Dani Montalvo stars as Lorena Bobbitt in the Lifetime movie ‘I Was Lorena Bobbitt.’ HL spoke with the actress about how Lorena ‘guided’ her while filming, why Lorena is a ‘powerful’ inspiration for women, and more.
Lorena Bobbitt’s incredible story is being told in the new Lifetime movie, I Was Lorena Bobbitt, which premieres May 25. Lorena, now 49, made headlines everywhere when she cut off her now ex-husband’s penis with a knife in 1993 after years of alleged abuse. The movie will explore Lorena’s life from the start of her marriage to John Wayne Bobbitt, now 53, to the dramatic end of their relationship. I Was Lorena Bobbitt, which is executive produced and narrated by Lorena, will also show how Lorena has emerged a stronger woman who has dedicated her life to advocating for other abused women.
In 1993, Lorena notoriously cut off John’s penis with a knife while he slept and threw it out her car window. John was initially tried for marital sexual assault. During the trial, Lorena accused John of raping and assaulting her throughout their marriage. John denied abusing Lorena and was found not guilty of marital sexual assault. Lorena was tried for malicious wounding and found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. John and Lorena divorced in 1995.
HollywoodLife talked with actress Dani Montalvo, who is playing Lorena Bobbitt in the Lifetime movie. She admitted that she had “no idea” who Lorena was before filming. Dani opened up about meeting Lorena for the first time and their “instant connection.” Having Lorena on set while filming gave Dani more “confidence” and “extra courage.” Dani also spoke about her outrage for how Lorena was treated by the media during the high-profile case. Read our full Q&A below.
How familiar were you with Lorena Bobbitt before signing on for this movie?
Dani Montalvo: So before I got the audition, I had no idea who she was. I had never heard of her name before. I had never heard of any of the jokes, and I didn’t know of the incident itself. As soon as I got the audition, that’s when I started doing all the research. That’s when I saw the Amazon documentary and the trial that was televised. I looked at all of the coverage and all the footage, just hours and hours of that.
Did you talk with Lorena at all?
Dani Montalvo: Yes, she is an executive producer on the movie. She personally called me a few days after I booked the role to congratulate me, which was wonderful. So I got to speak to her on the phone, and then to meet her in person was so surreal. As soon as I met her, I felt like telling her, “Hey, I missed you.” Even though I hadn’t met her before, I already felt so connected to her. Maybe it was because I was immersing myself in her life story. When we met, it was like this instant connection between us.
What was it like having her as a source of information along this journey?
Dani Montalvo: A lot of people have asked me if I was nervous to have her on set. Honestly, it gave me so much more confidence and that extra courage I needed to pull this performance off. Having her on set made me feel comfortable. I knew that if I had any questions or second-guessed things that I could come to her. Obviously, she knows it like the back of her hand because it happened to her. We did discuss some of the most difficult parts of all of her trauma, and that really guided me in a lot of the performances.
Lorena’s story and the case are very well known in the public. What do you think people will learn about Lorena’s story with this movie?
Dani Montalvo: I think we’ll learn that she came out of this a completely different person and this didn’t break her like you thought it would. She did not get any of the support that she would’ve received today. It was made a joke. She was a laughingstock. So for her to now use her voice and to see that power and confidence in her eyes, you can observe the transformation. You compare who she was when she was 19 years old when she first married John Wayne Bobbitt to who she is today, you just see it in her eyes. She glows. She’s just so powerful and courageous.
What do you think is the most common misconception about her?
Dani Montalvo: That she is a broken person today. That this messed her up. I think people hear what happened to her and they think, wow, how can someone feel human after this? You look at her and she has somehow pieced herself back together into this beautiful, strong woman. I think that’s something that’s going to inspire all of us when you watch this movie.
Do you think she was unfairly treated by the media?
Dani Montalvo: I definitely do. I don’t think anyone back in the day was ready to hear the truth about domestic violence. There were jokes about how she was too ugly to be raped, like that it just couldn’t be true. That would not fly today. It makes you question: why did it? Why did they let that slide back in the day? Where were we as people back in the day? Did we not respect women enough to treat them like human beings? I think in this day and age, especially during the #MeToo movement, people are ready to listen with a different lens.
Luke Humphrey plays John Wayne Bobbitt. What was it like working with him and establishing such a volatile relationship?
Dani Montalvo: It was wonderful working with him. Honestly, he made me feel just so safe. All of the time, we created this safe space and a safe environment for us to perform in. Before we started a scene, we always communicated and made sure we were OK going into it. Once we were ready to step out of it, we communicated about that as well just so that we wouldn’t be taking any sort of negative energy or emotions with us throughout the day. He really was just so professional on and off the set.
What was it like for you to get into that mindset of Lorena during that time?
Dani Montalvo: I didn’t just research Lorena Bobbitt and just watch all of her footage in order to accurately portray the physical abuse and sexual abuse. I also watched a lot of performances regarding that topic — different movies where the victim gets raped or physically abused. There are different levels of pain that you got to work with. I listened to a lot of different podcasts and read different blogs about women personally talking about their own experiences.
What was the most surprising aspect of this story for you as you researched?
Dani Montalvo: I honestly couldn’t believe the way Lorena was treated. I remember yelling at my TV while watching all of the footage and watching the documentary. I was crying and in shock that this is how a human being was treated. After the harm that she had to go through, she was treated this way. That really shocked me and that really opened my eyes as to how domestic violence and sexual abuse are seen, or how they were seen back in the day. Even though we have made progress, it’s still not enough. We have to keep moving forward. I think this film is a good step in the right direction. When people watch it and, they’re going to see something raw. They’re going to see something very transparent.
Lifetime will also run a PSA for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence featuring the actors and Lorena Bobbitt, as part of Lifetime’s public affairs campaign, Stop Violence Against Women. The movie will air at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.