acclaimed actress, Olivia Hussey, talks about
both technical and spiritual, of being in Mother Teresa’s shoes, and
reveals to our readers the difficulty in combining work with motherhood
By Mario Conte, OFM Conv
YOU ONCE SAID that to
impersonate Mother Teresa was a dream you had been cherishing for
twenty years. Why is that?
twenty years I dreamed of playing this incredible lady because in the
last century I don’t think there is a more beautiful person. I have
great admiration for her because she didn’t just talk, she put her
words into action and she loved everybody to the point of seeing the
face of Our Lord Jesus in every person she helped. I think that if we
tried to love one another and emulate what she stood for, the world
would be a much better place. Now more than ever does the
How can an actress of great
talent like yourself manage to act out, and hence simulate, grief and
suffering without falling into the trap of affectation and cold
technique? In other words, how did you manage to put soul and heartfelt
feeling into your interpretation of Mother Teresa?
have to tell you that I’m not like the typical actress. I do a lot of
prayer, a lot of contemplation. My mother was a devout Catholic. I grew
up with a mini-altar at home that she had, a candle was always alight
on it. She always had a great love for God and she instilled that in
Every morning I wake up and say “God,
this day is for you, help me
to be the best person I can and to conduct myself appropriately. I give
this day to you in my heart,” and then I go about my business. I think
that helped me to feel close to the role of Mother Teresa. I did pray
every single day on that set. We worked under very difficult conditions
and I kept reminding myself “If the situation is so difficult for us,
imagine what it was like for Mother Teresa.” She overcame everything;
she went into the streets of Calcutta, which I have visited and which
are like no other streets I have ever seen.
She went out with something
like 5 rupees and began a congregation of nuns which continues to do
selfless work in helping the poorest of the poor. She is an inspiration
to all of us. It’s a great honour that I’ve had, and then on top of it,
I get to meet the Holy Father. Just think, my life is complete! I wish
my mother was alive because she would be so proud.
order to impersonate Mother Teresa, you carefully collected as much
information you could and you even went to the point of meeting those
who knew her. Who is Mother Teresa for you now?
light of goodness, an inspiration to me. I try every day to see the God
inside of people, but sometimes it’s very difficult. Her work
continues, which is very important, and there is no other woman from
the last century who has touched me that much.
is a country with an animistic religion and full of spiritual masters
of all kinds. What trace do you think Mother Teresa has left in this
chaotic Indian society?
Well, they treated her as the
Mother of India, they loved her very much because she was a woman of
action. I think that she is already a saint for them.
We all think of
her as a saint, because anybody who can do what she did is a saint to
us simple people. India will never ever have another woman like that. I
have met Sister Nirmala and she is an incredible lady as well. All of
the Missionaries of Charity are beautiful human beings, they live out
her words every day of their lives. I’m just humbled by this whole
experience; it’s been something I will carry with me for the rest of my
What were your feelings in
seeing your Mother Teresa beatified at Saint Peter’s on Sunday, 19
completely honoured. When the smiling, wrinkled face of Mother Teresa
was unveiled on a tapestry hanging from the façade of Saint
Basilica, I started to cry. I was sitting next to her niece, Agi
Bojaxhim, and I just couldn’t believe it. I started to cry and buried
my head in my hands. It was the dream of a lifetime for me.
received a benediction from Pope Wojtyla himself before starting to
play your role of Mother Teresa and then, on the 20th of October, the
day after the beatification, you were able to meet and greet the Holy
Father personally. What does this pope mean to you?
incredible man. I think he has done so much good and he focuses so much
on the young, I truly love the pope. I think he has served 25
incredible years, and I pray every day for his continued health. His
picture is in my house.
Pope John Paul
II has always
claimed that his favourite film is Jesus of
directed by Franco Zeffirelli. In that film you played the Virgin Mary.
your memories of that experience now, after twenty-five years?
was 27 at the time and it was very difficult for me because I had to
leave my son Alexander behind for eight months while we shot. It was
very hard on me but Morocco and Tunisia were not places to take a
three-year-old boy, especially when I had to work 14 hours a day. I
remember the crucifixion scene in particular.
I had always thought it
was going to be moving but I didn’t realise it was going to have the
effect it had on me. It was a very profound experience; it was almost
too much for me to bear. I can’t imagine how Jesus could have died for
our sins on the cross that way.
Imagine, I’ve played Juliet, I’ve
played the Virgin Mary and I’ve played Mother Teresa. I can’t think of
anybody luckier. I pray and thank God every day. It was difficult work
but of course, as with everything, I did my very best and I prayed to
God for the guidance to play it as simply and as honestly as I could.
1988 you were in one of Pope Wojtyla’s plays and impersonated the
character of Therese in the film The Jeweller’s Shop. You worked with
Burt Lancaster and Ben Cross in that film. What are your memories and
impressions of that experience?
There was a wonderful
representative from the Vatican there, Mons. Januz Pasierb who has
passed away. He was a Polish priest and we had a wonderful time. We
used to laugh and giggle a lot, and I was always aware that I was doing
a role that the Pope himself had written, and to me that was an
The saddest thing was that, when I was
come to the Vatican at the time they were screening it for the Pope,
they gave me 24 hours notice and I couldn’t find anyone to look after
my second boy, Max, who was only four. I couldn’t come on such short
notice and so I didn’t get to meet the Pope and I was always so sorry
that I hadn’t met His Holiness; so this time my dream came true!
Who is God
for you? How can you
is love. God is in the smile of every person, in every good deed that
we do. We always have a choice – everybody in this world has a choice –
you can choose to do wrong, or you can choose to do right. Everything
in this life passes and we all end up in a little box, no matter who we
are, and what we take with us when we go, is the way we conduct our
lives and what we do in our lives; nothing else matters but our love
and our search for God, whatever our God may be. I respect all
religions because I think they all lead to the same God.
are a well affirmed actress, but you also have a family with three
children. What sacrifices did you have to sustain in order to raise a
family without denying yourself to your children and husband?
was very difficult because I often had to travel and I had to leave my
sons, Alexander and Max, behind with my mother or my brother. It was a
lot of work and then when I had my daughter, India Joy, who is now
nine, I decided that the work would have to go. I just didn’t want to
work until she was four years old. When I go to work now I take my
husband and my daughter with me. I don’t want to travel without them. A
family has to be together to stay together.
back on your past life, would you repeat the experience of becoming a
film actress? Was there ever any moment in which you were tempted to
Mother Teresa, which was the fulfilment of one of your dreams, is there
any other film or character you would like to play?
Not really. I wanted to be an actress since I was
four. I think everybody has a destiny. I’m not very good at other
things. I cook well but I’m not a great cook; I don’t do business; I’ve
had this great love of acting all my life, so I think this is what God
wants from me. And I try to do it well.
me, I really have not thought about it. Mother Teresa had been
something dear in my heart for twenty years. I’m in God’s hands,
really. Every day I say “Thy will be done, God. Whatever is my destiny,
whatever’s meant to be.” My friends come to my house and say “You’re
house looks like a church!”
I just love spiritual things. So I give my
life to God every day. I try to love God above everything and the rest
will unfold. My dream after playing Mother Teresa was to meet the Holy
father, and I’ve done that. And also I’ve met Sister Nirmala, so my
life is complete.