Italy's xXx Factor

Submitted by Matthew Arnoldi on Thu, 01/10/2002 - 01:02
You lookin' at me? Asia Argento ready to kick behinds in xXx

Asia Argento didn't want to get bogged down with "some artsy, boring, European films" so she's doing some American-style butt-kickin' in Vin Diesel vehicle "xXx" instead.

Born "Asia Aria Anna Maria Vittoria Rossa Argento" in Rome, some 27 years ago, its incredible to think that Asia Argento has spent eighteen of those years in front of a camera, but then she was born into a family of actors and directors (specifically to actress Daria Nicolodi and horror specialist Dario Argento) so it’s perhaps not surprising that Asia should be enlisted into the family business. 

Meeting Asia recently in Deauville, I’m intrigued to know how that introduction to filmmaking may have affected her. "I think I’m a normal healthy human being, but then crooked families can make crooked children though, so you never know." 

As a child, Asia had her mother trying to persuade her that she could talk to the wind, whilst her father was off making horror movies. Asia herself now has a young daughter, Anna Lou. Which of her father’s movies might she show Anna first? "Anna just loves Winnie the Pooh!" replies Asia laughing ,’so I can’t see myself showing her any of Dad’s movies just yet!" 

Asia’s charm and honesty in interview is something you quickly pick up on. Her outfit too, is both attractive and possibly, an extension of her personality, a mixture of the alternative and the more familiar, a cool leather jacket hiding a lacy feminine top, skintight jeans leading down to the cutest designer shoes. 

"I want fun"

In xXx, Asia plays the leading baddie’s sidekick Yelena. Sparks fly between her and the the Vin Diesel character Xander Cage but there’s more to Yelena than meets the eye. 

What attracted her to the role? "Yelena’s both cerebral and physical. Plus I thought it would be a real challenge to do xXx. This is the first big action movie that’s been offered to me. I find them more fun than some artsy boring European films. I also liked The Fast and the Furious and thought it was amazing." 

Dangerous sports

Director Rob Cohen needed his principal cast members to be fit – this is a movie with action scenes every five minutes. Asia resorted to kick-boxing to get back into shape after childbirth, it’s a sport she’s got an affinity to. 

"I love it!’ she explains, ‘in fact I’ve not done any for two days and am feeling really grouchy as a result." Into kick-boxing, was she also into the extreme sports Rob lined up in the film? "No fear,’ she retorts , ‘I’m not into risking my life. My motto is live fast, die old! 

Surely working on a film like this though, there must have been moments when Asia’s heart skipped a beat? "There were,’ she admits, ‘but at the same time it felt secure. You really felt these people knew what they were doing. I have to say though that driving the GTi so fast with Vin was very exciting!" 

Diesel's gentle side

It is almost with a hint of surprise that Asia pays her leading co-star Vin Diesel compliments. "Vin’s one of the most generous actors I’ve worked with, very giving and very smart. I didn’t expect him to be like that." Was there a bad experience that led her to believe that a leading man won’t respond? "No! I don’t expect anything from anybody, let’s put it that way. I live to be surprised." 

Asia’s lack of desire for risk-taking may be the result of a serious car-crash she was in, in Italy a little while ago. Misrepresented in the Press, Asia’s out to set the records straight. "Risking my life was like a smack in the face. I thought I don’t want to be here again. The media suggested I was driving fast but that wasn’t the case. I got hit by another car. Those are the facts. I was six months pregnant. I thought not only was I going to die, but it might lead to the death of my unborn child, so it was not a happy memory for me." 

Serge's song

Moving on to Asia’s love of music, her face brightens again. She’s just recorded a version of the Serge Gainsbourg classic "Je t’aime moi non plus" with Brian Molko, lead singer of Placebo. She won’t be coaxed into giving a rendition of it but admits that she plays Serge and then breaks into a low, whispering rendition of ‘Oh mon amour’ which sets the pulses racing. "My voice is terrible!’ she admits humbly, ‘so I always try to sing in a whisper to hide it!" 

Asia’s heavily into music (she has a collection of over 5,000 CDs), she likes a wide range of groups and has often sung in groups herself. Her current faves she confesses, are French American group Stereototo, the US faves White Stripes and listening to old Blondie again. 

The future?

The next film cinemagoers may see Asia in, is The Red Siren, a film she’s just made with Jean-Marc Barr. Having done a big American film like xXx, has she now got the bug to want to do more ? 

"Having had my daughter recently, I feel there are other things outside of work – but this movie has opened doors for me so the passion of acting after 18 years of movie-making is coming back. The roles I’ve been reading, are mostly ‘kick-ass chicks’. I’ve said no so far because I don’t want to jump from playing the ‘dark lady’ in Italy to just playing ‘kick-ass chicks’ in America. It’s important that I choose my next role very carefully. However it’s nicer to play the kick-ass chick than the dark lady right now, so maybe I don’t feel so bad about it !" 

Filmmaking