Carlotta Montanari is a woman of many passions, but the one she is most well-known for, outside of her love of animals and being an advocate for animal rights, is her acting abilities and love of both the dramatic and cinematic arts. Montanari was born in Italy and earned a Masters of Visual Arts degree from the Frederico Fellini Institute, named after the prestigious world-renowned Italian director. She then moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting as a full-time career and attended the legendary Actors Studio, learning from luminary instructors like Salome Jens, Penny Allen and Allan Miller, along with Academy Award-winner Martin Landau.
From there, Montanari landed appearances on American Crime Story on FX, Parenthood on NBC, among others. The real Hollywood buzz about her right now, though, is that she will be appearing in Too Old To Die Young, the new crime thriller series from esteemed director Nicolas Winding Refn, premiering on Amazon Prime and also featuring Miles Teller and Jena Malone.
Refn is known for his vivid visual style and tight thrillers including Drive starring Ryan Gosling, Bronson starring Tom Hardy, and The Neon Demon starring Elle Fanning. In this recent chat with Montanari, the actress graciously took time out of her busy schedule to discusses her process, working with Refn, discovering her character, and the role acting plays in her life.
Check out the exciting official trailer for Too Old To Die Young.
How did you get involved with Too Old To Die Young? And what made you fall in love with the project?
Carlotta Montanari: When my agent sent me the breakdown of this character I had chills. Even without knowing about the script I was intrigued by Magdalena, she had it all for me as an actor. After the audition, I tried to let her go as I usually do, but at the callback, I realized I did not let go for a bit in the whole time in between. I was full of her and had the same energy as if I was filming, it did not feel like auditioning.
This was thanks to the director, Nicolas Refn, I liked his creative energy and how he gave me different directions at every take. When I left the room, I was still full of emotion from this character. As I started my car my agent called to tell me to go back inside. I did and met with the director and the production team, we talked about the work, and the smile on their faces was one of the greatest feelings. I felt honored and happy to have earned this part, and was thrilled to join a cast that I find inspiring like Miles Teller, Billy Baldwin and Jena Malone. One of the best things of having worked in this show is all the amazing women I met, production, crew and cast, incredible artists and people all around.
Nicolas Winding Refn brings a level of atmosphere, execution, and precision to every project in his body of work. How do you find that he brings characters to life?
Montanari: Nicolas is not only a film director, but he is also a unique visual artist. Working with him is like creating a sculpture or a painting that is being painted as you go, he is fluid in his creation and with his creations. The atmosphere you feel in his projects is also present in the making of the project. For the first time I worked with a director that, like I do, moves and creates through the music, I loved that about him, it was a direct connection to my creative process. Nicolas is a great director to work with, as he gives you the space to create and at the same time he makes sure you feel his waive of creation.
I am very giving in my work, a “generous actor” they call it in theatrical language. With Nicolas, often you didn’t know what he had in mind to portray until you were on the set, the beauty of his style. I can say that I wanted to help him to create whatever he had in mind and I hope I went very close to it.
What was it like to discover the arc of your character over the course of the entire series?
Montanari: The fact that Nicolas filmed most of this series in chronological order made this process more fluid as the story unfolds. Sometimes, often, you build the structure of your character as you go, in my case this journey wasn’t continuative because my character is sporadic in the series, not in each episode. So in the time between shoots, sometimes weeks apart, I was keeping her alive by developing new aspects of her.
With the rise of streaming platforms like Amazon, how do you find a series as unique as this to be an opportunity to rediscover yourself as an artist?
Montanari: I believe the platform does not affect an artist in terms of artistic process and the development of a character. What it does, however, is give many opportunities to actors and you get to work with high budget productions. I love to be working in a few TV series out there, especially series like this one because Too Old To Die Young is filmed with the style of a feature film.
How do you think you were able to express yourself as an actress like you have never been able to before?
Montanari: This was one of the cases that demonstrate how acting is not delivered mainly by the words, but rather more by the subtext and the expression of the body language. Nicolas uses so much body language and extensive time between moments where silence is stronger than words, and together with Ed Brubaker (writer for the hit comic book film Captain America: Winter Soldier and the HBO series Westworld), they created so much beauty in the mystery and ambiguity of this character. Thanks to all this with Magdalena I was able to unleash my own hidden darkness.
Check out this new Too Old To Die Young trailer.
What attracts you to a project that makes you want to breathe a true sense of life into it as an artist?
Montanari: What attracts me to a project is the story, the writing, and the style of a director. The subtext between the characters, their depths, their past. And like I mentioned earlier if it gives me chills is an awesome sign.
How do you feel that forgiveness and empathy help you connect to a character?
Montanari: Yes, forgiveness and empathy are all great feelings that force you to keep your heart open. One thing I can tell you for sure is that I justify my character, which means that I find all the million reasons why my character is doing and saying certain things. I don’t judge it, I can question it, but I must understand it and justify in order to really become it.
How do you feel that gratitude empowers you as a person and as an actress?
Montanari: Ah! Gratitude, I love this word. I cannot live without gratitude, and I am very much attracted by people who also have gratitude in their being. It is one of the most powerful keys to a pure state of joy and success I think because gratitude lifts your altitude. To start, I believe it was gratitude that helped me to transform the painful feelings for the things that hurt me in my life into looking at those things with a different perspective. I think in fact that those events that I thought I could never recover from are the reason that I never gave up on my dreams. So, yes, as a person and actress I cannot exist without gratitude, and if I ever stopped being grateful I would most certainly stop my growth.
Lastly, given the nature of where pop culture is today, how do you feel that you can contribute to it in a way that helps you create something audiences will never forget?
Montanari: I do have in my goals to create something powerful that squeezes your heart, just like a beautiful song you keep playing and playing and never get tired of it. But if I understand the question, I feel that pop culture does not affect what I could create that can last in time, even more so with the culture we live in that is in constant evolution. That tells you why some of the most beautiful masterpieces out there are timeless. Don’t you think?