Interview with Daniela Giordano
An interview with Daniela Giordano
by Chris M.
Chris: First and foremost, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this lengthy interview! I’m sure you’re making your many fans around the world, including myself, very happy. To begin, describe your life prior to acting. What was life like for a young Daniela Giordano growing up in Italy?
Daniela: I went to school in Milan, Italy. I lived there for ten years together with my family. At the age of fourteen I and my family came back to our home town, Palermo, Sicily. There I carried on my studies at the high school "Art Lycèe" specializing in art subjects (I still paint oil pictures). Due to the fact that attending schools was not my most favourite occupation, I preferred to close my education with a one year course at the private school "British College", where I learned the English language (better than from the Frank Sinatra’s discs –that it was my favourite occupation). There, at last, I got my final diploma.
At age 19, you became the stunningly beautiful Miss Italy of 1966. How did you achieve that title?
Thank you for the compliments…but I didn’t feel myself “stunningly” beautiful … I achieved it just for chance: it was almost the end of the summer and I was 19 years old. I was always with my friends, a group of about 10 boys and girls of my same age. One evening we decided to organize a big dance party at the beach with a lot of music. Due to the fact the party was in an open area, there were a lot of people. Parents, other friends, a lot of people walking along the beach, etc. Everybody was happy and somebody decided to elect the prettiest girl in the party. I won this kind of friendly contest as "Miss Mondello"- from the name of the local beach. The next day my uncle (he was a journalist/sports editor-in-chief in the local newspaper) printed my photo and few lines about the “mundane” event in the local newspaper. This photo, through Press Agencies, fell on the desk of the director of the national Miss Italy contest in Rome. He decided to use this dance party by automatically giving me the title of Miss Palermo--thus he did not have to organize the event in this city - due to the fact he was late with the regional girls selections. He sent a couple of guys from Rome who offered me a contract that gave me the possibility to enter in the national 'cattle fair' of beauty contests. My family was doubtful to let me have all this freedom... But my father and my mother were sure it was impossible for me to win again so they agreed. I was still underage for Italian law.
What did being Miss Italy entail? From what I understand, you traveled to the USA for some TV shows / modeling?
After I won the contest of Miss Sicily, I was obliged by the contract to do the Miss Italy contest too. I did it and I won. Afterwards I travelled to the United States (New York, Boston, Philadelphia) and to Canada (Montreal), to fulfil the engagements with the sponsors. Of course, I was accompany by my father. I featured in American TV and in few other advertising forms (Tiffany jewels, Imec, etc), working for some international firms which had sponsored the beauty contest. By contract, I have also to do the Columbus Day parade inside a Sicilian Cart pulled by a big American horse not very much agreed to be dressed with a lot of little plumes and bells - as the typical folkloristic Sicilian cart . Thus, at a certain point, during the parade, and near the stage of President Johnson the horse got crazy and reared up. And I, dressed with bathing suit, crown, mantle, etc. did a fly back -headed toward the street. Luckily, a black and handsome policeman had seen and foreseen all the scene. He did a run and I landed on his open arms.
Luckily I didn’t hurt because the day after (or a couple of days after) I had an invitation as honour guest from President Johnson for a gala performance for the Italian community in New York. There I met Mr. Rockefeller and other important political guys at that time. The President Johnson gave to me as gift a gold bracelet with a pendant coin which had the American eagle engraved on it.
At that point, back in Italy, I had to do also the contest of Miss Europe in France. I was already fed up and physically tired. I had quarreled several times with the director of my national contest. I hate doing things against my will. But I was forced to do it by contract. In the same time I had received an offer from an agent of the William Morris Agency in Rome to make a film as the main young actress (my photo at that time was very often on magazine and newspapers). I was very excited--my family much less. I couldn't go to France alone, so my mother took me there. (I was the only girl with the mother behind me (L). The night of the contest the national French director (a very nice person) let it be known to us (my mother and me) that I would have been Miss Europe for that year. My mother and I were NOT happy--in agreement for the first time in our life. The French director was astonished. It was incredible for him to receive this kind of reaction to his news. We both explained our reasons. And in a private room we convinced him that I was not interested in winning this contest. (If I won I would have to do the Miss World contest, and I didn't wanted to miss out on my first film and my possible independence from my parents--but I didn't tell him this). Finally he said he would try to convince the judges. This situation was very strange for him and he asked many times 'but are you sure?'. Miss Spain won the Miss Europe beauty contests and finally I was out from the contests. I came in second; I was happy and my family too--for the moment.
