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Zeffirelli Knew Actress Fit Role

September 17, 2002

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PARIS (AP) _ When director Franco Zeffirelli first set eyes on French actress Fanny Ardant, he knew he’d found the star of his film about the last days of opera diva Maria Callas.

``Fanny Ardant arrived like a gift from God,″ Zeffirelli said Monday, the 25th anniversary of Callas’ death, and the day his film ``Callas Forever″ premiered in Paris. ``She opened the door, and it was Callas.″

Ardant _ who has a strong resemblance to the opera star _ has already played Callas on the stage, in Terrence McNally’s ``Master Class.″

Callas died in 1977 at 53. Zeffirelli’s movie, which also stars Jeremy Irons, is a fictional account of her life after she stopped singing because her voice had changed.

For Callas, her voice was either going to be ``perfect, or nothing,″ the director told Associated Press Television News. ``I show exactly what price she paid″ for her art.

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