Isabella Rossellini - "Homosexuality Is Not Against Nature"
Isabella Rossellini: Homosexuality Is Not Against Nature

Isabella Rossellini could well go down in history as the world’s most unusual porn star.

The actor will disarm Australia this March with her one-woman show, the saucily-named Green Porno.

Sure, she does have co-stars, but they are paper cutouts. You see, Rossellini’s wild spectacular has her acting out – and no, you’re not misreading this  – the sex lives of animals. The 61-year-old will play dress-ups to embody each animal character and simulate the way they have sex on stage.

She’s got your attention, hasn’t she?

From the bi-phallic snake to the sadomasochistic snail, Rossellini goes there. She even gets down and dirty as a sex-changing shrimp. Pregnant males, virgin births, newborns being eaten alive – this is the most wicked biology lesson you’ll ever have.

But behind the outlandish costumes, the lascivious moans and the phallic props is an inescapable truth. “How did Noah do it?” Rossellini asks.

“Hermaphrodites, transvestites, transgender, transsexual, polygamy, monogamy, homosexual, bisexual. How could it all be heterosexual?” she challenges. “

That seems to be indicating that homosexuality is not against nature. It exists in nature.” And, of course, she’s right. In Biological Exuberance, Bruce Bagemihl shares existing evidence that points to observed homosexual behaviour in almost 1500 animal species.

Rossellini takes her science seriously – she’s completing a Master’s in Animal Behaviour and Conservation in New York. “I’ve found that most people laugh at my comical take on biology,” she tells me. “I’d also like people to say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that!’ There are a great variety of animals in the world. There are those that reproduce without sex at all.” Some would say she is her father’s daughter. Roberto Rossellini – singular godfather of neo-realism – made films for people “to face things. To raise consciousness”.

The hour-long riotous “conference” is the poster child for her 40-something short films of the same name. In 2008, motivated by Robert Redford, the storied artist unleashed the first series upon us and hasn’t looked back. “Delighted”, she was interviewed by Playboy and Science magazine in the same week.

In the films’ infancy when she was hunting around for scientific accuracy, any time she called a scientist and said she was making a film called Green Porno: Hello? The phone went dead. Rossellini is convinced she couldn’t find sponsors for the same reason. But that didn’t stop the hype. Green Porno swooped a handful of webbies, glittered in the New York Times, and spellbound David Letterman viewers.

Rossellini has vamped her way across the planet with Green Porno and has memorised the monologue in English, French and Italian. Somewhere between her grandiose costume changes, a selection of Green Porno films are screened, which somehow manage to be deliciously cheesy, strangely sexy, laugh-out-loud absurd, and insistently revelatory – all at the same time. The whole production has the trappings of a child’s wonderland, with its blinding confetti of colourful paper animals.

Naturally, this is deliberate. It’s a veneer for what is fairly explicit – and confronting – sex. By laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, the nervousness is taken out of our laughter.

So what on earth inspired Green Porno? Exactly that – Earth: nature; animals. And who isn’t interested in sex? “There is no creature that is not complex,” Rossellini says, in that clipped, European voice. “Diversity in nature is fascinating.” Diversity within species is just as fascinating.

Especially when it comes to sex. Take the dolphin. (Not too unlike us Homo sapiens). Straight dolphins do it missionary style; lesbian dolphins “fin” aka “fist”; and gay dolphins stick their penises into other dolphins’ blowholes.

Others still will just rub up against a reef. In her film, Animals Distract Me, Rossellini says she doesn’t know why she loves animals so much, any more than she knows why she has brown hair. She can remember wanting to make films about them when she was 14.

Since her childhood dog “Yippee”, (“That’s right, like the sound of joy in my heart”), Rossellini has never lived without an animal – pigs, chickens, cats, and a steady swell of stray dogs. “I even made a proper funeral for my mother’s fur coat – a grave in the backyard.” Her mother is none other than the canonised, three-time Academy Award-winning Ingrid Bergman.

Rossellini’s life has played out like some fantastical silver screen tale. Perhaps not too surprisingly, considering that’s where it all started. Born in Rome and raised there, as well as in Paris, she is an exotic mélange of Italian and Swedish blood and simply loves home-born deity Michelangelo. As the exclusive face of Lancôme for an unprecedented 14 years, Rossellini was reportedly the highest-paid female actor in the world.

Her most fearless role was possibly the harrowed chanteuse in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. She was Lynch’s fiancee, Scorsese’s wife, and Oldman’s girlfriend. And the cameras loved her too – immortalised by Mapplethorpe, Leibovitz, and Newton.

Scandalously dropped by Lancôme just days after her 40th birthday for being “too old”, on cosmetic surgery, the mercurial Rossellini told the world, “Most days I wake up and think: Is this the new feet-binding that the Chinese have endured? A way of really not loving women? Saying, ‘This is the way you should be’, instead of just, ‘be’?”

She laughs when I gingerly mention “those” photos and “that” music clip she did for Madonna’s Sex and “Erotica”, which had her steaming it up with women. “There’s a photo of Madonna and I embracing at the beach, which I thought was very sweet. I think she’s a great artist and I like her very much. So even if the subject might be controversial,” (and it was), “It’s always interesting to work with intriguing artists.”

In a time of intriguing controversy that still has people thrashing about, questioning whether same-sex marriages and sex changes are “unnatural”, Rossellini and her paper puppets are surely their not-so-subtle answer.