The worldwide ambassador of Swiss watch and jewelry brand Chopard, her visage has graced the pages of international editions of magazines like Vanity Fair and Elle, and her frame has been draped in raiments sans pareil care of prestigious fashion houses like Fendi and Armani. She has also been acting for years in European film and television, which is all well and good for Romanian beauty Catrinel Marlon, but Hollywood beckons. Her new movie, The Whistlers, in U.S. theaters on February 28, just might be the right response. A standout on last year’s festival circuit, it became Romania’s entry for the best foreign film Oscar.
“It was a big surprise for me to go so far with a small project,” Marlon tells Maxim in accented English from her home in Rome. “I started eight years ago, different Italian projects and in the U.S., and none of them brought me as far as this little Romanian movie. I don’t know if this will help me. Normally, they call me to do auditions. So, I’ll have more auditions, that’s what I’ll hope.”
Directed by Romanian new wave pioneer Corneliu Porumboiu, The Whistlers was nominated for the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Critics such as IndieWire’s Eric Kohn said of Marlon that her “dynamic screen presence makes her a genuine discovery.” In it she plays Gilda, a name inspired by the eponymous Rita Hay-worth classic. Living under the thumb of a mafia family, Gilda is a caged bird who will double-cross anyone for her freedom. A cop arrives on a remote island in the Canaries, where he must learn the language of the locals who communicate through a unique series of whistles, before he becomes involved in a complex crime plot back in Bucharest. Gilda is his teacher, his seducer, and if he’s not careful, far worse.
Fans of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation might recognize Marlon as Elisabetta, a short-lived stint as fiancé to the show’s David Hodges back in 2013. She was represented for acting by Beverly Hills talent agency UTA at the time, but Marlon says they “gave up on me” after she declined to move to the U.S.
“I know how hard it is,” she tells us. “There are a lot of beautiful girls from around the world and they are all trying to become this star in Hollywood. There is a long line. I never feel like I can be one of the first. Besides, I love Europe.” But on the other hand, “I want to do a blockbuster!” she confesses. “You do one, so people know you. And then you choose. If it’s meant to be, it will happen.”
As a girl, Marlon found herself on the other side of the camera, photographing graveyards. The recently deceased lay in an open casket, and she went to work. “They look so peaceful. I always loved that. I don’t know why, ” she recalls of her portraits of the dead. A later series of photos includes asylum inmates shot through a keyhole. “I had somebody inside, and I said to my friend, help me to do this for a photography thing. They would all come there and I would give them cigarettes and they would pose for me.”
While at high school in her Romanian hometown of Iasi, Marlon ran hurdles on the track team, just like her champion athlete father. One day while leaving practice she was accosted by a stranger. She hurried away but he followed her home. Her father confronted him, and they were eventually coaxed into attending a local fashion event where he was convinced to allow his young Catrinel to take a spin on the catwalk.
“From that, somebody saw me, gave me a contract, blah, blah, blah,” she says with customary self-deprecation. For Marlon, it was never a dream to become a model, until she realized she could make more money in one assignment than her father could make in a year.
Choosing between acting, art and modeling, she takes all three, though she has reservations about the future of the latter. Most fashion magazines seldom feature models on the cover these days, but celebrities and influencers instead. The money isn’t what it used to be and even at the top levels, it can be an invasive business, like the time an agent suggested fixing her up with some of some of his pro athlete clients to help boost her profile.
“I said I didn’t want to do that. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just didn’t want to do it. I came back to Europe and said I will work with what I have: me, Catrinel,” she recalls, speaking from her labyrinthian apartment. Her puppy, Pablo, barks and her boyfriend, film producer Massimiliano di Lodovico, has questions regarding dinner. “There’s nothing else I can want,” she shrugs. “I just say thank you, God, for everything.”