How did you first get into acting? Did you go to school for it?
While I was battling to go out from the contests, William Morris Agency offered my first film and I moved to Rome (at last ALONE ! – after unpleasant quarrels with my family). And I lived there for 19 years working in something as 39 or 40 films. I never studied to become an actress. It just happened. I would have been happy if I had had the occasion to study acting --because I felt the need. Sincerely, I have to say I tried. But the only school at that time had a “paper” to sign. With the sign, one cannot work in any film for three years until you received the final diploma. Crazy! I needed to work immediately, I needed money, I could not wait – if not I had to go back at home with my parents, admitting my failure.
Are you a fan of the films you've worked on (if not all, than any?) Are you a fan of the giallo, spaghetti western, or sex comedy genres?
No, I am not a fan of my film and not even a fan of the genres above. I grew up loving John Wayne, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Kirk Douglas, etc...Thus, I liked (and I like) American western, American adventure (science-fiction too), American comedy, American thriller, American war films and my favorite actresses were at that time Shirley MacLaine and Katherine Hepburn. When I was young I wished to play the characters that they played in their films. In Italian films these characters did not exist or they were very rare. Generally, these days, I do not see Italian films. I don't like them. I do not like this Italian way of representing a certain part of the Italian reality. Personally I prefer the American films, those that arrive here in Italy--the best, I think.
Please excuse this next batch of questions! While they may seem mundane to you, they can still be very interesting to the readers. Here we go: What is your most favorite film that you've worked on and why?
Well, my favorite film is INQUISITION directed by Paul Naschy. Because, finally, mine was a real concrete character and because I liked the story. I hoped with this film to do another step toward good quality of films. I do not consider my films of good quality. They are not for the 1° vision L, They are that genres that you see on TV at deep night. Unfortunately, Inquisition was not sold in Italy and my agent at that time was not smart enough to take advantage of the success of Inquisition in Spain. We knew about the success of the film only one year later.
What is your least favorite film that you've worked on?
I do not have least favorite films…I considered (and I still consider) them as experiences…In the first years of my career I was happy only just I was working and earning money. Only later I started to love my work and consequently I started not to be satisfied of the quality of my films. Each time I hoped that one of them had some kind of success – so I could go on with the career – but it was not so. In the meantime I knew better how it would have been better to behave in this circle…and I was not agree. I mean, social meeting, party, etc. I considered them all boring. On the other hand I was a little afraid to have “bad meeting” that I, young, alone and without experience, could not be able to manage.
You've worked for many notorious Italian directors: Mario Bava, Sergio Martino, Giuliano Carnimeo, Demofilo Fidani, etc. Does any one director stand out above the rest in your mind? What I mean is, were any extremely particular about what they wanted or did any help shape your career as an actress more so than another?
Italians no one. Naschy was director closer to me as actress. And always Naschy directed me as a real director should do. Nobody in particular helped me to go on in my career.
Besides knocking out a few of poor Brett Halsey caps while filming Mario Bava’s “Quante Volte... Quella Notte,” what is the wildest thing you remember about any film you've worked on?
Always Inquisition. You probably do not know that all the items in that films were real. Paul had permission from a museum to use original items of that period, such as the Malleus Maleficarum, an ancient book with old satanic rituals, or that sarcophagus-like object with the blades inside, and a lot of other items you see in the sets. One day Paul gave me a live chicken, telling me: 'Now you take this chicken, you kill it, wringing the neck, and then you start to pluck it. Please, remember you are a simple girl living in campaign, you are in your kitchen, and you know how to prepare a chicken. Well, I had never seen a chicken so close up in all my life!--except cooked on my plate. You do not meet chickens on the street, or at the beach or in a discotheque. I was really upset. So I said: 'NO, I am not going to kill a poor chicken. I am not able to do this. Thus, after a discussion between Paul and another guy, they decided to kill the chicken. Then, Paul gave me the still-warm body and said 'Now you pluck it.' I did it. But I was almost crying, and Paul cut a part of the scene.
