|The cast and filmmakers of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in Rome|
How did you get into acting?
When I first moved to New York in the 90’s, I worked in the textile business, and I also modeled. After four years, a friend of mine, Justin Chambers, who went on to “Grey’s Anatomy”, suggested that I take an acting class. I was already curious about acting. The town I come from in Italy doesn’t offer much in terms of acting, but I did work a bit in theater and I was in school plays. I never thought that I could make a career out of acting, though.
You played the role of Dante Grimaldi on the soap opera, “As the World Turns”. Tell me about that experience. Did you enjoy working on a soap opera?
It was a great experience to work on a daily basis! I thought, ‘Wow I can actually do this for a living.’ I was also doing some guest appearances on Sex & The City around that time. On “As the World Turns”, I played a villain, which meant that I had to observe other actors because there is a certain way of playing this kind of role. There are tricks of the trade that you have to learn. I worked on the show from May – September of 2001. Then I moved to Los Angeles for a while.
What was it like to work with Ferzan Ozpetek on his 2001 film, “Le fate ignoranti”?
Ozpetek is a great director, a genius. It was an intense experience for me because I was just starting out. It was my first movie and I was working with this big ensemble cast of very established actors, so at times I felt a little lost and a little lonesome.
How does the experience of working on an Italian film differ from that of working on an American film?
Well now I’ve been working for a while in Italy, so people know me there and they have an opinion about me. I am not so known to American audiences, so I find it liberating not to be recognizable. The environment when working on an American film is much more relaxed and professional. There’s also such a wide range of characters to play in America, so many different genres of films. I do my audition tapes in Italy and send them via internet, so when I go to the studio, my camera guys are excited to see what kind of audition we’ll be doing that day. When I auditioned for the movie, “Surrogate”, I was thinking how I could be robotic. During the “When in Rome” shoot, we just had so much fun. I worked with some big caliber actors on that film, and they always made feel comfortable. It seemed like I had always worked with them. We went out to dinner every night together and just laughed and had such a great time. When we were shooting the Italy scenes, it was like a big road trip. American productions are like a big machine, very hands on at every level from production to publicity. In Italy, people tend to keep to themselves.
Which brings me to my next question about “When in Rome”, tell me about your character in that film.
I play an Italian guy that moved to America and fell in love with an American girl. We get engaged and decide to get married in Rome, so we take our friends and family there for the wedding. When I sent my audition tape, I actually prepared two types of characters, one who was more like me, just an average guy, and the other, who was more of the stereotypical Italian 'guido'.
Speaking of that “guido” character, there has recently been some controversy with an MTV show here in the United States with their portrayal of Italian Americans. How do you feel about the stereotype that many Mafia films and television shows in the U.S. portray?
I think that “The Sopranos” crystallized the portrayal of Italian Americans in the U.S. and people should take distance. MTV is trying to sell commercials, and in Reality TV, nothing sells better than a good fight. It’s a bad judgment call made by the producers, the studios and the kids on the show. Those types of shows send a wrong message and should be taken with a grain of salt.
“When In Rome” is your second American release in a year. Now that you’re working more and more outside of Italy, are there any directors that you’d like to work with in the future?
Oh, there are so many! I really like Sam Mendez. He is a brilliant director. I loved his film, “Away We Go.” It was beautiful and delicate. I’d also like to work with Wes Anderson. He’s one of my favorite directors. He belongs to that independent school of filmmaking. There are many others, too. So, I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.
"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." is slated for release on August 14th. In the meantime, check out the trailer-