Giovanna Mezzogiorno stars as Fermina Daza, the object of two men’s affections in the romantic film Love in the Time of Cholera. Directed by Mike Newell and based on the critically acclaimed best-selling novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the film also features Javier Bardem as the man who suffers from unrequited love for 50 years. Benjamin Bratt co-stars as the respected doctor who wins the hand of the lovely Fermina.
Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge Giovanna Mezzogiorno faced playing Fermina in Love in the Time of Cholera had to do with the aging process. “I'm the only one who went from 17 to 70. Javier [Bardem] had another actor and Benjamin [Bratt] just came out at 30. That was hard. That was hard because when Mike Newell at the beginning asked me if I felt like doing that, because at the beginning they thought to take three actresses, a little girl and older. But when he asked me, 'Can you do that? Do you think we can work on that and I would like very much you to do that,' I said to myself he was in a way giving me a very, very, very big responsibility. That doesn't come often in a life.”
Mezzogiorno went to great lengths to make sure she portrayed her character as an elderly woman as realistically as possible. “I spent one month before shooting in Cartagena for working with a movement coach,” revealed Mezzogiorno. “I think the hardest thing is not to do an imitation. A person 72 year-old is not moving like a dead [woman]. That's not true, that's not true. It depends. So we tried to make the different old people - Florentino, Fermina, Juvenal based on their character, on their lives, which is what happens. You get old as you lived in a way, as your character, your suffering, your unhappiness. I tried to make my old Fermina still straight, still strong, but old. That was challenging, exactly.”
But figuring out how to play the character at a younger age also took a lot of work. “For the young part, I have to go back to 19 which is hard. I'm 32. When you are 32, you have years and years of things on you that makes me be like here now. The way you move, you relate to people, it's your story. So you have to take that away and go back to being clean. It's hard. But again, not going into an imitation of a la-la little girl because that's not true. Fermina is still Fermina. Fermina is going to be Fermina from 20, at 17, 40, 50, 70. But she changed because, of course, the body changes, the voice changes.”
The decision to go with speaking English rather than having the film use Spanish as its common language was an interesting one for the cast. “They said to us that we had to speak English because making the movie in Spanish would have been very limiting for the movie of course,” explained Mezzogiorno. “But at the same time, we had to all sound the same. I'm Italian, Javier is Spanish, John [Leguizamo] and Ben are American. Catalina [Sandino Moreno] is Colombia. We had to find a common sound. We're mostly actors so we tried to make an English/Latin sound but all the same. We worked again with a coach for two hours a day with tapes.”
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Love in the Time of Cholera hits theaters on November 16, 2007 and is rated R for sexual content/nudity and brief language.