CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
At a Tantalus getaway, Barbara Carrera talks with Gary Chun about her life in movies.
A film festival at the Honolulu Academy of Arts celebrates Italy
While Barbara Carrera says she's been retired from the acting biz for the past three years, she should know to "never say never again."
4th Annual Cinema Italiano in Hawaii
Place: At the Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts, through Tuesday
Tickets: $7 general; $6 seniors, students and military; and $5 Academy members
That was the title of the 1983 movie that brought the striking Nicaraguan-born model-turned-actress to the attention of an international audience. She starred opposite a young Kim Basinger and Sean Connery, reprising his role as James Bond, in "Never Say Never Again," directed by Irvin Kershner.
Carrera played the movie's deadly villainess, Fatima Blush, a role she took specifically because Connery was returning to the character that had made him famous some 20 years earlier.
"(Producer) Cubby Broccoli originally wanted me to be in 'Octopussy,'" she said Monday at the Makiki Heights home of her good friend, Princess Alliata de Montereale. She and Kershner are jurists for the fourth annual Cinema Italiano film festival at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, running through Tuesday.
"Working with Irvin was one of the best things in my career," she said. "I enjoyed his infectious enthusiasm. He was very encouraging, and every actor needs the feel of that. He was the first director to let me be. He allowed me to play Fatima in a very energetic way, so much so that people on the set were saying, 'It looks like Barbara is about to explode!'
"Fatima was incredibly lethal, a sociopath," Carrera said with a laugh. "I was completely involved in the look of the character. You know that little hat she wore in the casino? If you look very close, you could see that each decoration was a weapon. She also had sharp, stiletto-like fingernails and shoes. Plus she had a pet snake!"
another favorite role was the American Indian woman Clay Basket in the 1978-89 television miniseries "Centennial." Also in that cast was Richard Chamberlain, who joins her as a festival jurist and will fly in from his Maui home to reunite with Carrera in Honolulu after nearly 30 years.
Carrera is no stranger to the islands, having worked in Hana, Maui and Kona on film projects, followed by the occasional visit to the de Montereale estate.
"Hawaii was the first place I came in 1980 that reminded me of my country of birth. Both Nicaragua and Hawaii are in the same latitude, so they both have that same breathtaking natural beauty. It feels like I've come home."
Born to a U.S. ambassador and Nicaraguan mother, Carrera left home at age 10 to attend an American convent school. Years later, she was discovered by the Eileen Ford modeling agency, and began her career before the camera at 17.
While her first film role in 1970 was, not surprisingly, playing a fashion model in the forgettable "Puzzle of a Downfall Child," it was Tom Laughlin of "Billy Jack" fame that really got her started in movies.
"Tom gave me some of the best advice about acting, which was to just listen and tell the truth. Don't fake the emotions. Even though I had to forget what I learned from modeling, what helped me was my familiarity with the camera."
In 1975, "The Master Gunfighter" -- a curious combination of spaghetti Western and samurai flick -- made her a Golden Globe Award nominee.
Carrera has since stepped out of the limelight and acting in general to concentrate on her oil paintings.
"I'm a grounded person. I realized early on that what I did in modeling and acting was just work, which I did to the best of my abilities. I had no expectations, no delusions of grandeur. Even though the work allowed me to go around the world several times, to be honest, I got burned out. It got to the point I couldn't do it anymore."
Her work has been exhibited in her hometown of L.A.; she has just finished a series of paintings called "Journey." But Carrera still keeps a hand in the entertainment business, having optioned a couple of Campbell Armstrong novels for major studio consideration.
Would there be a role, perhaps, for Carrera somewhere in there? "If the elements are right, maybe. But I realize my time has passed. I used to be the leading lady. For women in the film industry, you have to have been just hatched out of the egg to be a star," she says with a laugh. "I'm glad of my decision."
» "Golden Door (Nuovomondo)" --
8 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. Friday
Winner of three 2007 David di Donatello Awards (Italy's equivalent of the Oscars) and Best Film at the '06 Venice Film Festival, director Emanuele Crialese's third film is a classic tale of early 20th century immigration to New York's Ellis Island. While on a perilous journey on a boat from Sicily, a widower encounters a mysterious and supposedly British woman on board, who has been denied entry to America once before. Cinema Italiano co-founder Margherita Parrent calls it "unusual, beautiful and cinematically stunning."
» "Life in the Balance (Uno Su Due)" -- 7:30 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday
A young and ambitious lawyer on the verge of becoming very rich finds out he has a terminal illness. While he waits for the results of his biopsy, his illness forces him to consider what is meaningful in life. Supporting actor Luca Martella, a special guest at the festival (and, coincidentally, the cousin of festival co-coordinator Daniela Paluselli), is himself a cancer survivor, and director Eugenio Capuccio wanted him to be in his uplifting film to help propel his main character's emotional struggles and ultimate triumph.
Martella will be at Friday night's screening and will hold a Q&A session afterward.
» "Along the Ridge (Anche Libero Va Bene)" -- 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday
The film is seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy who lives with his bully of a sister and his father, a seemingly harsh and unjust disciplinarian. The family finally establishes a peaceful if precarious routine when, suddenly, the estranged wife and mother reappears just as recklessly as she had departed three years ago.
Star-Bulletin music critic Valeria Wenderoth (also coordinator of the Italian program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa) will present the film and provide a Q&A session.
» "When Do the Girls Show Up? (Ma Quando Arrivano Le Ragazze?)" -- 7:30 p.m. Monday and 1 p.m. Tuesday
Pupi Avati's subtle dramedy about two musicians meeting at an audition in Umbria -- one's an upper middle-class saxophonist, the other a working-class trombonist. Years later, the two reunite and together compose a hit musical.
» "Manual of Love" (Manuale D'Amore)" -- 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
A multiple Donatello award nominee, this comedy chronicles the four phases of love with four different couples, i.e. falling in love, going through a rough spot in a long-term relationship, overcoming a betrayal by striking back at all members of the opposite gender, and desperately turning to a self-help book to bring a beloved one back.