Academic reveals 1975 liaison with director who arrived unannounced but with brown silk pyjamas with cream piping
It no secret that Federico Fellini was a philanderer who, according to one biographer, used to refer to the “insatiable dragon” he kept in his pants. What is less well known is that one conquest of the legendary Italian director was the feminist academic Germaine Greer, who in today’s G2 details for the first time how she ended up lying next to the man she describes as “a many-sided genius”.
In her column, Greer writes that she first met Fellini in the summer of 1975, five years after she brought out The Female Eunuch and 15 years after he scored a huge success with La Dolce Vita. He was adapting Casanova for the big screen, and Greer had been earmarked for a small part. Though not interested in the role, Greer, then 36, decided to visit the set at the Cinnecittà studios in Rome, wearing a dress with no bra or knickers. As she tells it, he was instantly transfixed.
Greer paints an affectionate portrait of Fellini as meticulous and confident. The day of their first assignation, he arrived at her residence unannounced but so sure he would stay the night that he had brought his pyjamas. Every few hours, he would call his wife, the actor Giulietta Masina.
Then 55, Fellini was already taking beta-blockers and was obsessed with his health. He was obsessive about his diet and insisted on making himself a plain risotto flavoured with just a single basil leaf instead of letting Greer cook for him.
She also describes Fellini’s terror when a bat flew into the bedroom. “Federico was terrified; did I not know that a bat had flown into his hair when he was a child?” she wrote, adding that the director apologised for scaring her. “I told him I hadn’t been frightened, and was simply trying to figure out what I would say to the papers if he carked it in my bed.”
What may surprise Fellini scholars is Greer’s claim to have acted as a sort of consultant on Casanova. Before they shared a bed, Fellini asked for her advice on the script, she says, and made sure she saw a rough cut of the film. One suggestion she made was that the part of the Marquise du Chatelet not be reduced “to a huge breasted nurse for the senile Rousseau.”
Her role on the film came as news to world renowned Fellini expert Peter Bondanella, who has written several acclaimed books about Fellini. “I never knew about any affair or help on Casanova. Very interesting if all true,” he said.
Greer suggests she was prompted to kiss and tell after seeing snippets of Nine, a musical turned film based on Fellini’s semi-autobiographical film 8½. She decided not to watch it because it didn’t depict the man she once knew. “I will not have my Fellini rewritten by Arthur Kopit or Anthony Minghella or Michael Tolkin,” she writes, listing Nine’s writers. “Sexual athletes are tuppence a dozen. Fellini was a many-sided genius. I do not hope to meet his like again.”