Isabella Rossellini is shtupping sea creatures as star of her short film series about animal sex, Green Porno 2, which surfaces April 1 at SundanceChannel.com. Internationally admired for her 14-year stint as a Lancôme spokesmodel, the Emmy-nominated Swedish-Italian actress made her directorial debut with the buzzworthy 2008 series on insect intercourse. This time around, Rossellini, who also wrote and coproduced the six one-minute flicks, dives deeper to explore the mating habits of marine life, using anatomically correct paper cutouts and sculpture. Here the Blue Velvet beauty schools us on the power of six-foot erections and other wild, wet wonders.
Advocate.com: When did you first get turned on to the sex lives of animals?
Isabella Rossellini: Since I was a little girl I've always loved animals. When I was about 14 my father gave me a book called King Solomon's Ring , written by Konrad Lorenz, who won a Nobel Prize and founded ethology, which is the science of animal psychology. I loved it. So that was a hobby of mine, as I was working in modeling, fashion, and acting. Then the opportunity to work with Sundance Channel came, and [creative director] Robert Redford wanted to take advantage of the Internet by making short films to revive the genre. One of the concerns of Sundance is the environment, and I always wanted to do something about animal behavior, but only a few people are interested in animal behavior. There are a lot of people interested in sex, so I thought, I can do short films about the sex lives of animals and appeal to everybody. [Laughs]
Did you have any unusual pets growing up?
I've only really had cats and dogs, though people do find it strange that I train guide dogs for the blind. My father once bought a kangaroo for me, but we quickly learned that it's not a good idea to keep wild animals, so we gave it away three days later to the Rome Zoo. If you are a real animal lover, you learn what we're all learning these days: You cannot have wild animals because occasionally they kill you. But it's also not good for them. My son is dying to have one of these enormous lizards, but I say, "No, wild animals have to stay in the wild." I wish I lived in a country house where I could have sheep, ducks, and chickens. Maybe one day I will.
When watching the Green Porno shorts, I couldn't help comparing the various mating practices of the sea creatures to those of myself and of my friends. Like the asexual starfish, for example — we all experience a dry spell from time to time. Did you discover a sexual kinship to any of your subjects?
Not really. But a lot of people do that, and I was very surprised. It wasn't a goal of mine. A lot of people react to Green Porno with confessions. [Laughs] I wanted to know what the great men like Aristotle or Darwin thought about animals, and the greatest preoccupation throughout the centuries always seems to be about how man is different from animals, how man is capable of thinking in a way that animals can't. So I didn't think that by telling them how animals mate, people would ask how it relates to humans. I read a long interview with Konrad Lorenz where he was talking about ducklings, and the interviewer constantly asked how it related to us: "They do that? My father does that!" It's this sort of egocentric human vanity.
I suppose a major difference is that sex among other species is always about procreation, never recreation.
We don't know that. Darwin believed that domesticated animals are more promiscuous than wild animals. Our dogs sometimes embarrass us when guests come over and they screw their legs.