The Italian government has just honoured Scacchi by recognising her as one of the most successful Italians living in the UK. Yet
Britain has refused her citizenship, despite her in many ways being as British as Nigel Havers or Prunella Scales.
For the actress, acclaimed for roles in White Mischief, Presumed Innocent, The Player and Country Life, was born in Milan to an Italian art dealer father and English dancer mother, Pamela. After her parents divorced when she was aged four,
she was brought up in Haywards Heath by mama. At
15, Scacchi was taken to live in Australia by Pamela and her new husband. But just two years later Scacchi returned to England to study at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Soon she was an international movie star after wowing in her Merchant Ivory petticoat for Heat and Dust; a glittering career followed, in which
as a leading lady opposite the likes of Harrison Ford,
she was often described as one of the world’s most beautiful women – to the occasional resentment, she has suggested, of the sisterhood.
Yet she has, quite scandalously, been turned down for British citizenship, not once but twice – despite having an English mother and living here virtually all her life. And this for an Emmy award-winning actress who has starred with everyone from Michael Gambon to Jeremy Irons, and whose skills as an actress were defined by The Telegraph as “shatteringly fine”.
Still, Scacchi is no stranger to disputes, as former Hurstpierpoint neighbours would attest. In 2011 she claimed to have been driven out of her £850,000 cottage. Leaving the home she loved was a wrench after 17 years but life there became unbearable after a costly legal dispute over the upkeep of a lane. Heavy vehicles visiting the next door stables damaged the track, but despite a court order, the stable owners reportedly refused to pay upkeep.
“I have loved this valley since my golden childhood memories and chose to raise my children in this simple, idyllic cottage,” she said. “Our harmony has been so compromised I was forced to
move my family to get away from the stress.” The family moved to a rented house in East Grinstead, where they have remained.
Greta has had much to contend with. After an earlier relationship with New Zealand rock star
Tom Finn, her daughter was six months old when her father, American actor Vincent D’Onofrio, deserted Scacchi – just as her father had her mother. She had a further child with her first cousin, Carlo Mantegazza, which caused a media meltdown and, while quite legal, was frowned upon by family.
Impressively, in a sexist industry she has always remained herself. So when Hollywood demanded one too many times that she shed the clothes, she quit to focus on the stage. So in Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone lost her modesty but won millions. “I didn’t like the script and didn’t want to play a character who was essentially a male heterosexual’s lesbian fantasy,” she has explained. “I thought that offensive.” The director of The Player told her to “take your knickers off and do what you’re paid to do,” but she refused – and this time was victorious. Last week she was away filming in Italy, but is to play opposite Kenneth Branagh and John Hurt in a West End revival of John Osborne’s The Entertainer. Now 56, she is enjoying a second life as a more serious actress – which still, alas, takes a rare woman to achieve.
So in an issue focusing heavily on sparkling wine, let us raise a glass of Prosecco to one of Sussex’s most talented citizens: how about a British gong for Greta?