10 THINGS with Maddalena Ischiale

When did your love for acting begin and what made you decide to choose it as a career path?

When I was a child, I wanted to become a writer. I used to hide in my room for hours and fly away with my imagination, inventing stories to amuse myself. I was a very shy little girl and very sensitive. It was hard for me to communicate with the other children.

When I turned 18, the situation was not very different… I guess, I had a lot to say and didn’t know how to express it, with so many emotions, at one time. So, I joined an acting class in Genoa, hoping to find a way to be less shy and talk to people. That s how I started acting. The first 6 months I didn’t say a word in class. I was watching and listening but not participating. Then, the teacher, Franca Fioravanti, gave me an assignment on the Glass Managerie by Tennessee Williams. The role of Laura, of course, was so perfect for me. And, on stage, for the first time, I felt completely at home, confident and comfortable, able to connect with “other human beings”, and it was easy. I found my way to communicate with the world and I just loved it. I never stopped performing from that moment. But, I still love to write 🙂

Being an actress has it’s up and downs, never knowing what opportunity will come your way. Who and what, keeps you grounded and level headed to deal with the business?

My family, and especially my little nieces, they are my life. And, it’s so hard being far away and watching them grow up on Skype. My nieces names are Gaia, Emma and Maria.

Emma has down syndrome and she is a very very special kid. She is my hero in every sense. When she was born, she had some serious health issues and I thought I was going to die if something happened to her. I have never felt such a deep, deep love for anyone, until that moment. Now, she is the happiest child. But again, doing things that may come easy for another baby, are a little bit of a struggle for her. But, she is such a brave fighter and she never, never surrenders. Louie Zamperini would have loved her!

I don’t have kids. So, when I got the part in Unbroken, I based my relationship with Louie on my personal connection with my niece Emma. “Use every bit of your life experience”. That’s what they kept telling us at the Actor’s Studio, where I’m a finalist.


Your story, is one of truly being discovered. At the time, you had no agent or manager representing your work. You then ended up in the right place, at the right time. Tell us about your experience leading up to when you were casted in the film, Unbroken.

It’s one of those Hollywood stories that you read in the magazines, a dream come true.

I didn’t have an agent when I got the part. A friend of mine, Casey Kramer, the daughter of the great Stanley Kramer, sent me the breakdown of the film and I was immediately drawn to the character of Louis’ mother, Louise. I was so touched by this incredible story of an American hero with Italian origins. I knew that somehow, I was part of that message. One of survival, resilience, and redemption.

I wanted to be able to help to bring that message to the world. But, getting the audition, was the hard part. I called the casting director’s office, even though you are not supposed to do that 🙂 I don’t know where I found the courage. I mean, I called one of the biggest casting directors in America, Francine Meisler, and I said, “Hi, I’m Maddalena Ischiale. I’m an Italian actress. How can I pitch myself for the role of Louise Zamperini? Because, I don’t have an agent, but I think I can help you guys.”

One phone call later, I was sending headshots and my reel to casting, where I was playing the part of the perfect Italian mother in a little movie that I shot, to help out a friend. It was so perfect, that it landed me to the audition, that changed my life. The day after the audition, Francine called me and said she loved my tape so much, that she was sending it straight to Angelina Jolie. I almost fainted, and of course, I cried.

Angie was in Hawaii at that time, and later on, she told me that when saw the tape for the first time she started screaming, “I found her! I found my Mama!” So, that was the beginning of my adventure in Unbroken. One tape and that was it 🙂

In the film, Unbroken, you play the role of Louise Zamperini. What are the good and bad sides of Louise and what do you enjoy about playing her the most?

I don’t think Louise has bad sides. She was incredibly compassionate and funny and so loving, and 100%, a mother. Maybe the only bad thing is that she cannot speak English. I loved playing her when she didn’t understand what was going on, despite that everyone else did. She is so human and sweet, even when she gets upset, you love her, always.

Angelina Jolie is known as an actress that takes chances, and as a director, she took a chance on you. What was is like taking her direction and learning from her?

Angie is extraordinary. She makes the work so easy. She saw something in me and she left me completely free to express my talent. She trusted me 100% and of course, I did my best. I just wanted to see her smile and make her happy. Her smile tells you everything. We cried together a lot too. Shooting some of the scenes was really hard. What happens to Louie, the torture and not knowing if he was alive or not, it’s something that still exist in our world and it’s just horrible. Angelina was always there with her heart and intelligence, to support everybody. As a director, she knows what she wants and she knows how to talk with actors, because she is an amazing actress.


Unbroken was one of the most anticipated films. If anyone hasn’t seen it yet, what can viewers expect to see from your character and the film in general?

A mother, very much how the director sees the figure of the mother, I hope. Louise is very passionate, always taking her son’s side, and she believes in him 100%, even if there are moments when Louie doesn’t believe in himself. And when a child gets on a very dangerous path, the mother is there to support him, no matter what. Louie is everything for Louise.

And when he is far away and the bird is trying to break him, and make him believe that he is nothing, Louie has the picture of his family with him to keep him alive. He has the faith that his mother gave to him. When he is starving, he is thinking of Louise’s gnocchi and a smile full of love appears on his face. Louise, for me, represents in the movie, forgiveness and faith.

Which actors work do you admire and which ones would you like to work, if given the opportunity?

Ah so many! Where to start? I admire women like Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Hellen Mirren, Judy Dench, I mean they are genius! But the list can go on and on. I would love to act with Angelina Jolie. First of all, she is such an amazing actress. It would be a lot of fun. It s really a long list, starting from Al Pacino, who is also president of the Actors Studio where I study, to Benedict Cumberbatch and Joaquin Phenix. I love Jessica Chaistain, I adore James Spader in the Blacklist and I am crazy about Peacky Blinders, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, the entire cast is just amazing. And the music score from Nick Cave, perfection! My dream, probably would be sir Ben Kingsley and Giancarlo Giannini. The Impossible dream: Marcello Mastroianni, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Anna Magnani

When you have a some time to wind down, what do you typically do for relaxation?

Cooking, I love cooking. And, I take long walks in nature, in silence. I also explore flea markets, they’re so much fun.

In regards to fashion, who are your favorite fashion designers that fit your sense of style?

I love Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Vivienne Westwood. I have a long list. I am Italian, so naturally, I am crazy about fashion!


We look forward to seeing you in Unbroken. What other projects do you have coming up in the near future?

We are considering amazing projects. I love American television. I love the possibility of creating and developing a character with more time, in episodes and seasons. It s so fascinating as an actor, being able to create the life of a character in this way. And theater, is my first love, always. I’m flying to Italy to direct the new show of my theater company Racconti di Scena, and another Shakespeare, Winter’s Tale. How can I survive without some Shakespeare in my life?

Twitter: @RealMaddalena

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