• U.S.

Movies: Maria Bello: A History of Violence

2 minute read
Richard Corliss

It’s called A History of Violence, and there’s plenty of that, but the movie could also be called The Mystery of Sex, for two scenes shared by Maria Bello and Viggo Mortensen. In the first, Bello, the doting Midwestern wife and mom, dons her old cheerleader togs for some playful whoopee with Mortensen, her placid, stalwart hubby. In the second, all hell breaks loose on the stairs of their home. The sex is angry, feral, more an act of fury than of love, and she might be doing it with a different, more dangerous man.

“It was exhausting,” Bello, 38, says of that scene, shot over a day and a half and largely improvised. “The next day, my entire body was filled with bruises. The inside of Viggo’s mouth was bitten, and his arm was blown up.” The director, David Cronenberg, laughed when he saw them. “He said he felt good that we had ‘taken one for the team.'”

In a movie of shifting identities, Bello is the one stable character, the rock in a hard place. The clarity and power she brought to the role won her a New York Film Critics Circle award and a Golden Globe nomination. It is a nice step up for the blue-collar kid from Philly, who distinguished herself on E.R. and as William Macy’s girlfriend in The Cooler. “I had my first dress fitting last night,” she says, beaming. “I was like Cinderella.”

Cinderella got the prince, Bello the bruises. Both are marks of victory.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com