Always in this film, I had to take in my hand a real skull full of worms from the ground and to place it in my bag. I did it –but it has been terrible! Another dangerous scene was when I was on the stake. Unfortunately, in that moment started the wind and the flames were very close to me – and I was really afraid. And, I have to say, the production too – and there was somebody near me with a blanket…but, you know, with fire few second could be a terrible damage for an actress.
You know, an actress has to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning because at 5.30 arrives the production’s car bringing you at the make-up. The night before you should go to bed at nine o’clock for sleeping at least 8 hours. Who is able to sleep at 9 p.m.? Not me. When I worked I slept 5 hours at night and this was not enough. So once, during the shooting of a scene where I was not in, I was so tired and sleepy that I needed to sit down somewhere for a while. The film was “Il Fidanzamento”, an Italian comedy. We were shooting in a church – but probably for a director’s need, there were no chairs at all. I looked for them without to find one. The only thing I found was a confessional (empty). I sit there and to be sure not to be seen by the troupe, I closed the little curtain. I thought to stay there a little bit for resting. Surely somebody would have shout my name if I was needed. Unfortunately, I fell deeply asleep. So, when somebody called me I didn’t reply. Nobody thought to look for me inside the confessional. They shouted my name looking for me out of the church, in the street, in the near coffee-bar…They found me after almost one hour. Of course, the director was very upset because he had lost one hour of work.
Some of your roles required you to show a little skin (ie. nudity) or be put in sexual situations. I understand some actresses are somewhat put off by having to do that... so how did you feel about it? Was it just part of your job as an actress?
I have refused some important films just because was required total nudity. I hated this aspect of my work. In those circumstances were was required partial nudity, I had pills to stay more or less calm. Anyway, when it was possible the scenes were done by another girl similar to me (my face, her naked body, as in Bloody Friday or in that one directed by William Rose and others). I required this before to sign a contract. If the director was not agree, I refused the film – even though if it was important. I was a girl with a wild character but I had received a classical and conformist education. I could not (and I can’t) go against my principles and feelings – not even for money or for the career.
Please help settle the old spaghetti-western question: Who directed "Un Esercito di Cinque Uomini" (The Five Man Army) … Don Taylor or Italo Zingarelli?
Don Taylor started the film for the first two days. Then, Italo Zingarelli continued the direction until the end of the film. Don’t ask me why Don Taylor left. I have never found out this.
"Scansati... a Trinità arriva Eldorado" was at least partially directed Aristide Massaccesi (Joe D'Amato) along with Diego Spartaro and Demofilo Fidani. Can you recall which parts of the film were directed by Aristide? Is there anything you can add about working with one of my personal favorite directors of all time, Joe D'Amato?
No, sorry, I do not remember who really directed the film. This because that film was “crazy”. I mean, I remember a lot of laughs, lunches with spaghetti and wine and tipsy soon after until the end of the working day. Diego Spataro at that time brought on the set friends as actors which were friends of mine too. So the “atmosphere” on the set was a kind of play J.
Fidani is known for making the best of an extremely low budget. How was working with him different than working with a director who had a somewhat larger budget? I would assume these films were shot relatively quickly, at the same time, with many crew having dual roles, etc.?
You are correct, shot quickly, low budget, dual roles for the crew, etc. Unfortunately Fidani didn’t leave any memory in my mind. If I remember well, he was old (from my point of view at that time), fat and he had the beard. Probably he directed me in some way in that “Helzapoppin” film (crazy film), together with the rest of the friends.
I’ve always been fascinated by the tiny yet well used (in Fidani’s world) Cave Studios. It was built and owned by Gordon Mitchell on his property in Italy. Do you recall exactly where it was?
Yes, if I remember well , the Cave Studios was few kilometers from Rome in an area called Canale Monterano. I did some western film there.
As you may know, Spanish horror legend Paul Naschy, whom you worked with on the film Inquisicion, passed away just a few months ago in 2009. Can you share some thoughts about Naschy as well as Inquisicion?
