Maria Grazia Cucinotta was born in Italy, in the Sicilian town of Messina, on July 27, 1968. Her good looks came early and, when she was 16, she started modeling on the catwalks of Milan. At that age, she was already voluptuous, which contrasted with the other models of the era.
Still, it was just a summer job for Maria and she left modeling behind when she graduated high school. In fact, she had never enjoyed modeling because her body did all the work and she was never required to use her head.
Her lifelong dream was to be an actress, so she auditioned for a part on the Renzo Arbore television show Indietro Tutta in Rome. She got the part as a sexy concubine, which triggered her acting career.
But considering the seemingly endless supply of gorgeous actresses in Italy, there was a lot of competition. Therefore, Maria began taking acting classes as well as elocution lessons to divest herself of her Sicilian accent. She also took the time to learn English.
A talent agency signed her and she continued making guest appearances on small programs and variety shows. She was having a hard time finding movie roles, so she turned to advertising. She started shooting TV commercials and became quite in demand in this field, eventually appearing in ads for Banca di Roma bank and Persol glasses.
It didn’t take long for Maria to start meeting industry players who offered her movie parts. At first, they weren’t really glamorous roles, but appearing in Viaggio d’amore (1990), Vacanze di Natale ’90 (1990), and Abbronzatissimi 2 – un anno dopo (1993) allowed her to pad her resume.
After playing in the miniseries La Ragnatela in 1991, Maria met with renowned Italian actor/filmmaker Massimo Troisi, who was quite impressed with her talent. He gave her a part as the love interest in Il Postino (1994). Maria played a waitress with whom Troisi, a postman, is infatuated but too shy to approach until he starts bonding with a reclusive writer. Not only was this poetic love story an international blockbuster, but it also won dozens of awards, including an Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score.
This was the kind of role Maria needed; it got her a fair amount of recognition. Producers started sending her movie scripts and she appeared in El Da de la bestia (1995), Leonardo Pieraccioni’s successful I Laureati (1995), Il Sindaco (1996), Italiani (1996), and Camere da letto (1997).
Armed with a thicker resume, she made her way to the United States where she was offered a part in Frank Rainone’s crime drama A Brooklyn State of Mind (1997), starring Danny Aiello, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Tony Danza, and Jennifer Esposito. The film wasn’t a huge hit, but it earned Maria a best actress award at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival.
1998 was a busy year for Maria. Following work in La Seconda moglie and Ballad of the Nightingale with Michael and Virginia Madsen, she did two television movies: Il Quarto re and Padre pap. In 1999, she played an assassin trying to kill Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in The World Is Not Enough. That same year, she made a guest appearance in an episode of The Sopranos.
After snatching the coveted lead role on Italian television’s Maria Maddalena (2000), she was in Picking Up the Pieces (2000) with Sharon Stone and Woody Allen, and the Timothy Hutton comedy Just One Night (2000).
In 2001, she was in Stregati dalla luna, Strani accordi as well as the television movie Tommaso. In 2002, she joined the cast of the TV series Il Bello delle donne. Her sole project for 2003 was the television drama Marcinelle and, in 2004, she starred in Mariti in affitto, also known overseas as Rent-a-Husband, a comedy featuring Chevy Chase and Brooke Shields.
Maria has been married to businessman Giulio Violati since October 1995. They live in Rome and she does everything in her power to make sure tabloid reporters don’t invade their privacy.