Exclusive Interview: Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni

Die-hard Italian horror film enthusiasts will recognize actress Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni from Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS 2: THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES and GHOST SON, and Dario Argento’s OPERA and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.  She also appeared in THE ROOM NEXT DOOR and THE CHILDHOOD FRIEND for Pupi Avati which both co-starred Mary Sellers of GHOSTHOUSE and STAGEFRIGHT.

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni

Coralina is also an accomplished musician in her own right, having written and recorded an album, LIMBO BALLOON, in 2005.  Currently, she is appearing in Dario Argento’s THE THIRD MOTHER, the follow-up to SUSPIRIA and INFERNO, as well as a short film called THE DIRT, directed by Claudio Simonetti of Goblin and Simona Simonetti.  Coralina currently divides her time between Rome and New York (sorry, no Freiburg!).  She has also contributed to “The Book of Lists: Horror” which is due for release in September 2008. 

 House of Horrors recently caught up with Coralina during her promotion of Dario Argento’s THE THIRD MOTHER. 

Jonathan Stryker: You were born in New York City and raised in Rome.  Did you learn to speak English and Italian simultaneously?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: Well, I learned English first.  Then, when I was four my parents decided that they were going to move to Rome.  A decision I loathed.  My father started to teach me Italian.  Not something I was willing to do.  At all.  So, he would say things such as, “Albero. Tree. Albero.” And he’d wait for me to respond.  I would stubbornly just repeat, “Tree!” (laughs).  When I went to Italy, at that point I just had to learn Italian in order to survive.  You know, being a kid – kids tease you. I had no choice.

Jonathan Stryker: What was it like growing up in Rome?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: It was magical. Rome is just such an enchanting place. I had some of the most beautiful moments of my life there and at the same time some of the most difficult ones.

Jonathan Stryker: Can you ask elaborate on your experiences?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  I grew up in a household filled with music. My father is an opera stage director and also teaches voice.  I remember doing my homework underneath the piano.  If needed, I learned to shut out the music, so I could concentrate on studying.  I did that for many years.  Like a psychiatrist’s office, my father’s students would come and go every hour on the hour. With the only difference of a real psychiatrist’s office, I would be part of these “sessions” as well.  When deciding not to shut out the sounds in that room, I would not only assist to their lessons but all the “adventures” that these opera singers would confess to my father. The stories of these temperamental opera singers were filled with intrigue, passion and were often forbidden.

Jonathan Stryker: What did your mother do for a living?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: My mother was an opera singer.  She now teaches voice.

Jonathan Stryker: I watch these Italian films such as LA RAGAZZA CON LA VALIGIA and the people live in these incredible palaces. Was your house as large as this?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  I lived in an apartment that could have been a set in PROFONDO ROSSO.

Jonathan Stryker: What type of opera music did you hear throughout the house when you were a child?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: Just about everything, from Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi to Giacomo Puccini, depending upon the students’ needs.  Living in New York City, my father also taught Broadway singers.

Jonathan Stryker:  I love Rossini’s LA GAZZA LADRA and Puccini’s TURANDOT, those two for me are incredible works. I was introduced to classical music and opera through Stanley Kubrick’s films.

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  Yes!

Jonathan Stryker: When I saw Dario Argento’s INFERNO and the ???Va, pensiero??? chorus from Verdi’s NABUCCO swells on the soundtrack, it has a hypnotic effect.

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  Oh, I know!

Jonathan Stryker: I remember running to the store and actually finding a very good digital recording of it on CD and it just sounds wonderful. It almost sounds identical to the arrangement that appears in the film. And then of course, when OPERA came out, his use of Verdi’s MACBETH was equally stunning.

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  Very true.

Jonathan Stryker: What is one of the earliest films you remember seeing in the theater?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: BORN FREE was my first movie. Even though my parents said I sat looking at the audience instead!  I loved the music, the animals and I noticed a common theme with me. I love movies that have to do with freedom.  As far as scary movies are concerned…PINOCCHIO. My father had and actually still has an old wooden Pinocchio that I am convinced to this day moves and has a spirit of it’s own!  They had to remove it from my room. I am sure I would not sleep with him in my room today, either!

Jonathan Stryker: It’s so funny because a lot of people I talk to who are my age really grew up seeing Walt Disney movies as kids. And a lot of those cartoons, particularly SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES, scared all of us.  Even Dario Argento was afraid of that stuff when he was a kid!

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: I know! Walt Disney, fairy tales, children’s stories – all those things were scary. They messed me up. I’m so mad! (laughs)

Jonathan Stryker:  I loved the DEMONS films by Lamberto Bava.  How did you come to play Sally in the second film?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava cast me.

Jonathan Stryker:  Did this bring the role of Giulia to you for OPERA?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: Yes.

Jonathan Stryker:  The IMDB lists you as being in THE CHILDHOOD FRIEND and LA STANZA ACCANTO, both with Mary Sellars.  I cannot locate these films anywhere.

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  I never saw them myself!

Jonathan Stryker:  You die a truly awful death in THE MOTHER OF TEARS.  How difficult was it to film this?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  Staying alive was way harder!

Jonathan Stryker:  GHOST SON was recently released on DVD here in the States. Tell us a little bit about it.

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: I don’t really like to refer to it as a horror film. I don’t really even call most of the movies I’ve made horror films per se.  Horror films are about love. Love for the preservation of oneself and the preservation of others or also the love of the destruction of oneself and destruction of others.

Jonathan Stryker: That reminds me of what Dario says in Michele Soavi’s documentary about him. The question is posed to Dario why does he make movies, and his response is that he makes movies because he wants to be loved.

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: I also like the horror genre because I really like to escape, as an artist. When you’re escaping you’re also running towards something, you’re not necessarily running away to avoid something. When I am watching a horror movie I can escape and not worry about things that are going on in my life, but at the same time I’m also running towards myself because I get so much more in touch with my inner feelings and my fears which are the most important ones.  Just as my feelings of love or preservation or my lack thereof.

Jonathan Stryker:  The bulk of your filmography is horror films. What attracts you to horror films?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  They were attracted to me.

Jonathan Stryker: How would you describe working with Dario Argento?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: Quantum physical.

Jonathan Stryker: You’ve been in some particularly brutal films such as OPERA and THE MOTHER OF TEARS. Do you find it difficult to perform scenes wherein you have to be terrified? Do you tap into your own personal memories for that sort of thing?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  Any personal memories have now become part of what feeds my instincts. I go by instinct.

Jonathan Stryker: Who are some directors you would like to work with?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: I really admire Darren Aronofsky, Steven Shainberg, Vincenzo Natali.

Jonathan Stryker: What are some of your favorite horror movies?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: PROFONDO ROSSO, of course. THE BAD SEED.  CARRIE. DARK WATERS.  REQUIEM FOR A DREAM.  THE OTHERS.

Jonathan Stryker:  That’s a great movie. It harkens back to films like THE INNOCENTS and THE HAUNTING, the real quintessential black and white ghost stories.

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni: Yes.

Jonathan Stryker: Much more than THE UNINVITED.   You just finished filming the short “THE DIRT” can you tell us something about it?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  Yes.  Directed by legendary Goblin Claudio Simonetti and his sister Simona.  Music by Simonetti and special effects by Sergio Stivaletti.  I am a woman that holds many secrets but not many as this unusual plant she has growing in her living room.

Jonathan Stryker:  What’s next for you?

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni:  Going to have dinner (laughs).

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