I didn’t know Paul Naschy was passed away. It is terrible! I still have his face in my mind as I have seen him in 1976 during Inquisition. In the memories the faces don’t become old. I think I have said all about Paul Naschy in the questions above. The only thing I can add is that I liked to work for him and with him. His professionalism hit me positively.
How do you feel about being known, still to this day, as one of the Italian cinematic beauties of the 60s and 70s?
Still very pleasantly surprise ! As far as I know, it seems I have much more fans in the States now than in Italy, I mean I have no fans at all in Italy now J.
Why did you quit acting in the 80s? Would you ever consider acting again?
I stopped my career for a couple of reasons:
the first because around the years 1979/1980 we had in Italy a big crisis in the movie business followed by a slump and many actors/actresses decided to go out of the field--me included in 1983). To tell you what precisely happened, I should talk about our political history. Governments after governments and how the Italians pass through a slump or a stagnation to another one. It is too difficult to write about it in a foreign language. What I can tell you is that our movie production was not sold in U.S.A. generally. We had not a market there, except for neo-realism films, such as those directed by Vittorio De Sica, Blasetti, Zavattini or well known films by Fellini, etc. During the years 1979/1983 our major producers left Italy (because of the economic stagnation) and headed towards the United States (as Dino De Laurentis or Carlo Ponti, Sophia Loren's husband). Thus, we remain with many independent minor producers but without money. Suddenly there was very little movie production. Before we had about 150 films produced in one year, and after we had about 30 films produced in one year. You have to consider that only 3 or 4 were good films, the rest was garbage. A lot of actors/actresses, technicians, etc. remained without work. At that time a lot of cinemas were closed. Also the studios had big problems to overcome. Also Cinecittà had big problems. At a certain point, as usual, the American productions came to Rome (because to shoot here was very cheap) and saved it together with the Italian TV productions. The problem is: if the country (Italy) has problems with money also the movie business has problems. And we have these kind of problems always--since about 1980. Now we have a sort of revival with a kind of neo-realism films (as NUOVO CINEMA PARADISO by Tornatore and others). And we have a lot of TV fiction productions. Thus, in the last years the situation is quite normal. But we are very far from the rich 'boom' period we had before. So, my agent became a seller for baby products, I was 37 years old and I realized that I could still work only few years…because there is no future in Italy for actress of middle age – except for very few (the situation for the actors is different). As actress you should have another economic income in order to select serenely the film you are interested to do. If you are not Susan Sarandon (She still work at about 60 years old.), you cannot be the main actress in Italy at 45 years old. You could be called for minor character but, in this case, the money would not be enough to survive for all the year. So I preferred to stop my career in time to build another one. It has been hard but I did it.
Second reason: in that period the scripts I received were so bad quality (because of the economic crisis) that I decided to think better about my future.
Yes, I would like to work again in the movie business but it is very difficult. At that time the engine that pushed me was the fact I was Miss Italy, so I have ridded the wave of that success. Now, everybody has forgotten me and above all I do not like to go around asking for work. The train of the fortune doesn’t pass twice. Anyway, recently I have tried also to do as director a short tourism- journalistic- service for the local TV. I wrote the text , dubbed it with my voice, done the montage – but nobody has bought it . It is a pity because I love this kind of work.
You've worked with numerous actresses who have disappeared from the world of cinema, but like yourself, still have a following these days. Do you know what has become of Rosalba Neri or Dagmar Lasander?
Since several years ago I knew she had a coffee-bar in Rome. I don't know if the situation is still the same today. And, sorry, I don't know anything about Dagmar Lasander. We never met directly.
Are you still in touch with anyone today from your acting days?
No, sorry. I am not in contact with that circle since then. I left Rome and the contacts has been interrupted.
Is there anything you regret about your film career or is there something you wish you would have done but didn’t?
No, there is nothing I regret about my film career and there is not something I would have done but didn’t. I have accepted all compatible with my wishes. I have done theatre too (six months) in a musical comedy. But I soon understood was not my “path”. Too hard, too boring (always the same lines ) and above all too few money J. It is a gipsy life always around Italy for six months. Considering my character at that time, I have been very lucky for working so much in the movie. My fortune has been to know the English language. In those times I was almost the only young actress able to understand and to act in English. Only the expensive main important actress, as Sophia Loren or Claudia Cardinale, were able to do this. So, I was often called in the co-production films because I could act with actors of American/English language and my cost was affordable for the productions. And acting in English the film has good chance to be sold for the American market.
