“They bought the rights to ‘Heat and Dust’ for Australia, and I was here in Melbourne to film the miniseries ‘Waterfront’,” the Italo-Australian actor recalls.
“They invited me to dinner and that’s how our lasting friendship was born.”
Currently residing in London, Scacchi returns to Australia for her role as Ambassador of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival and a member of the first ever Bulgari Critics’ Choice Award jury.
The famed actror will also present her latest film, ‘Tenderness’, which has been greatly anticipated by Australian audiences.
Scacchi was born in Milan and moved to England with her mother at the age of eight.
“We spent 11 years in the south of England, in Sussex, then we moved to Perth for a couple of years,” she explains.
“When I was 15 years old, my mother and her husband [the academic Giovanni Carsaniga] informed me that we were going to be moving; at first I was furious, but from the moment I set foot on Australian soil, I felt as though my life was just about to begin.”
Scacchi’s intuition was right; she had already decided to become an actor at the age of eight, and having moved to Perth, she attended the Hollywood Senior High School and began to take to the stage.
“They were two wonderful years in which I accelerated through high school and enrolled in the university where my stepfather worked,” she says.
“Even though I didn’t want to study that much, I had to because I had already been part of the university’s Dramatic Society for a year, and I had to justify my presence in that group.”
After her stint in Perth, Scacchi returned to England to study at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School for three years, but she never forgot her Australian adventure.
“A short while after arriving in Perth, I no longer felt like a foreigner,” she recalls.
“Whereas I resisted British culture, because we form our identities during our childhood through our family. My family is Italian and my father [Luca Scacchi] an artist; he didn’t tolerate the coldness and rationality of the Northern cultures. When I returned to Italy, I felt immediately more at peace, because Italians always know how to welcome with warmth.”
Despite all of this, Scacchi encountered resounding success in England.
“I was extremely lucky because six months after the course ended, connections I had made while doing advertisements and television roles put me in touch with the director James Ivory, who chose me for ‘ Heat and Dust’,” she says.
“The film was presented at Cannes with great success and it launched me onto the scene at 22 years of age.”
Scacchi arrived in Hollywood relatively late, despite the encouragement of her agent and production houses.
“It didn’t appeal to me because I had a house in London, a mother in Melbourne and a father in Italy, and those three cultures fulfilled my life,” she explains.
“I was also in love with the classics of Italian cinema and the Taviani brothers were looking for actors who could speak Italian and act in English, so they chose me for ‘Good Morning Babylon’.”
However, Scacchi new that to make it in the movie world she needed to venture to Hollywood sooner or later.
“I decided to go the third time I lost a role because the producers said I wasn’t well-known enough in America,” she says.
“Two weeks after arriving in Los Angeles, I got the role of Carolyn Polhemus in ‘Presumed Innocent’ with Harrison Ford, and that was my ticket to Hollywood.”
While the first 15 years of Scacchi’s career were filled with film roles, the second part was largely theatrical.
“They aren’t entirely different worlds because the aim is the same, but the everyday life of theatre is very different,” she explains.
“With films you begin very early, and generally you’re in makeup at 7:00 am; in theatre, often you go out for dinner after the performance and stay out until 2:00 am and sleep in until midday the next day. The rhythm is different. The theatre is a sacred space for the actor because it’s where all of your work and preparation emerge. On the stage, it’s the actor who directs and who is in control, while in cinema you have to hand over all of the control to the director and producer.”
Scacchi has two children, Leila, 25, and Matteo, 19.
“Journalists from women’s magazines always ask me how I balance my career and motherhood and I have always replied, ‘Poorly’; throughout my children’s childhood I felt like I failed because I didn’t think I covered either of those roles during the height of my career,” she says.
“But now that they’re older things are different. My daughter is having great success in Hollywood. I’m very proud of her, of her choices, her independence and her intelligence.”
Scacchi’s son, Matteo, also hopes to enter the world of film as a director or cinematographer, but for the time being he doesn’t want any help or advice from his mum.
“At the moment he takes me for granted, but that’s how things are when you’re 19 years old,” Scacchi says as we wrapped up the interview.
“I must say though, since my kids left home, I feel much more liberated and inspired. I can better appreciate the wonderful career I had the fortune of experiencing and I’ve taken back the reins in my life. I feel recharged and very content.”