Isabelle Huppert was honored Saturday night at the Rome Film Festival with a lifetime achievement award for acting. Italian actor Toni Servillo presented the prize to Huppert before she sat down for a “Close Encounter” conversation with the audience.
Huppert praised Italian directors, saying, “Italians, although different, you are united by an aesthetic sense. I speak not only of the scenography, but also because you’re making social and political cinema.”
Earlier in the day, she spoke with the press on what the award meant to her: “I have faith in the authenticity and truth of cinema, and it is a great pleasure for me to receive this award in Italy.”
Huppert spoke about her life’s work as an actress, repeatedly expressing her love of the unexpected as what most appeals to her about her profession. “There is no need to be afraid of the unknown,” she said. “There is always a first time in the cinema, never the same thing. This does not scare me.”
She also spoke of returning to TV for Matthew Weiner’s The Romanoffs on Amazon. Huppert said she immediately accepted Weiner’s proposal to work on the series because she had long been a fan of his series Mad Men.
“This idea of ??The Romanoffs was surprising, original. There has always been a secret halo hovering over this family, a mystery that weighs heavily. He wanted to speculate on all the questions that exist on this lineage,” she explained of the new show.
“The series consists of eight episodes that have nothing to do with each other. In my episode, I am a very nervous director. The character was very funny and I enjoyed playing it. There is something baroque in my episode,” Huppert said. “I do not want to compare it to other TV series, but this one is really special.”
Regarding her favorite roles over the years, Huppert said she does not rank one above the other. “I love them all. Sure, Elle was a strong moment in my life as an actress, and also The Piano Teacher,” she said. “But I had a lot of luck, and there is not a film that I did not want to do.”
Huppert also defended Michael Cimino’s legendary box-office bomb Heaven’s Gate, known as the movie that sunk United Artists. It has since been reevaluated by critics.
“He was an iconoclast who rejected the classicism of Hollywood. He came straight from the Oscars for The Deer Hunter. He had power, but he became shipwrecked. At the first screening in New York, the spectators got up and left,” she said. “After 60 days, I had shot just two scenes. It was a conceptual film. That failure marked him until the end.”
For Huppert, she describes her profession as “the possibility for actors to confront themselves. We must not be afraid of this. We actors must try to be ourselves. It is the film that tells the story and makes it credible.
“A film does not necessarily give an answer to the viewer; sometimes it solicits questions,” she said. “Cinema has been a window to the world for years, and it has been getting more and more political. It is still entertainment, but it is becoming more and more full of questions, something that pushes us to seek answers.”
Huppert says she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. “All the films that I have not done yet are hidden somewhere like stars,” she concluded. “I don’t know them yet, but we’ll meet soon.”
The Rome Film Festival continues through Oct. 28. On Monday, Martin Scorsese will also be honored with a lifetime achievement award in directing.