United States, the orient is also grateful to him. In recent years, her great curiosity and ingenuity have transformed a trip to China for the production of a film into something more: each year, for the past eleven years, she has spent at least 3-4 months in China, where she created an Italian-Chinese society to promote our cinema, our art and our fashion in a country thirsty for Italian creativity.
Behind the international star, there is much more: a vocation to help and listen to those who suffer. Maria Grazia Cucinotta, still engaged in the social struggle and against hunger in the world, offers her image of Mediterranean beauty as well as that of mother and woman in favor of noble causes. She has been awarded the title of Outstanding Ambassador of World Food, the largest humanitarian aid association in the United Nations, raising awareness in the media of the millions of malnourished children in Bhadakya, India.
Recently, she became president of ONLUS “Vite senza paura (Lives without fear)“. An ambitious project in which men and women commit to respecting life and the person, fighting together against all forms of moral or physical violence and against any ill-treatment and providing legal and psychological assistance to denounce any form of physical, psychological,economic and sexual violence.
Thanks to my friend Pierpaolo Ruello, who was in turn a friend of the Messina actress and one of the organizers of the MareFestival Salina, Massimo Troisi Prize, of which Maria Grazia Cucinotta is godmother, I was able to contact Maria Grazia for a pleasant conversation.
“In a recent interview, you said, ’50 years? It’s time to remove the 5 and start from scratch, age is just a state of mind”. You recently reached the threshold of 50, a very important step for women and men. How do you see your “Adult Youth”, so to speak? What advice to give to a man or woman of fifty?
“In my case, I would call it a lasting youth. On the outside, I feel mature, but on the inside, I’m still a little girl. 50 years is a wonderful age: we have experience, conscience and autonomy, we feel freer because we have nothing to prove, neither at home nor at work. We are starting to learn more about ourselves. For example, I have an adult daughter and now I think a little more about myself. I dedicate myself to the things I have never done. I am testing myself. For my 50th birthday, I wanted to have a nice party to give courage to my peers. You have to be ironic about faults and if something doesn’t work, you have to turn the page and come back in the game, without wasting time. “
“Did you realize what you set for yourself in life?”
“I have done much more than I could dream of. I never, never imagined arriving where I am now. Life has been a continuous surprise and it still is. I am very satisfied, I am not hungry for power, I am calm. “
“Do you believe more in what you do or do you more in what you believe?”
“One thing does not exclude the other: to do something, you have to believe in it. At the same time, you have to think about what you believe in. At the beginning, I used a lot of instinct and love, I was passionate and gentle, then I realized that it was important to think and to be objective. As long as you are an actress, everything is fine, but when you approach the film industry, the battle becomes more difficult. In this purely male dominated environment, you have to think carefully. I was always fascinated by the idea of giving young people job opportunities, but it was not easy in this context”
“Ritual question: and for the future, what are your plans?”
“I focus on the work of an actress without giving up that of a producer. I’m continuing a series called Teen, a web / TV series where stories of teenage lives are told, faced with problems of bulimia, anorexia, self-harm, drugs, cyberbullying, certification, Internet, chats. However, I do not rule out anything, now I am more objective and think about my choices before deciding. “
“You are very active in social; On May 7, 2019, you opened a non-profit association “Vite senza paura” to fight against all forms of abuse such as harassment, violence against women and marginalization. Could you explain and give all the useful information in this regard? “
“I am president, in fact I try, at least. It’s not easy, it’s a fight against windmills. Perhaps it is because we are talking about a system that is already problematic anyway. That is why we want to understand where the law does not work. Lots of laws are made, but there are few that protect women. Women are afraid to report violence and harassment There are no family homes to accommodate these women. Often, some people report the harassment and the perpetrators remain at large. There is not enough education against violence. Children should be educated from an early age. “
In addition to this commendable activity, Maria Grazia has just concluded the theatrical season with a comedy directed by Massimiliano Vado, Daughters of Eve, a brilliant and fun comedy where she plays for the second year.
So, here is Maria Grazia Cucinotta, symbol of conquering Italianity as well as of Italian pride all over the world. Radiant, elegant and charming, but above all humble and enthusiastic with an extreme desire to dream again because, as she tells me: “you must always continue to dream”.