|Interviewing Verdone in 2010|
The documentary film, “Showbiz” premiered at the Festa del Cinema in Rome this past October. Actor Valerio Mastandrea produced the film to show a different perspective and perhaps a more realistic side of Paolo Sorrentino’s “La Grande Bellezza.” The story follows four eccentric characters, two in the twilight of their careers and the other two constantly reinventing themselves to stay afloat. Enter Stefano Natale, Verdone’s muse and inspiration behind “Leo” and “Mimmo.” Director Luca Ferrari presents Natale as a soft-spoken gentle giant that recalls Verdone in the same nostalgic, affectionate tone that Verdone spoke to me about Sordi and Leone. He shows old pictures of the two of them together and does hilarious impressions of Verdone impersonating him. Although each character in the documentary is surrounded by noise and people while they’re working, they return to their empty houses where they eat alone. Natale’s character made a strong impression on me because even in his moments of solitude, he has a natural aloof humor about him. He’s also a painter. His beautiful, colorful portraits line the foyer of his home. He talked about his methods of painting and took us through the creation of one of his pieces.
A few hours after the film, I ran into Natale on the festival grounds and asked him if he had a few moments for an interview. We ended up spending more than an hour together. I think he’s a real treasure and I can see why Verdone drew so much inspiration from him. Meeting Stefano Natale made my experience come full-circle. Just knowing that there is a real endearing person behind this onscreen character. I highly recommend watching these films and the interviews with Natale. Most are available on YouTube. I guarantee they will make the artistic and cultural side of your life more rich and meaningful.
Stefano Natale and I are working together on a series of recollections that will bring together the nostalgia of the past and his passion for the present. The project will be published in my cinema column in Chicago’s Fra Noi Magazine next Fall in time for the 2016 edition of Rome's Festa del Cinema .