“Right now I don’t have a spare brain cell – they’re all busy!” Giovanna Vignola – generous, sincere, and direct, and who recently made her film debut playing the role of Dadina, a woman with achrondroplasia, in the Oscar winning film “La grande bellezza” (The great beauty).
The Mag met up with her in Perugia, where she lives and works, and won us over with her story.
First of all… congratulations! How does it feel to have been such an important part of ‘La grande bellezza’?
«Honestly I feel proud to have been part of this film and to have played such a lovely, serious and dignified character with a cast and technical staff of such quality; and for it to have then gone on and won an Oscar. I feel it’s important to have represented people with my condition, in a general sense, and for having given Dadina a different style and form from that which we usually see in films; no more “dancers and dwarfs” as they say , to make audiences laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I respect those who accept these roles, everyone’s free to do what they want, but I don’t agree with this way of feeding public opinion – such that you never explode the prejudice that surrounds us. I would like to thank Paolo Sorrentino from the bottom of my heart, for writing a screenplay with a character such as (achondroplastic) Dadina in it, and giving her such depth».
It was your first film – how did you find acting in it?
«Good, very good. The environment was very professional and made up of nice people, all of them, from the hairdresser to the electrician. Not to mention the actors, Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone… I saw that even though they didn’t know me, that I wasn’t one of their colleagues, there was a lot of respect shown towards me. Certainly on the set I had my difficulties and limits in front of the camera or on slippery cobblestones, but I was never left alone. Even my husband, [smiling next to her – Ed.], never had any concerns because he saw the care I was treated with. So I was calm and rarely got worked up».
What do you think of the controversies that have been unleashed around the film?
«I think many Italians don’t like it because it’s a mirror of our society that they don’t want to see. That, and the counterproductive fact that a few days after the Oscars the film was shown on television, interrupted by many advertising breaks. It’s not a simple movie you can watch from home – even though the ratings were very high – it’s a challenging film that you should see at the cinema, where you can enjoy the music, scenes and photography».
You’ve said that Paolo Sorrentino found you through the association “Achondroplasia – Growing Together”, for which you are the Co-ordinator for Umbria. Can you tell us a bit about it?
«Yes, he found me via the web and the association, because he couldn’t find an actress for the role. Sorrentino gave me an audition and I must say that, at first, I was very sceptical, but he put me at ease and let me speak. He told me to see Dadina in me, in the flesh and he convinced me to do “La grande bellezza”. I also thought it might be a way of conveying the association’s message, of helping others, especially children; those most in need of support».
This commitment is very important to you, is that right?
«Absolutely. I have been working for a while with the charity organization “Achondroplasia – Growing Together” because I believe it’s essential to make known the uncomfortable condition of people of short stature. I wish that those with achondroplasia didn’t feel ‘less than’ and were able to live a peaceful life. The word “dwarf ” shouldn’t be taboo. This takes awareness and confrontation, (including with doctors), and which is why we also go into schools to talk to the kids and why, in the end, I took part in the film».
How can one donate to the association?
«Our association operates primarily online, at “www.acondroplasia – insiemepercrescere.it” – everything’s there. You can also donate through 5×1000 or make a donation via direct debit. We’re moving forwards and I guess “La grande bellezza” is evidence of that».