Valeria Golino, That Daring Young Woman Who Kisses Pee-Wee Herman with the Greatest of Ease
updated 08/08/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 08/08/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT
There is no question that Golino is a trouper. The 21-year-old actress performed some of her own trapeze stunts in the film, an especially surprising feat for a woman who was diagnosed as having scoliosis—curvature of the spine—at age 11, and had to have a steel rod implanted in her back for five years. "I can touch my toes, but I bend in a strange way," she says. "I'll never be in the Olympics."
Golino grew up in Naples, Rome and Athens—her divorced parents shared custody—and made her film debut at 17 in Lina Wertmuller's A Joke of Destiny. In 1986 she won a Best Actress Award at the Venice Film Festival for the Italian movie Love Story.
So she erupted like Vesuvius when asked to audition for Big Top Pee-Wee: "I said, 'What?! I'm a star!' " She capitulated after seeing Herman's earlier film. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. "He could have been a big sex symbol in the '20s, a Rudolph Valentino," says Golino.
For her second American outing, Golino will appear as Tom Cruise's girlfriend in the forthcoming Rain Man. "Tom is worried because people keep asking who is the better kisser," says Golino. Pressed, her answer smacks of diplomacy: "We've just started, so I can't make a decision yet."