IN CONTACT. Riccardo Scamarcio is an award winning Italian film actor and producer who has been working since the early 2000s. I met up with him in London, a few days after he and his co-star Alba Rohrwacher hosted the showing of the movie Three Floors (Tre Piani) at the French Institute of the United Kingdom in London.
You can listen to the podcast of this interview here.
Riccardo Scamarcio, how was it for you to act in this film Three Floors and to be directed by Nanni Moretti, himself a celebrated actor?
It has been a very interesting experience, and not easy because Nanni is both meticulous and intense. We were shooting for 16 weeks, and you normally need 4 to make a movie. He is very obsessive about the details. In terms of acting, I’m actually looking for accidents while I act in the scene.
Did Nanni tell you what to do?
There is a very clear hierarchy – he the director and I the actor – but of course there was collaboration, unanimity. We helped each other. He’s very strong, but I’m not so weak.
You are originally from the beautiful Apulian city of Andria, Italy. Was it because you didn’t much like to study in school that you went to Rome and studied to become an actor when you were quite young?
I did something in the theatre when I was 15, and I said to myself, “This is it!” Because I was always looking for danger, always looking for trouble. When I was 19 and very full of energy to discover life I did the Italian National Film School in Rome. It was the first time that I took something seriously.
Do you still look for trouble?
I haven’t changed much (laughs). I think this is a natural attitude, to walk on the line without a net underneath.
Not many actors become as famous as you are, and success is not obvious in your profession. Do you care about the risk of failure?
No, it’s not obvious, but I have a natural relation with acting, and knew I had that because when I did my first show in the theatre it was so wonderful. It was a very dangerous place, because you are metaphorically naked on scene; in front of the audience and being judged. And you can fail. And this is the thing. I fell in love with my job.
“What I’m looking for is always sensual. The job we do is about sensuality.”
Riccardo Scamarcio, what is it to be an actor?
It is a mysterious job that has mostly to do with energy. That’s what my job is. I control and use energy to get in contact with other people.
Do you change yourself when you change roles?
No, this is not correct from my point of view. You have to put yourself in those conditions and live those conditions, and react to those conditions as you would do if you were in that situation. It is about losing yourself in something.
Did you like the idea of working with Nanni Moretti before you started making Three Floors?
I went to the audition not knowing anything. I knew it would be very tough to work with him, and I wanted to understand if he wanted to work with me. “Do you want me?” “OK, we can work together.” What I’m looking for is always sensual. The job we do is about sensuality.
In my life I’ve done many movies, but this is a special one because it fits completely with some important changing of my personal life. In all these more than 20 years I had a couple films that are important for my life.
The Costa-Gavras movie Eden is West. I was 25, and had a very intense experience in Greece. It is something private, I cannot talk about it. I changed while I was doing that movie. I understood something that literally saved my life.
Why do you produce movies?
I first became a producer by coincidence, because nobody wanted to produce the movie Honey (Miele) – which I thought was wonderful, and I was right. I started and learnt this very difficult job and then I understood that I had the chance to create a sort of United Artists, and this is my ambition. I come from the scene, I’m an actor and writer, I’ve done so many movies, and not many producers have this. They don’t know or come from the scene, most of them are managers – very good with finance but they don’t know what we do. My idea is that if I learn the bureaucracy, then I can put the bureaucracy under the power of the creativity.
Was The Shadow of the Day (L’ombra del giorno) your idea?
No, it was written by Giuseppe Piccioni, Gualtiero Rosella and Annick Emdin. It was an original script, basically created by Giuseppe. When the former producer couldn’t make the movie I bought the rights from him and we did it.
The story is about a fascist owner of a restaurant in Ascoli Piceno, a provincial city in Italy, in 1938 on the eve of war?
Yes, it is set in the two years before Italy gets intimately involved in the war, and during the escalation of the laws against the Jews and all those restrictions of freedom. Meanwhile, this man meets this girl and they fall in love with each other – an impossible love story in this situation. There’s a square right in front of the restaurant that becomes like the war, but we don’t see weapons, we don’t see anything. We just see this square, which works like a theatre or like a screen.
“Acting is about losing yourself in something.”
Riccardo Scamarcio, when you finish making a film, are you sad to abandon the character that you have been playing?
