Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Triple Threat- Luigi Iacuzio

Looking back at one of my favorite film festival experiences, I remember the 2008 Rome Film Festival and the film I enjoyed the most- the sleeper hit of the festival, a small film made by young director, Toni D'Angelo, called Una notte. The story follows five Neapolitan friends reunited after a tragic accident takes the life of another belonging to the group. It's a beautiful, character-driven story that focuses on these successful and not so successful adults who look back on their lives and choices. 

I talked with one of the stars of Una notte, Luigi Iacuzio. He was born in Rome, and grew up in Naples. He knew at a very young age that he wanted to have a career in the performing arts. Now in his early 40’s, he is a classically trained actor with a wide-range of training in theater, dance, singing and acting for film. He has studied his art in schools all over Italy including the University of Calabria, Teatro Bellini in Naples and Centro Internazionale di Danza in Cosenza. When you see him perform, it is obvious that he's had much diversity in his training. In Una notte, Iacuzio plays the part of a jazz vocalist who performs in a small club in Naples. The role brought together his talent as a singer, songwriter and dramatic actor. After the screening of Una notte at the Casa del Cinema in Rome, Luigi Iacuzio sat down with me, and we talked about his career, his love for American cinema and how being raised in Naples is an asset to his acting.


How did you get your start in acting?
I started in theater 16 years ago. I made my first film in 2003 called Pater familias. It was directed by Francesco Patierno. Then, I made three movies in which I was the main actor and now, Una notte is the fifth movie I've made.

Una notte is a beautiful film about the bonds of friendship. What do you appreciate most about the story?
Well, I really like the friendship of these five people. They're not perfect. They all have their problems. I also like that my character is a singer because one of my dreams is to sing. I really love it, and I've performed in some musicals, too. And, I wrote the song for the last scene in Una notte.

In the film, you're a jazz singer. Do you like to sing jazz?
Oh yes, I love Frank Sinatra!
 
Has growing up in Naples helped you as an actor?
Yes, I believe that if you live in Naples, you have something in your soul that makes you an actor. The Neapolitans are different from people of other regions and cities in Italy.  Naples is a place that is very alive, and very spontaneous. You can feel it in the streets. You are always talking with people, always greeting people when you get into your car, when you walk down the street. You're always saying "Ciao, come stai?" We're always communicating with each other.

Do you like American cinema?
Yes, it's fantastic! I love American cinema. I just met Al Pacino at the Actor's Studio here in Rome. I studied there with the Italian actress, Francesca De Sapio, who played Al Pacino's wife in The Godfather.

Did Al Pacino have any advice for you?
He told us to conserve the child inside of us, and to be spontaneous. 

Has he influenced your work as an actor?
Well, I saw many of Al Pacino's movies when I was growing up, and I studied his characters as I watched them.

Which Italian actors have influenced your work?
In Italy, the actor Giancarlo Giannini has had an impact on my work. In America, I'd have to say Al Pacino and Robert Deniro. I also like Vincent Gallo.

What is your dream?
My dream is to be a complete actor that sings, acts and dances. This is a dream for me, but I know that it will take many years of experience to achieve this.

Iacuzio's latest film Terra was recently shown at the Pesara International Film Festival. Directed by Marco De Angelis and Antonio Di Trapani, the atmospheric film explores the mysterious forces and energies of the earth and how they influence us. Check out the trailer..




For more information on Luigi Iacuzio- visit him online.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ferzan Ozpetek: "Don't speak the line. Just think the line and gaze."

With Ferzan Ozpetek in NYC, 2012
Born in Turkey in 1959, Ferzan Ozpetek moved to Rome two decades later to work in theater and assist various film directors. 

In 1997, he made his directorial debut with the critically acclaimed Hamam Turkish Bath, which went on to win two Golden Globes, one for Best New Director and the other for Best Soundtrack. Since then, Ozpetek has directed some of the most beautiful and profound films of contemporary Italian cinema. Ozpetek calls upon his own life experiences when deciding on a film project. He then builds upon that experience with his writing partner and close friend of 30 years, Gianni Romoli. Together they transform an idea into a masterpiece with the perfect combination of drama and comedy relief.

In an Ozpetek film, there is so much that remains unsaid but is revealed through the characters' eyes. "Cinema is about the gaze, about where someone is looking," Ozpetek said. "I love to make movies where a character is thinking the line but not speaking the line. During the shooting of La Finestra di Fronte, I told Giovanna Mezzogiorno several times, Don't speak the line. Just think the line and gaze."

Ozpetek and Romoli speak to each and every one of us when they make a film. Their message is a simple one that focuses on the ability to balance our daily commitments while staying true to the people we originally started out as. Regardless of how much or little you have in common with the characters, their fears, struggles and dreams mirror those of everyone on a fundamental level

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Conversation with Claudia Gerini

She is a stunning Italian superstar who sings, dances and acts. But this triple threat is a self proclaimed tomboy at heart and enjoyed a simple, normal life growing up in the suburbs of Rome. Claudia Gerini always had a desire to be in front of the camera, and knew that one day her dream would come true. That confidence along with the support of her family led her down a path that has made her a household name in Italy.

