Olivia Hussey realizes a 20-year dream to play Mother Teresa
by Chris Betros
Olivia Hussey has played the mother of Jesus AND the most
romantic woman of fiction (Juliet), but the one role she has
wanted to play for 20 years finally came her way two years
ago when Italian director Fabrizio Costa asked her to play
the title role in Mother Teresa. I got a call out of
the blue asking if I could be on the set in Sri Lanka in one
week. It was like a gift from Mother, said Hussey, 54,
making her first visit to Japan in 18 years. I hadnt
been to Calcutta in 20 years and I had never met Mother Teresa,
but I felt very close to her.
I had always dreamed of playing her ever since I read a story
about how she went out onto the street and picked up a dying
person in her arms.
Born in Buenos Aires to an English mother and Argentine opera
and tango singer, Hussey rocketed to fame at the age of 17
as Juliet in Franco Zeffirellis 1968 production of Romeo
and Juliet. Over the years, Hussey, who was once married to
renowned Japanese singer Akira Fuse, has alternated between
the stage and screen.
She admits playing such a revered person as Mother Teresa,
who died in 1997, was a daunting task. I read everything
I could about her and I had a lot of help from nuns in the
Vatican who knew her, especially one nun in her 90s. Of course,
I dont resemble her, so the important thing was to capture
her compassion and strength. The nuns saw the finished film
and said it was like watching Mother Teresa.
Hussey describes Mother Teresa as a simple, sweet film with
an important message. We run about in our daily lives
and dont think what we can do to help others. If we
would all just take a minute to do something kind for another
person, even if it is just a smile, we could change the world.
The world is in a mess and needs stories like this great person.
Filming Mother Teresa in Sri Lanka was an ordeal, she recounts.
We were shooting 15 hours a day, six days a week. It
was so hot and the heat was melting my prosthetic nose. On
top of that, I was constantly ill. I had ear, nose and throat
infections. The Sri Lankan people were so wonderful. They
always had a smile on their face, when they had nothing.
Although she was born a Catholic, Hussey says she embraces
all religions. I have meditated for the past 36 years
and I believe in a higher powerwhatever you choose to
call it. Religions are important because they are the path
that leads you to your inner God. However, Hussey has
had a special connection with the Vatican ever since 1985
when she starred in a screen adaptation of The Jewellers
Shop, which was written by Karol Wojtyla (the late Pope John
Paul II). He had a private screening at the Vatican
for 6,000 nuns and priests and I got a papal blessing, which
was fantastic, Hussey recalls. During her visit to Japan,
she met another famous person at a special screening of Mother
TeresaEmpress Michiko. Ive met the pope,
the queen of England and now the empress. I think I can say
Im pretty happy with my life right now.
Bringing the best of Britain to Japan
The CEO of Japan Mediark, distributor of BBC Japan, here
holds up his personal motto, shin nakuba tatazu, or if
there is no loyalty in this world, nothing is possible; trust
is the most important factor.
Tell us about BBC Japan?
I want BBC Japan to open the door to British culture for the
people of Japan.The images many of us have about the UK are
afternoon tea, Queen Elizabeth, rock music and so on, but
in fact there is a lot more new British culture to discover.
What has the response been?
I think people are excited to be able to watch BBC programs,
and we have had many requests to broadcast our viewers
What do you like about British culture?
How British people think a great deal about nature. I am very
interested in wild birds, and I think the work of Sir David
Attenborough is outstanding.
Tell us about your interest in birds?
Most weekends I go to photograph birds, especially Halcyons.
I take pictures of them coming around for fish at the riverside
almost every weekend.
What are your own favorite TV shows?
I like any programs on wildlife. On BBC Japan, I like Keeping
up Appearances. The British jokes are funny.
Is British humor difficult to translate?
Yes, some of the jokes are difficult to understand if you
are not familiar with the language or British culture. The
main character in Keeping up Appearances is called Hyacinth
Bucket, but shes a terrible snob and insists people
pronounce her name bouquet. Thats hard to
explain in Japanese.
BBC Japan is available on SkyPerfecTV!
110, channel 25. NU
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