Moving away from films now… let’s enter the realm of oddity! For those who are not aware of the "telepathic pyramid," can you briefly explain what it is and how the idea came to be? Have there been any kinds of advancements in its development?
One night (1978) I did a dream where a “Being" appeared, possibly of male gender. This Being told me to build a little device pyramid-shape like that he had between his hands. Then, he told me how to build the elements inside. The dream was so clear and lasted so long in my memory that I, after some hesitation, tried to build it. Of course, I was (and I still am) without knowledge of technical things. I worked a lot on this device (in my not professional way) and soon I understood I needed some professional and technical help. After many tries, in which I involved for a while some local technicians, I had the confirm there was something of scientifically correct in the device. I have been able, after some years, to involve a New Zealand professor of mechanical engineering in the build of the pyramid (who came in Italy, about in 1990 just to see the prototype I had built) and an American researcher for the experimentation. After some excited progress, the developed stopped. Why? Probably because the research would have taken a lot of time and work. And above all because I do not remember certain data related to the frequency of the device. This means an huge amount of work to find out it.
Have you had any other experiences with UFOs or extraterrestrials since your initial encounter years ago?
Congratulations on your win of the Donald E. Keyhoe Journalism Award for your article "UFOs in the History of Arts." I'm sure you spent an enormous amount of time with your research. Do you dedicate a lot of your time to research and writing about ufology?
Thank you for the congratulation ! I am proud of it because the research has been published also on the anthology for the American schools (Extraterrestrial Life – Contemporary Issue Companion, Greenhaven Press, Inc., San Diego, CA). Yes, I have dedicated a lot of time for research and related articles about these topics. I wished to let become this my second work – but it has been so only for several years. As usual, the economic pressure has cut the chance to develop these topics. I hope in the near future to continue.
What do you have to say to the skeptic?
I was a skeptic when I started this interest. But otherwise I was, and I still am, very curious. When I find out something I don’t know, I wish to verify it. I didn’t believe in UFOs, indeed I had never heard about them! But when I saw that strange flying object, and the list of scientists who try to manage the matter, I was so surprise that I started to read and to study all was written in the Italian and American book market. Then, of course, you have to divide the garbage from the good things. In all the matters, the problem is a correct knowledge. In fact, it is not a problem of “to believe” but it is a problem to study.
Are you interested in other paranormal phenomena such as psychic phenomena, ghosts, etc? Oddly enough, Demofilo Fidani believed himself to be a spiritual medium.
Yes, I am interested in psychic phenomena (but not in ghosts or spiritual medium, etc) particularly in telepathy, precognition and the bending of metal or glass/crystals. This interest came through the interest in UFOs – because in some way the two things are linked. I am worked/researched for many years with kids who had these phenomena –in collaboration with an Italian physicist who was interested in the matter too. I have done conferences in Italy, in London/UK and in Paris/F about this topics. Recently, I am following with interest the development of the Remote View in United States. Of course, in Italy few knows what is the Remote View. I have seen last year the film “ The Men Who Stare at Goats “ (2009) - that didn’t have any success in Italy. I liked it a lot…but if one does not have the background or the knowledge about the matter, it seems a stupid film – not an exhilarating (and worrying at the same time) comedy.
You mentioned some developments about "Remote View" in the USA. What exactly is that about?
Remote viewing (RV) is the purported ability to gather information about a distant or unseen target using paranormal means or extra-sensory perception. Typically a remote viewer is expected to give information about an object that is hidden from physical view and separated at some distance. The term was introduced by parapsychologists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff in 1974. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_viewing
Chris, I have given the crude news about RV as it is written on wikipedia. Anyway the story continues till our days and it is already unofficially used.
What are some other things that you enjoy doing in your free-time?
In my free time I like paint oil pictures. I like to read. And I think…what could I do now I am retired? J
Chris: I guess that’s all for now, Daniela. I want to thank you again for everything! Is there anything else you would like to add?
Daniela: No much more, thank you.