Hollywood actress Victoria Summer on finding love in Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 10:16 02 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:16 02 September 2020
The Saving Mr Banks and Transformers star tells Berkshire Life about her recent engagement to Italian Michelin star chef Fabrizio Vaccaro
“It’s a funny sensation when you meet someone and everyone else just fades away into the background,” says actress Victoria Summer. But that’s what happened when she saw Italian Michelin star chef Fabrizio Vaccaro for the first time.
“We met by chance in a coffee shop in East Grinstead,” reveals Victoria, who played Julie Andrews in Saving Mr Banks opposite Tom Hanks. “I was meeting a girlfriend for a coffee when we bumped into Fabrizio. He gave her a big hug, she introduced me and I just knew he was special.”
Fabrizio was on the way back to Rome from a holiday in Florida and his flight was cancelled so he’d made an unscheduled UK stopover – a trip that changed both their lives forever.
“I knew I would see him again that weekend, and we went on a few dates. Fabrizio had been working in London, but he hadn’t seen a lot of England, so I suggested I show him around Berkshire,” says Victoria. “After being in Los Angeles for 10 years, I was back home.”
At the end of last year, Victoria’s father became sick, so she had returned to Berkshire, where she was born in Reading and grew up in Wokingham. She had then extended her stay to refurbish her father’s house.
“I was born in the Royal Berkshire Hospital, just like Kate Middleton and Kate Winslet, two of my role models,” she says. “Berkshire is a massive part of who I am and it’s one of the best places to be in the world. I grew up surrounded by countryside, with Ascot Racecouse on my doorstep and all the style and elegance that came with it.
“Fabrizio got the train to see me and I took him to Windsor, we enjoyed walks around Virginia Water and we went for dinner in Henley.”
When the country went into lockdown, the couple didn’t want to be parted, so they decided to move in together in the English countryside. And as soon as lockdown lifted, they flew out to Paola in Calabria in Italy so that Victoria could meet Fabrizio’s family. And it was here, where he had grown up, that he proposed.
“Fabrizio’s mother, who died when he was 18, used to take him to a monastery, Santuario di San Francesco, which is very dear to his heart,” says Victoria. “He took me there, and it is breathtakingly beautiful. He got down on one knee and pulled out the ring. He said: ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you, will you be my wife?’ And I said: ‘Yes!’”
Victoria describes the ring that they chose together as a white-gold band that has a halo encased marquise-cut 1.6-carat diamond, surrounded by smaller diamonds. “It’s similar to my mother’s ring, which I always loved,” she says.
“We have set a date for next year and are planning to have friends and family there from LA, Florida, the UK and Italy, so it will be a destination wedding in Italy over the space of a weekend,” she says. “Fabrizio wants to do his thing and create the food for the day. He is a wonderful chef. I am plant-based and he cooks a good wild mushroom risotto or vegetable lasagne.”
But before they put the finishing touches to their wedding plans, first Victoria is due to fly to Spain to shoot a new period drama, Glow & Darkness, alongside two former Bond girls, Denise Richards and Jane Seymour. She says: “I’m really excited to be working with them, and also to be in another period drama after playing a British nurse in Game of Aces, which was so elegant and well shot.”
Victoria also says she enjoyed starring opposite Tom Hanks as the iconic Julie Andrews in Walt Disney’s Saving Mr Banks: “I grew up watching him in Big, Castaway and Forrest Gump, and he was always the actor who waould affect me the most. I first met him backstage and he introduced himself to me as Walt Disney, so I said: ‘I’m Julie.’ He was so funny. For me to be standing next to him, recreating the premiere of Mary Poppins and portraying Julie Andrews, who I was enamoured with as a child, was a dream come true.”
In Transformers: Age of Extinction, Victoria worked alongside Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer. “I was on set for a few weeks in Detroit and Chicago. Stanley was there eating peanut butter and Mark was a real family man, which is lovely considering his position. Michael Bay is amazing; it’s incredible to watch him work. It was all such a huge learning curve for me,” adds Victoria, who started out in musical theatre but always aspired to go to Hollywood.
She arrived in LA in 2012 with two suitcases and knew just one person. But she was dedicated to pursuing her dream of being an actress. “You have to believe in yourself and although it’s tough, be persistent,” she says.
Over the past few months, this fantastic work ethic has led Victoria to create a new website and TV show called Next Generation Role Model. It shines the spotlight on up-and-coming young talent. “I’ve been interviewing visionaries and influencers; those kids who are going to be the leaders of tomorrow, asking them what they want to achieve,” she says. “If I can find children who are impacting their communities and give them a foot up, I will. Making a difference in the world is something that is very close to my heart.”