The tapes of her father’s films were always kept out of reach, but whenever her parents were away, she would watch them, sometimes with her friends. On her seventh birthday, she was gifted a private screening of Poltergeist. The film that changed her life, however, and remains her favorite to this day, is Tod Browning’s Freaks, which her mother showed her at the age of five, inadvertently sparking a lifelong fascination and kinship with misfits and outsiders. Although Argento credits her father with inspiring her to direct, her true mentor — the filmmaker from whom she most clearly inherits her sensibility — is that poet laureate of the lower depths, Abel Ferrara, who cast her in his 1998 film, New Rose Hotel. “Abel gives an enormous freedom to actors and the crew,” she explains. “But he forces you to bring something to the movie, and if you don’t, he despises you. It’s really film school working with him. I am a total devotee of Abel’s. My dream would be to work with him my whole life.” Argento looks back on Scarlet Diva (2000), her directorial debut, with some embarrassment today. “I wasn’t a teenager anymore, but it’s like a teenager’s diary, open to everybody to read my secrets or what they think are my secrets.” But the film, in which she essentially plays a version of herself, remains a vivid cautionary tale on the psychological and emotional hazards of her trade. “It was Marlon Brando who said that acting, not prostitution, is the oldest profession in the world,” she recalls. “And Baudelaire also spoke of the artist being a prostitute. Obviously I think what you’re doing is selling.