Debra Winger in Conversation - A Journey Through American Cinema

Debra Winger on stage in Rome
On Saturday evening in the Teatro Studio at the Auditorium Parco della Musica regular hosts Mario Sesti and Antonio Monda introduced their first, very special guest in the 2011 season of Viaggio nel cinema americano (A Journey Through American Cinema), the hugely popular American actress Debra Winger.

Following the usual winning formula for these events, in which informal conversation is interspersed with clips from the guest's most famous movies, this was a relaxed evening with a warm, very funny and radiantly beautiful Debra Winger, and for many of the Italian fans in the audience more used to seeing her in dubbed films, a chance to hear her characteristic husky voice for an hour live on stage. So distinctive, in fact, is her voice, that when Stephen Spielberg was making E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the director invited her to record some vocal tracks that may have eventually made their way into the final mix for the alien's voice – when asked about this by Sesti she confirmed the story and we were even treated to a quick “Elliot” E.T. voice impersonation! When a clip from the 1993 Richard Attenborough film Shadowlands was shown, the Italian version was used so that the actress could hear for herself the voice that dubber Emanuela Rossi lends to her performances in Italy.

Debra Winger, of course, became famous in the 1980s in films such as An Officer and a Gentleman, Terms of Endearment, Black Widow and in 1990 The Sheltering Sky, and clips from all of these films were shown, as well as a clip from her most recent big screen appearance in Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married, playing the mother of a troubled daughter (Anne Hathaway), a clip which was paired interestingly with Terms of Endearment in which she had played the daughter opposite Shirley MacClaine in the mother role. Sesti and Monda were clearly avoiding the obvious with their choice from An Officer and a Gentleman and resisted the temptation to show the moment when Richard Gere comes to fetch her from the factory in full naval dress uniform to the strains of Up Where We Belong – an obvious choice, maybe, but undeniably an iconic scene that has been parodied dozens of times and is now part of 1980s cinema history; it would have no doubt been met with the same cheers it received when shown at an encounter with Richard Gere some years ago if they had added it to the reel on this occasion too.

When footage from her early television appearances as Wonder Girl alongside Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman in the now cult 1970s TV show was teasingly shown, she explained that at the time she would have accepted any role in order be be known for anything other than her rather dubious debut movie. In one of the funniest anecdotes and the real scoop of the evening she spilled the beans about how her ingenuity as a young actress just starting out in the business had led to her accepting a part in what turned out to be a soft porn movie Slumber Party '57 - she ended up locking herself in the bathroom on set when she realised that the film wasn't quite as innocent as she had first imagined from reading the (very short) script! I'm telling this story because I'm too old to care about this stuff anymore, she laughed!

Asked about the kinds of films or roles that she was most interested in playing she pointed out that almost all her films, in fact, have been love stories of one sort or another, and that she only ever wanted to make love stories, but felt optimistic that there were other important parts still awaiting her in the future – indeed, she had one in mind, but for a woman older than she is right now. Refreshingly outspoken against plastic surgery, she had little sympathy for fellow actresses of her own age who “cut themselves” to look younger and then complain that there are no roles for older women. Whilst respecting Rosanna Arquette 's need to make the documentary about women in cinema entitled Searching for Debra Winger, she admitted that she didn't necessarily empathise with the opinions of the other actresses interviewed or the difficulties they claimed to face, explaining also that the working title of the film had originally been State of the Art when she had agreed to participate and she had never actually seen the completed film in its entirety.

I was also personally excited to hear that she would love to work with one of my favourite directors P.T. Anderson saying: I think he's the real deal. What a wonderful pairing that would be!

Clearly delighted to have been able to visit Rome she made a personal plea at the end of the evening – she joked that she had been struck with Stendhal syndrome after visiting the Sistine Chapel, but had been so distracted after the visit that she had left her iPad in the taxi and asked the press to please spread the word and help her find it again. So I'm obliging this request in my own small way and hope that somebody will return it!

Watch a video of Debra Winger graciously posing for photographs with fans and signing numerous autographs at the end of the evening below or click here to watch on YouTube.


LindyLouMac said…
It sounds like this was an interesting evening. I recognised the lady sitting at her side, as someone I have seen on television here when translations English - Italian are required.