Isabella Rossellini was an entertaining interview at the New Vic Theater on April 27, 2023. | Photo: Courtesy

Remember the Dos Equis beer campaign for “The Most Interesting Man in the World”?  I think Isabella Rossellini should step in and take that guy’s place as “The Most Interesting WOMAN in the World.” She’s already had an amazing career as a Lancôme spokeswoman, the skincare company she represented from age 30 to 42 before being fired because of her age, only to be rehired more than 20 years later. It was a surprising but happy development, Rossellini explained, as the new female head of the company finally realized (a few years ago) that “women can understand the pleasure of self-decorating, and it has nothing to do with age.”

Also surprising and happily delightful was the evening we spent with Rossellini and the always-excellent interviewer Pico Iyer last week. Rossellini truly is fascinating and charming and seemingly so genuinely delighted by life — despite the fact that she had a nightmare of a time getting to Santa Barbara for her first visit ever that day, arriving eight hours late after her plane diverted to Los Angeles. She was poised and calm and altogether enjoyable.

As Iyer said, “Some of us are lucky if we have two talents,” and then proceeded to list Rossellini’s impressive array of accomplishments and vocations, which include actor, model, filmmaker, animal behaviorist, philanthropist, and organic farmer, not to mention mother and grandmother. We can add a new one to that lengthy list of interests, which is, as the presenter of what the Hollywood Reporter recently described, “the coolest university lecture you’ve ever seen.” 

That lecture is her new performance piece Darwin’s Smile (which she presented in San Luis Obispo last week), a one-woman show she wrote, directed, and performs that reconciles the two worlds often thought of as being at the opposite ends of the spectrum: art and science. In what she described as “a combination of my experiences as an actress and what I’ve studied as an animal behaviorist” (she holds a master’s degree in animal behavior and conservation from Hunter College), Rossellini demonstrates how acting can be used to understand animals and their emotions by portraying dogs, cats, chickens, peacocks, and even Charles Darwin. 

What a difference it would have made if she’d been my science teacher back in the day! For an entertaining look at what that might have been like, check out Rossellini’s YouTube series Green Porno here. And let’s hope that Rossellini’s first visit to Santa Barbara isn’t her last.


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