Isabella Rossellini has been on the cover of Vogue 23 times, acted in David Lynch movies, and appeared in Madonna’s Sex book, but all she wants to do right now is talk about how animals fuck.
In a new interview with Vulture, Rossellini, who is currently getting her masters in animal behavior and conservation, reflects back on her long-ranging career and how she’s finally found her calling in her 60s with projects like Green Porno, her series on animal mating habits. “To me the calling is about animals,” Rossellini says. “I wanted to do it my whole life, but then modeling started, acting started, and I didn’t do it. Now I do.” She also talks about the fact that it took her awhile to come to this place after years of being a muse and compartmentalizing her dreams for other people:
But for a long time I saw myself as a person who makes herself available for someone else’s art. If David Lynch was trying to capture a mood in Blue Velvet or Wild at Heart, I would embody it for him. Many times, an artist may not know exactly what they want until they see it. So you help them find it. You play it more dramatic, more comical, as if you don’t realize something horrible is happening...I always saw myself as that person — I would make myself available for the art of others.
She also talks about her own history of sexual assault, which she has mentioned only in passing before, in the context of #MeToo. And while Rossellini recognizes the value of the movement, she says that excavating that trauma isn’t of interest to her:
I do understand the value for some people to talk about their experiences, but for me, there is no value. The person that raped me — I was 15 or 16, he was a year older than I, why would I dig out this story 48 years later? What if people start to say, “No, you have to say the person’s name?” I don’t know what happened to him. He might be married. He might have children. I am a superstar in Italy, if I said who did this, I would destroy him. This man hurt me in the context of a culture that we are all trying to change. I don’t think that pinpointing one person and destroying their life because they made a sin in the context of that culture — I don’t have the heart for it.
Rossellini, who has spoken before about the hardships older women face in terms of acting and modeling jobs, was dropped by Lancôme when she was just 43, allegedly for a younger model to come in and take her place. But now the brand has hired her again in a move that Rossellini sees as a response to the old “woman’s dream,” which was the constant marketable desire to always be youthful:
They used to say to me that a woman’s dream is to be younger, which is to condemn yourself to disappointment. But now I’m older and the company is asking about me again? What happened to the women’s dream? But Françoise Lehmann, the CEO, a woman in her 40s, said to me, “There are other dreams now. I want to be inclusive. I’m a woman. I’m getting older and I don’t count anymore. I can’t accept that.” This made sense to me. Thirty years ago, I had been wondering if my communication with a cosmetics company would be different if the executives were women. Now I saw that it was.
And when it comes to being in her 60s, Rossellini says she finally has the courage to actually say what she wants. “Yesterday somebody invited me to a big fashion party, and I was able to answer, ‘I’m very touched that you invited me, but I’m so tired of going to these parties. I have to say no,’” she says. “Before I would have said, ‘Oh, I broke a leg. I can’t go.’” And as someone often too guilty to cancel plans, I’m keeping that excuse in my pocket.