I was 9 years old when I met the director Sergiu Nicolaescu. While shooting the movie Wilhelm the Conquerer, a Romanian-Swiss-French coproduction.
They needed a child to look like the actress playing one of the main roles – Marina Procopie. She was grown up Edith, Wilhelm’s lover, I was young Edith, who was in love with young Wilhelm J)).
After I was chosen, “Mr. Sergiu” as I used to call him, found out that my name is Mladin and he asked me: “Was your father a rugby player?” I told him he was, one from the golden generation, together with Radu Demian, Morariu, Stanescu and… others. I did not know all their names (the ones I mentioned I had seen in many occasions). Mr. Sergiu was a rugby fan (and a player!) and I was surprised because I had not met anyone from my artistic world who knew my father as a sportsman. Otherwise he was an engineer. Just like Sergiu Nicolaescu…
SERGIU NICOLAESCU ON THE MOVIE SET
I had heard that Sergiu shouts at people on the set… That he wants everything to be perfect and that he will not make any compromises. He has never shouted at me. However I was only 9…
I had him close by for every scene I played. He would explain to me exactly how I was supposed to perform, how to move on the set and what to pay attention to.
I was filming in a stable a scene during which I was supposed to milk a cow. I can still remember that he placed himself so that the camera could not see him and, while I was agonizing trying to milk the cow (this is what I was supposed to play, but this was the reality as well), he would hold the cows tail and he would hit my face with it to make my torment even bigger. We filmed the scene a lot of times, so my face became very familiar with the tail of that cow hihihi.
One day, before we began shooting, he saw me with a straw in my mouth. I was playing with it (No, it did not rain that day…)
My gesture gave him an idea: he not only made me keep the straw in my mouth for the scene we were filming that day, but then, in all the scenes I had, he gave me something: a small flower, a grass thread, another straw, building a particularity to my character.
I remember that, when I had longer dialogues, it was quite difficult to speak with the flower in my mouth J).
Explanatory note: At the time, I did not speak any French at all. The film was dubbed in France, but it is shocking how similar my voice then is to the voice of the girl who dubbed the dialogue in French!
For Wilhelm the Conquerer, Mr. Sergiu sent me to learn how to ride a horse, at the Steaua Club. Although I cannot remember if there was any scene with me on a horse in the final version of the movie.
I took fencing lessons to, to be able to have a duel, although the sword we were filming with had some 100 kilos! Even more the armor I was wearing was a real one, heavy as hell. And at the time I was very thin! I could hardly fight, even if I knew all the moves and the order I was supposed to perform them in.
THE FILM “THE MEETING”
Immediately after Wilhelm the Conqueror, when I was 9, I played a part in another Sergiu Nicolaescu movie: The Meeting, with Ovidiu Iuliu Moldovan, Ioana Pavelescu, Vladimir Gaitan, Colea Rautu, Sergiu Nicolaescu. Mr. Gaitan was my father. I was playing the part of a peasant girl. We were living in the delta area. I only had a few scenes. I can still remember what we filmed in the Delta and what in the Buftea studios, in a house built there to resemble a house in the Delta.
Here I sang the Sorcova (a New Year’s custom mainly for children who sing a specific song wishing well to the people they sing it to and get money or presents from them) for Ioana Pavelescu and I got as a present the gold necklace she was wearing. Only in the movie, to the great disappointment of my relatives who were expecting to see me wearing it forever…
“The Meeting” is one of the movies that made me realize I would become an actress most probably deserving the Golden Raspberry Award J)).
VISITING SERGIU NICOLAESCU AT HOME
I did not understand much at the time, when I was only 9, about the experience of working with Sergiu Nicolaescu, but I remember that these films opened the door to his house.
I used to call him on holidays (I can still remember his home number!). My mother used to send me to his place with a present every now and then. Mainly wooden boxes sculpted by some very talented people.
My visits to “Mr Sergiu’s” home would invariably start with “and how’s your father?”, after which we would speak, at my level of understanding, about various things. About the talking parrot Coco, for example, saved by him from a dark warehouse after the shootings for I cannot remember what movie. I would go to the cage and try to make him say the only word he could say: “Cocooo”. Mr. Sergiu would show me the places where Coco had eaten into the wooden paneling on the wall during his time spent outside the cage.
And, by the way, I used to admire all the spectacular objects he had on the walls (swords, guns), many of them brought from his filming locations.
We would also talk to or about Mrs. Gabi, his wife at the time, or about his sister. And then, as I had been educated to have common sense, I would stand up to leave. And that was the moment! THE MOMENT!
At 9 years old, the greatest joy was when Mr. Sergiu would open the drawer of the massive wooden bar he had in the living. That was THE MAGIC DRAWER for me. It was full with all kinds of sweets and jellies, that I had never seen, that you could not find anywhere in Romania, sweets brought from Germany, where he was traveling very often. My God, I used to look at that drawer as if it were Heaven on earth!
He would take 2-3 bags of sweets and he would give them to me, and I used to be so happy, as if Santa had just come from a new planet!
I used to leave his home feeling the richest kid on earth!
Never mind the movies, the director, the super-experiences… the jellies were all that counted at the time J)).