Interview – Barbara Magnolfi

In art, we can express ourselves in a manner that sets our souls free. Raised in Rome, Italy, Barbara Magnolfi found that calling at a young age – first studying ballet, and then going on to a career as a professional actress. Starring in a list of Italian films, in 1977 she portrayed Olga in Dario Argento’s Suspiria, thus making her an internationally known name.

Forever associated with the legendary cinematic masterpiece Suspiria, Magnolfi continued to master her craft and perform through the ’80s and into the dawn of the ’90s. Now, years later, she continues to express a strong passion for cinema with various projects in the works. Giving fans a deeper insight into who she is, Magnolfi recently sat down to chat her beginnings in entertainment, the magic of Suspiria, the importance of her family, future plans, plus more. – You have been involved in film for nearly five decades now. Starring in a list of films through the years, first tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career as an actress? 

Barbara Magnolfi – Gee, that makes me feel old! (Laughs) Well, I have indeed been involved with the Performing Arts since very young. What inspired me first was music and dance. When I started ballet at only four years old there was a live pianist and I absolutely loved to move to the music being played. It was a type of communication that reached deep. Later I realized how much it inspired me and how much a film, a song, a ballet, a theatre play could do. I wanted to do that for others. I started reciting poems at school, doing school plays, and also writing poems. Like magic, at 13 years old, I was approached to do the first film by Antonio Pietrangeli. On set, I came alive. I was home and he commented that I was a “natural talent!” There was no doubt in my mind what I was set to do! – Wow, it is wonderful to hear how deeply passionate you are about the arts and pursued it as a career. Through the years, you have worked in a variety of genres ranging from Horror to Comedy, to Drama. As an actress, has it always been important to you to not limit yourself to one genre?

Barbara Magnolfi – Absolutely, I believe an actor should be able to expand and stretch his/her range and play different roles and not become typecasted. I personally love a role that can challenge me. 

Severin Films
New World Pictures – Right, who doesn’t like a challenge? In 1977, you starred as Olga in Dario Argento’s Suspiria. Now an all-time classic film, how did you become involved with the film?

Barbara Magnolfi – I received a call from my agent while I was in Spain taking a break after finishing a film. He mentioned I had to come back immediately because Dario Argento wanted to see me for his new film. So I flew back to Rome and the day after was in his production office. 

When I arrived, I was struck by how frail and pale Dario looked with his long dark hair, I felt somehow an immediate connection. We went through the motions of a very unusual kind of audition, I left not knowing if I did get the part or not. But I obviously did! – That is very exciting! Suspiria is a unique film that relies strongly on atmosphere, colors, and the location in which scenes are shot. During the filming, did you feel this was going to be a different type of film?

Barbara Magnolfi – I definitely felt we were doing something different and grand. The sets built in the De Paolis Studios in Rome where magnificent, and my first day on set I met a Hollywood legend: Joan Bennett and Alida Valli, whom I admired immensely as actresses. Something majestic was happening there! However, I never imagined the international success that Suspiria would have and for many decades to come! – The film certainly has left a significant impact on cinema. Speaking of which, Suspiria amazingly just celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. In your opinion, what do you think has been the key to the film’s longevity through the years?

Barbara Magnolfi – Honestly, I don’t know! There are many great elements for sure combined in this film – including a killer soundtrack by Goblin. I believe the key to its success is because it is timeless, a dark fairy tale, a good song you never get tired of listening to, and/or, a beautiful painting you have in your living room that you enjoy looking at every time you’re there. It gets passed on from generation to generation and I have fans that are 8 years old! Unbelievable!

Barbara Magnolfi as Olga in Suspiria (1977) – Yes, it is really a combination of various elements that make the film stand out. Interestingly enough, a remake of Suspiria is set for release nationwide across the USA on November 2nd. What are your thoughts and feelings on the film being remade?  

Barbara Magnolfi – Yes, the remake by Luca Guadagnino was presented at the Venice Film Festival in Italy just a few days ago, the release date for US is imminent! I don’t want to comment until I have seen the movie. However, I believe it is a very different movie and not competing or trying to remake Suspiria, but Luca Guadagnino’s tribute to it more so. Suspiria will always be what it is and a masterpiece! A classic! – Yes, we will have to wait and see what the new vision of the film holds. Beyond Suspiria, you have done a list of other films. With a good deal of success during the ’70s and ’80s, what led to your decision to step away from cinema in the decades to follow?

Barbara Magnolfi – Yes, I have done a lot of other films, that however didn’t come out in US. I never wanted to step away really – I married the wrong guy and moved away from my work and my country. It ended pretty quick and I found myself raising twin boys on my own. 

I picked up my work again in 1990 in Sydney; I was in a famous Australian TV series called Police Rescue and did a couple of short films as well. It wasn’t until my sons were grown up that I fully invested in my career again. – Well, it is very honorable to devote yourself to raising your family. After your sons grew up, what inspired your return to acting?

Barbara Magnolfi – The way I see it, I never really left. My purpose and passion never changed, I just took some time off to raise my sons. I am very proud of them! I returned after I did that. 

Produzioni Atlas Consorziate – Again, there is nothing more respectable than putting your family first! As someone who is very passionate about the arts – film, dance, and music – what are some of your influences as a performer?

Barbara Magnolfi – I watched a lot of old films, even silent film, admired Anna Magnani because she was raw in her acting. I believe all that helped define what I wanted to achieve as a performer. I observed that some actors, dancers, singers communicated better to me than others. They could get across the emotion clearly and effortlessly, and as a result, create an effect and inspire. That is exactly what I thrived to achieve. Music wise, I grew up on The Beatles and Rolling Stones and the Italian cantautori – the ’70s were wild. – Connecting with someone is the beauty of music and film. It is that connection that inspires all of us. Do you have any future projects coming up?

Barbara Magnolfi – Yes, working on my autobiography I am hoping to publish beginning of next year. I will be playing a witch who goes after the pharmaceutical industry in a Skip Shea film soon to start, and I have an Italian Dark Comedy I just got offered a lead in. – Excellent! It will be exciting to read the book and watch out for your future roles. Last question, what are some of your favorite Horror and Sci-Fi related films? 

Barbara Magnolfi – Other than Suspiria, some of my favorites in Horror, Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) by Werner Herzog – I loved it because of the love story underlining the tone of the film and the haunting loneliness and pain of the count. Also, I loved some of Hitchcock’s films, in particular, Psycho (1960). Actually, it recently inspired the series Bates Motelwhich I also very much enjoyed. Although, I am not a fan of current Slasher Horror at all. The Crow (1994) is another one of my favorites. 

As far as Sci-Fi, I could never forget E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). I also loved The Matrix (1999), Escape from New York (1981), and Avatar (2009).

Paramount Pictures
Twentieth Century Fox

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1 Comment

  • All the movies she’s been in but Suspiria is the only one anybody ever asks about. Why.? I want to hear her talk about the others

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