Gerini launched her career as a showgirl before landing her first television and movie roles. Every star has a breakout role, and for Gerini that role was in Carlo Verdone's 1995 comedy, Viaggi di nozze (Honeymoon). The film was released at Christmastime in Italy and catapulted her to fame. Verdone was so taken with Gerini's talent, that he invited her not long afterward to team up with him again in Sono pazzo di Iris Blond (Iris Blond). The follow up film proved to be another blockbuster establishing Gerini as an actress that was here to stay.

Although she has a great talent for comedy, Gerini also enjoys doing drama and has pursued that interest on both sides of the Atlantic. She played the role of Claudia in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and also had a part in Audrey Wells's Under the Tuscan Sun.  But her two most high profile roles were in the Italian blockbusters, Non ti muovere (Don't Move) and Sono pazzo di Iris Blond.  The films were created by two of Italy's most beloved and respected filmmakers, Verdone and Sergio Castellitto. The reach of both films extended beyond the borders of Italy and were seen by audiences around the world. Gerini's characters in these films are polar opposite, validating her skills as an actor. In Verdone's film, she is the eccentric, fun loving Iris Blond, a girl with big dreams and a warm, fun soul filled with enthusiasm and adventure. Based on a fortuneteller's prediction, Verdone's character, Romeo Spera, decides that he and Iris Blond are destined for each other, and the two lost souls eventually connect. Verdone and Gerini have impeccable comic timing and amazing onscreen chemistry. It's such a joy to watch them work together in this genre. At the other end of the spectrum is Sergio Castellitto's 2004 drama, Non ti muovere.  Gerini plays Elsa, the wife of Castellitto's character, Timoteo. Elsa is a hard woman who finds it difficult to show her emotions. She holds everything inside until she is faced with a devastating, traumatic event that forces her to confront her issues. The chemistry between Gerini and Castellitto  was strong, but not as one would expect. The two characters are mired in a loveless marriage, and the aggression, resentment and awkwardness of their relationship is almost palpable. The two stars bring a tremendous intensity to their roles that propels the complicated and emotionally freighted story forward.

Photo by Francesca Martino
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Claudia Gerini. She told me about her childhood growing up in Rome, her dreams of being a performer and her experiences in working with some of the biggest names in cinema.

What was your childhood like.. did you always want to be a performer?
I always wanted to be an actress. I came from a very normal middle class family. I have one sister. We had a very normal childhood growing up in the suburbs of Rome. We were very free, we rode our bicycles, had a big garden in the country with two dogs. We spent time outside playing with friends. I was more of a tomboy, not a princess at all. When I was around 10 years old, I studied dance. I wanted to entertain and to be in show business. It was my dream and I was sure that sooner or later, I would succeed.

Did your parents support your dreams of becoming an actress?
Yes, my mother went to the casting agents with me and my father always loved cinema, especially the films of neorealism.

Tell me about the early days of your career.
My first big box office hit was with the comedy, Honeymoon with Carlo Verdone.  It's a film with three stories. It's very funny. After that, I spent some time traveling around Europe to cities like Paris and Madrid exploring different cultures.

One of my favorite characters is your role as Carlo Verdone's love interest in- Sono pazzo di Iris Blond. It seems like you had a great time playing that role. 
We did very well with Honeymoon and he wanted to do another comedy with me so he asked me what I thought, and I said let's do something with music because I want to sing. We shot the film in Brussels, which is a very inspiring city. I was happy to work with Carlo again and especially in such an interesting role of this crazy girl. It felt like I was in a dream singing and being surrounded by so much music.

What was it like working with Mel Gibson on- The Passion of the Christ?  
I love Mel Gibson. I had a very good time with him playing this woman, Claudia. My scenes were shot in Cinecittà, so I did not have the experience of shooting on location like some of the other actors, but it was a very good experience.

Photo by Francesca Martino
Your role in Sergio Castellitto's film- Non ti muovere was very strong, and the movie was a huge international success. What did you think of the story and your character in the film?
I met Sergio for an audition. The first meeting wasn't great. Then he saw a movie that I did in Spain and he called me back. I did another audition and I got the part. The role was different. I was a very ambiguous woman. My character was there, but not really there for her husband. She was a cold woman. It was not easy. It was a tricky role and I had to find the right balance for my character.

Is there a character that you have identified with the most?
Well there is a little piece of me in many of my characters, but I would have to say the character that I am most like is Iris Blond because she was a singer, and I had such a good experience working on that movie with Carlo Verdone. It was like a reunion.
 
What do you enjoy the most about your Italian culture, what are you most proud of for being Italian?
Our history and our culture from the past to the present... We have such amazing cities, beautiful land and culture but I don't like the way our leaders are running the country. There is no organization here and too much corruption. Italy is such an amazing incredible place and could be so much more if our leaders would just give it a chance.

Over the past few years, Claudia Gerini has worked on a number of unique projects, including the television miniseries, Labyrinth and Paolo Genovese's comedy, Una famiglia perfetta (A Perfect Family) in which she shared the screen again with Sergio Castellitto. She chooses roles that call on the diversity and depth of her acting skills, contributing to her growth as an artist. 

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