A blonde bombshell whose career spanned two continents and five decades, Virna Lisi began her life as Virna Pieralisi in Acona, Italy. The daughter of a marble importer, Lisi developed into a stunning beauty by her teens, prompting her to be discovered by two Neapolitan movie producers, Antonio Ferrigno and Ettore Pesce, while staying in Paris in 1953. Later that year, the 17 year-old would appear in her first movie, "...e Napoli canta!" (1953). Lisi's new career in show business would mean coloring her brunette hair to her now trademark light blonde shade and diving full-force into many areas of performance at once. She studied stage acting, starring in Federico Zardi's "I giacobini" at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano in 1957 under the direction of the respected Giorgio Strehler. She also appeared in a memorable ad campaign for an Italian toothpaste brand, famously uttering the catchphrase "Con quella bocca può dire ciò che vuole," (with such a mouth, she can say whatever she wants), which would become a staple moment of Italian popular culture. In 1960, Lisi married footbal club magnate and architect Franco Pesci, prompting the actress to briefly consider retiring from acting in order to devote herself full time to her responsibilities as a wife. According to Lisi, this idea was very short lived, and she was back to business within a few months. Though Lisi would give birth to her and Pesci's son, Corrado just two years later, her career did not lose traction. By 1965, she was traveling to Hollywood to appear in her first American movie, the Jack Lemmon comedy "How to Murder Your Wife" (1965). Riding a wave of popularity for European actresses in Hollywood, Lisi would be cast as the knockout beauty in a number of English speaking roles over the next few years, such as "Not with My Wife, You Don't!" (1966) with Tony Curtis, and "Assault on a Queen" (1966) with Frank Sinatra. However, Lisi soon became frustrated with the repetitive nature of these parts, which made much of her alluring good looks, but not of her acting abilities. By 1968, Lisi was cast as the lead in the now cult classic "Barbarella" (1968), but she was so tired of playing pure glamour roles that she turned the movie down and returned to her native Italy. At this time, Lisi began a new and exciting chapter in her career, taking on roles that used her comely looks for satire or juxtaposition, like in "Arabella" (1968) and "Le dolci signore" (1968). These films found Lisi playing characters with sneaky or underhanded motives, relying upon Lisi's own personality and acting choices for full effect. She would continue to explore more and more dark and complex characters in the years to come, gaining particular acclaim for her turn as the cruel Catherine de'Medici in "Queen Margot" (1994), which earned her a Cesar award for Best Supporting Actress. Lisi would continue to work at a near constant pace, finding particular success in the 2010s on television mini-series like "Madre, aiutami." (Rai 1, 2014). Lisi's acting career was only halted by her death in 2014 due to lung cancer. She died in Rome at the age of 78.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Was discovered in Paris by Neopolitan producers Antonio Ferrigno and Ettore Pesce at age 17.
Starred in a stage production of "I giacobini" at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano.
Made her American film debut in "How to Murder Your Wife."
Received critical acclaim and a Cesar award for Best Supporting Actress for her turn as the cruel Catherine de' Medici in "Queen Margot."