Isabella Rossellini Is Probably Cooler Than You

"The red carpet has become like a parallel business," Isabella Rossellini tells the Financial Times' Vanessa Friedman in this new interview that took place over brunch in Manhattan.

"The next day, there are TV programmes, and magazines, and it's all ‘Do you like the dress or not like the dress?' and ‘Did she look fat?' To keep borrowing dresses and jewellery is like a full-time job. And you have to be a fantasy, which you can never be, so you always feel depressed. To be an icon is a big job — it's beyond acting. And sometimes it pays and sometimes it doesn't. I remember when we were doing Blue Velvet, Dennis Hopper was just out of rehab. We hadn't seen him in a very long time, and we all said, ‘Oh, it's so great to see you, you are such an icon,' and he said, ‘Icon, icon: who will pay my bills?'"

Brunch with Isabella Rossellini: when ordinary soundbites about the Hobbesian stresses of red-carpet styling segue seamlessly into anecdotes about Dennis Hopper in 1986.

How cool is Isabella Rossellini? Really, really cool. Rossellini spends a good part of the interview saying smart things about food and agricultural production (cool). And also animals, the reproductive lives of which are the subjects of her acclaimed series of shorts Green Porno and Seduce Me (super cool). Rossellini will graduate next spring from N.Y.U. with a degree in animal studies (non-traditional-student cool); she's been reading a lot of feminist biology lately (plain cool). And she worries (coolly) about how disconnected we have become from the sources of our food:

"You know, when I grew up in Italy in the 1950s it was still very agricultural. Food was very important, produce was very important. Everyone made their own olive oil. It took me a long time after I moved here to understand that Americans are much further away from their food. I mean, when I was a child I knew the lamb before I ate the lamb at Easter — even if they didn't tell me it was the same lamb. I always assumed all those people in the Hamptons had their own vegetable gardens. Hah!"

The actor/model recently bought 30 acres near Bellport, Long Island, that had been slated for development. She's currently transforming the land into a working farm (extra cool), which, she says, has attracted a lot of interest. "As soon as it was public that I had bought this land and wanted it to become a farm, I started being contacted by young people, often very educated young people," says Rossellini. "In my generation, if you had an education, you wanted to go to the city, you didn't want to be a farmer, but this generation is very interested in the environment and food, and for them, being a farmer is a lifestyle choice — like being an artist or an artisan. It's an ideological decision." She's helping people make cool ideological decisions. Cool.

As if Isabella Rossellini wasn't already cool enough, she also puppy-trains seeing-eye dogs. And ends interviews on time because she doesn't want to be late to class.

Brunch with the FT: Isabella Rossellini [FT]