Isabella Rossellini looks where the wild things are and shares some astonishing facts of life from the world of the birds and the bees

Why on earth would a woman of Isabella Rossellini’s stature, success, wealth and beauty, who comes from a bloodline of film royalty — the daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini — want to dress up as a male bumblebee and pretend she is screwing a female bee? (And, by the way, “screwing” is, literally, the right word.)

Despite a fulfilling life as an actress, filmmaker, model and writer, Rossellini seems ever curious about sex in the animal kingdom and how different animals copulate. Curiosity has led her to enter this vast world through Green Porno, a series of vignettes for the Sundance Channel. She writes and co-produces the series, humorously depicting animals’ sex organs and their mating acts.

At 57, she performs a series of mock copulations involving puppet costumes with huge penises, crawling on floors not only as a bee but also as a spider, a fly, an earthworm, a snail and several other insects and marine animals. “Well, sex is not so important,” she says. “It is not so important at all for me,” she clarifies, looking away, searching for a genuine answer and suddenly — no, sexily — revealing a six-strand pearl necklace under the collar of her austere black dress. But it is hard to believe sex isn’t that important in her life. Flashing back to the roles she played in her acting career — most memorably, standing naked in the film Blue Velvet — or even during her 14 years as the magnetic model for Lancôme cosmetics, to many, Rossellini was the incarnation of sexual allure in its purest sense.

Green Porno is a catchy name. I thought that it was too funny,” Rossellini giggles. “I don’t know why people are so obsessed with sex. Perhaps it is due to the fact that it is taboo and repressed … but, to me, it is a normal part of life.” The Green Porno series, all three seasons, is presented on the website of the Sundance film channel, founded and partly funded by Robert Redford. “Bob wanted a format that could fit on the web and be downloaded on cellphones,” she says. “The short film format, one to two minutes, seemed appropriate for this.” But the length of the films is far less noticeable than the explicit material she mimics on screen.

Astonishing Fact #1 Snails pierce their skin to engage in sex. In one scene, Rossellini imitates this sexual act, emphasizing its sadomasochistic nature. The clip ends with her sighing with orgasmic pleasure.

The project came as “a combination of opportunities.” At the time, Rossellini did not think of herself as a writer or a director, but the challenge piqued her interest. Sundance Channel, which supports experimental films, was losing audience to the Internet. “I was one of the artists who was contacted. They wanted a new series that would fit the web format and would fit into the category of their ‘green’ programming,” she recounts. “With this project, I’ve been writing my own scripts just as I dreamed of doing when I was a teenager.”

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