Debra Winger Remembers Bernardo Bertolucci: "Now the Party Is All About Him"

Courtesy of Everett Collection

The actress, who starred in his 1990 film 'The Sheltering Sky,' recalls a special moment with the director, who died Nov. 26, in the Sahara Desert.

It was such an intense experience filming The Sheltering Sky.

Bernardo was old-school in that he had the ability to inspire and help you understand where he wanted you to end up but without telling you how to get there. But he also had a great sense of humor. He would make fun of me sometimes because we were very close. I think it was because I dove in, I was so immersed in the character — he would toy with that.

But the moment of shooting the movie I remember most — I have a picture of it actually, though I do not know why the photographer happened to catch it — was when we were at the edge of the Sahara Desert. I was in the robes I was wearing in the film. He was wearing a black leather Armani jacket and a scarf. He was girding himself against the infinite qualities of the desert. We are standing on the edge of this untouched sand. You can see in the forefront of the photo all the footprints and the dolly tracks where the crew had walked.

Then there were these vast dunes — just nothingness. I was to walk out into that, and hopefully they were driving out around the dunes and picking me up at the other end, but there were to be no footprints in the sand. The shot was opening up very wide, and it was very scary because everyone understood that you cannot walk easily in the desert. You can go over a couple of dunes and think you have gone in a straight line. There was this moment where life and the art of making a film about it were coming up against each other. 

I said: "I love it here. Whatever happens is OK. I love it. I love how small I am in the scheme of things." He said, "That's exactly why I hate this place." He said to me, "I don't even go to a party if it's not for me." Now the party is all about him.

This story also appears in the Nov. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.