Yes, I’m very sad. Every time a movie is ending I don’t like that. It’s a big problem I have, I know; but it is true. I don’t like it when the movie is finished. I don’t feel comfortable when things are ending. I get so upset that I want to fight with someone!
Is it therefore to help yourself that you seem to go from one movie to another immediately?
Exactly. Actors are very dangerous people, because making a movie is like a love story. At the beginning you shine – you don’t know each other and when you start you are a little nervous. Then you start working together, and after the first or second week you have to seduce and do all that stuff, and then finally you get on with it. You are happy. You live your love story, it is wonderful. And then it ends. And you are sad. And you fight a little bit. And then you say, “OK.” You don’t want to end it, but you have to let it go. It’s terrible, but that’s life.
Are you a very wild person?
I am. I’m wild. I am always looking for trouble. I told you at the beginning. And producing and starting a new film is the biggest trouble.
Because to produce a movie in the way that I want to do it, you have to fight. There are many other ways that you can do it – you can produce a wonderful TV series, you have all the money and it’s like a product – but if you want to make a movie, a film, a proper film, you have to fight.
What will your next film be about?
This is about the World Rally Championship in 1983. It is the real competitive story between Lancia and Audi. I play Cesare Fiorio, the team manager of Lancia. It is a beautiful movie because it’s a big metaphor of Italian style, not style in terms of how we dress, but how the Latin approach to life can be very powerful.
Will you also soon start another movie with Ginevra Elkann?
Yes. We did a movie together before, Magari (If Only) where I played the father. I will finish Ginevra’s new movie in April, and I will start mine in May.
You are a very expressive actor, and when you cry, you cry. When you are angry, you really show your anger. Do you act a lot with your eyes?
Exactly right. As we say, “The eyes are the window to the soul.”
You have a little girl, and I have seen you in various movies acting with children. Do you relate well to children?
I think I’m a child. Until today, no matter what happened, I preserved my child inside me. With my daughter, I can live my childhood again through her. I love children; I put myself on the same level.
Riccardo Scamarcio and Alain Elkann in conversation for this interview in London
Magari is a sentimental comedy, the story of three tight-knit siblings whose father is played by Riccardo Scamarcio
Riccardo Scamarcio stars in L’Ombra del Giorno, a love story set against the backdrop of fascist Italy and racial laws
“I live my life much more intensely than my career. Otherwise you have nothing to tell.”
Riccardo Scamarcio, do you think about becoming older, because you were very young when you started as an actor?
I am 42 and so I have started to think about it. It’s normal, but it’s OK. I love acting. I love to be an actor. I love it so much I will never stop to be an actor. I can’t.
Has your acting improved over time?
I’m a better actor since I became a producer.
Because I’m more distracted from my job; I’m less obsessive as I have so many other things to do. I like those movies where you forget the camera and you don’t know or care where the camera is, you are just into the movie and at the end you don’t have to say, “What a wonderful director.”
Maybe the director tells you 20 times to repeat the same scene. Does an actor have to be very patient?
It depends who you are. That is why I try to make the first take good. Sometimes less is more.
Is it your ambition to act in Italian films, or would you like to act in America or elsewhere?
Yes, absolutely. I’m open to work with everyone, as I always did. But I don’t want to go away from Italy.
Are you very attached to Italy?
Yes, this wonderful country; and I want to make good films in Italy. There is something we can do. I will try.
You never wanted to be a director?
No, I don’t have this ambition. I think it’s more useful if I continue to be a producer.
Are you also an actor in life?
Good actors don’t act in life. I live my life much more intensely than my career. Otherwise you have nothing to tell. I live my life with people, with my loves. I get on with my life. I’m a farmer too, so I live most of the time in the countryside and I like that. This is not something that comes from my family, who are not at all farmers. I became a farmer by myself, 100 kilometers away from my birth place in Andria.
Not far from Andria there is an incredible octagonal castle, Castel del Monte, built by the Emperor Frederick II in the 13th Century. Did you ever think about shooting a film inside Castel del Monte?
Yes, I thought about that many times. I do have a Frederick II project, and one day I will make it for sure.
That’s a great project for us to look forward to. Will you be Frederick II?
I will have to be.
Thank you very much for having been with us today.
Thank you so much. Bye bye.
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