Maria Bello.Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution. Author: License:
Despite a not so stunning figure, Maria Bello always stood out in the movies and tv shows she took part in.
She has that quality of lighting up the screen and the capacity of seducing her audience. She did that when she joined the successful medical drama ER and she did it in Coyote Ugly, one of her very first roles which required wearing tight tank-tops, tighter leather pants and look all around sexy among young beauties such as Piper Perabo and Tyra Banks. From that point forward she built a career on complex and smart female characters that in many ways reflect her personality.
She was born in Pennsylvania in an observant Roman Catholic family. Her father was originally from Montella, in the province of Avellino. So was her grandfather, while her grandmother was from Pesaro. She grew up enamored of the Old Country (“This is the most beautiful place in the world”) and the Italian culture. For a while she even toyed with the idea of directing her first movie in Italy.
The project, which unfortunately hasn’t come to life yet, was meant to be a romantic comedy set in Venice. Bello’s dream was to have Roberto Benigni as the love interest for her character. There is still a chance that the movie will go into production in the near future, although without the famous Italian Oscar winner.
That’s because the actress is used to seeing her dreams come true. For many years she wanted to play an action heroine in her career, a goal she set for herself before reaching forty. She had almost given up when she received a call from director Rob Cohen on her fortieth birthday offering her a role in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. 
Always a strong minded woman, Bello decided to take on her own hands the appeal against the incomprehensible NC-17 rating given by the MPAA to her film The Cooler starring William H. Macy. In the movie there was a brief sex scene that showed the actress’ nether regions, which caused the organization to order a trim or suffer the dreaded rating. It didn’t matter the context and that it was shot with respect and sensitivity.
Bello personally showed up at the appeal along with the director to, putting it in her own words, “defend my pubic hair” and keep the scene intact. It was particularly infuriating to her because at the time she had just watched the horror comedy Scary Movie, which featured plenty of cartoonish yet gruesome violence. It’s an old argument, the one about the broken rating system in US, that favors violence but gets particularly strict about nudity and sexual situations, often aggravated by double standards: seeing pleasure on a man’s face could get a pass while the same expression on woman’s face would not, as proved by the excellent documentary This film is not yet rated.
Although they didn’t succeed in their plea, the incident showed the strong personality of an actress who is in it for the art and willing to go to great lengths to defend her beliefs. Such is the personality of a fierce woman who carries Italian blood in her veins. The same passion is applied to the social causes Bello has been supporting throughout the years.
Like in the case of Save Darfur, Women’s Law Project of Philadelphia, and We Advance, an organization she co-founded, in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, to offer better healthcare to Haitian women and find an end to gender-based violence. For such noble efforts she was awarded the Ischia Humanitarian Award at the 10th edition of Global Film and Music Fest. Her latest film Third Person is directed by Paul Haggis.
The majority of the film was shot in Rome. The story takes place also in New York and Paris and the original idea was to recreate the other cities on sets at the Cinecittà studios, with some exceptions. The Paris exteriors, for example, were shot in the center of the eternal city, on Via Veneto, a renowned symbol of La Dolce Vita and the high life of Italian society in the sixties. Maria Bello loved filming in Rome for more familiar reasons, “I’ve been here many, many times; [because of my heritage] it’s always a joy to come back.
I feel like I’m coming home in a lot of ways.” She recently declared in the New York Times her love for another woman, finding in a same sex partner that balance she was missing in her life. Her sexual orientation sparked the usual media frenzy that comes in such cases, especially because she already has a son with her former boyfriend, TV executive Dan McDermott. In the article she penned herself she called her modern family “just a more honest family.” And what did her strict Italian father say of her life choice? “She’s a good girl, good for you.”
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