Few women would be offended by being compared to Belgian-born actress Audrey Hepburn. She has always been the measure of class and elegance, and her style has been copied and replicated but never duplicated. On a similar note, few male filmmakers portray women as beautiful icons, you know the stuff of legends as Algerian-Italian director, writer and producer Luca Guadagnino. From I Am Love, to Suspiria to A Bigger Splash, without forgetting his collaboration with Valentino creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli on the stunning short The Staggering Girl, Guadagnino shows women as fashionistas -- vulnerable, intelligent and gorgeous at once.
So, when it was announced earlier this week that Rooney Mara would produce and star in a Hepburn biopic for Apple, directed by Guadagnino, I personally jumped for joy.
Audrey Hepburn's style legacy goes beyond her Givenchy dresses, ballet flats which are still bestsellers for Ferragamo, and dark jeans, usually cuffed at the bottom. She represents courage, from her days in the Dutch resistance during WWII, and resilience. Married twice, she had two boys, the first Sean from first husband Mel Ferrer, the other Luca, from Italian doctor Andrea Dotti. On a summer holiday in Sardinia in the late 70's, I was lucky enough to meet Ms. Hepburn and play with peer Luca, who famously called his mom a "Battle-hardened badass" and has since grown to write two wonderful books about his mom, titled Audrey in Rome and Audrey at Home.
What I also love about Guadagnino is his hint of "Arabness" which he talked about in a 2017 interview published on Vogue Arabia. He explained why his Algerian mom, who was brought up in Casablanca, chose not to raise her kids knowing their Algerian roots: “It was an act of survival. She felt that she had to protect herself from any possible backfire – to the degree that she didn’t teach us Arabic,” Guadagnino said. “It’s something that I regret immensely.”
In the same interview Guadagnino also explains why he looks to the Arab region for a beacon of intellectual renaissance In 2011, he was named president of the jury of the Beirut International Film Festival. “I saw some beautiful films and I became enamored with Arab cinema,” Guadagnino explained. “Though I didn’t grow up in the Arab world, I have a very deep connection to it, which is almost ancestral,” he commented, adding that he feels a strong sense of brotherhood to fellow Arabs. “I want to make a fund to contribute to financing Arab cinema,” admitted Guadagnino. “I hope someone will read this interview and say, ‘OK, I trust Luca. Maybe I can help him raise the money to give the chance to young Arab directors.’”