Italian actress Monica Bellucci, who received international acclaim in films such as Malèna (2000), Irréversible (2002), The Passion Of The Christ (2004), and Spectre (2015), walked the Toronto Film Festival red carpet last year for a very different project.
She celebrated her first ever "baddie" role as soul-sucking villain Finnegan in Australian filmmakers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner's sci-fi horror comedy Nekrotronic, which opens the Australia SciFi Film Festival in Sydney on Friday.
"In the past, I've been playing characters who were feminine, or victims of their situations," Monica, 54, explained to ET Canada. "But this time, this woman, she's horrible! But at the same time, she is so strong. She's evil, but she's very fun to watch."
That's exactly what director Kiah and writer Tristan wanted as the main antagonist for their follow-up film to 2014's indie splatter-fest hit Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead. What they didn't expect was for Monica to come on board to do it with gusto.
"We didn't write with Monica in mind," director Kiah admits to TV WEEK. Instead, co-producer Andrew Mason, who worked on The Matrix films with Monica as Persephone, sent the Nekrotronic script to her and her agent.
"She loved it," Kiah says, "and I mean, I was quite doubled over! I hadn't thought that, 'Oh my God, so this incredibly talented and brilliant iconic actress not only read the script and took the time to have a look at it, but she, she really liked it!'"
What caught her attention was an anti-phone undercurrent in the plot since her demonic character absorbs people's souls via a mobile app.
"She was like, 'Oh, yes, yes, it says so much about modern society and phones and it's so good, and any film that is going to get my daughter off her phone is good! Let's make it!'" Kiah recounts with a laugh.
"But I think the thing that drew her to it more than anything was the idea that she would play an out-and-out villain," Kiah adds. "I think she was really looking forward to playing a villain where there is no attempt at any point to explain her evil with some kind of tragic backstory. It was just like, 'No, no, no, no. She's just bad.' And she loved that. She really revelled in the idea that she was playing a psychopath."
As for Monica's inspiration? "She told me that she was basing her performance on certain people, particularly directors whom she'd met," Kiah says, although Monica would not reveal any names. However, she was game to do stunts and action and thoroughly enjoy her time on set.
As Kiah concedes, "To get Monica Bellucci to be in your film is a pretty big thing for a little second-time director like me."
The admiration is mutual. Monica said of her work on Nekrotronic, "Kiah and Tristan, they know exactly what they want, what to do. I felt so protected and all I had to do was to play, and it's great when you can work like that."
Nekrotronic opens the Australian SciFi Film Festival at Event Cinemas George Street in Sydney on Friday, 6 September with a 6pm screening followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers. Tickets available here.
The film screens in Melbourne on Saturday, 7 September at the Village Jam Factory at 7pm, followed by a Q&A. On Sunday, 8 September, the film will be shown at 6.30pm at Event Brisbane Myer Centre and will also screen at 6.30pm at the Event Westfield Marion in Adelaide, to be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers. Tickets will be on sale via FilmInk from: https://www.filmink.com.au/nekrotronic/