Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Franco Nero: “I am not a spaghetti western actor”

By Aline Marie Rodriguez
June 5, 2018

Among the rush of a film set, makeup artists, assistants, props and technicians move from one place to another with water, costumes, scripts. Outdoor recordings have the calm and countdown of an hourglass.

The actor arrives in a ‘57 and a half Ford while the technical team awaits him. He puts on his costume and while waiting for the makeup artist, he stares in the mirror, as if trying to catch the essence of his character. Thus, half characterized, Garbos spoke exclusively with the renowned actor Franco Nero, icon of Italian cinema, who these days recorded in Havana his most recent movie Havana Kyrie.

"This is my sixth visit to Cuba," he says as soon as we begin the dialogue. The first time was in 1980, making a great film by the Russian director, awarded the Oscar, Sergey Bondarchuk. That time we had to travel from Moscow to Mexico City to work. We made a stop in Havana and it was when I said that I would like to stay here for a couple of days”.

The hustle and bustle of that movie Campanas Rojas (1982), by Bondarchuk, made Franco discover the Island. Since that date he has returned several times. “I have come twice, in past years, on vacation and last November the Cinemateca de Cuba organized a week with my films”. At that time and within the framework of the twentieth Week of Italian Culture, the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba recognized its worthy contribution to world cinema with the Tomás Gutiérrez Alea Prize.

Now he has been recording “Havana Havana” for five weeks in Havana, by Italian director Paolo Consorti. His character Vittorio is an orchestra conductor who travels to Cuba - to direct the play Kyrie Eleison, by Rossini - after many years he discovers that he has a son. Days that he himself confesses have been strenuous.

”This is the first time I have come to film in Cuba. I felt very good. The movie is very hard. I have worked 12 hours a day, with an average of 7 or 8 daily scenes. The rain has been here the whole month of May, the conditions have not been very good, but we have done it”.

The story has been filmed in Italy and Havana. The cast includes the actors Jacqueline Arenal and Jorge Perugorría, as well as the American Ron Perlman, who share roles with the novel Andros Perugorría.

From the assistants to the cameramen and producers, Franco has felt comfortable working with the Cuban team. “The Cuban troop - sure - has been very good, very nice, gentle, warm, affectionate and above all very professional”.

For those who comb gray hair and enjoyed it on the big screen, Franco Nero is a star of the spaghetti western genre. However, he is not considered an actor recognized for these works. Of the 220 films he treasures in his filmography, only 10 - precisely - belong to that genre that was very popular in the 60s and 70s of the last century.

“I am not a spaghetti western actor. I have made all kinds of genres in the world. I am the only actor who has made characters of 30 different nationalities. I have worked with great directors such as Luis Buñuel, Claude Chabrol, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, among others. And I've also done westerns. But I am not a western actor. And they are not my greatest movies. My great movie, if I had to choose, was Camelot.” he says categorically.

Despite this, the film for which he was and continues to be known in Cuba is Django, directed by Sergio Corbucci. The 1966 work is considered one of the great classics of the western genre. Such is the case, that in 2012 it was Quentin Tarantino's inspiration to create Django Unchained, a film in which Franco also participated, playing the slave-owner Amerigo Vessepi.

“That film has had incredible success worldwide,” he explains, “because after 50 years Tarantino has made a remake, in his own way, of the original Django. In the first version the oppressed people were the Mexican peons and in the Tarantino people they are the blacks. I liked to appear in a cameo because Tarantino confessed to me that throughout his life he had been a fan of mine and I wanted me to be in his movie. I felt very good because he is great and very funny.

With the same affection with which he refers to Tarantino, he also recalls the directors with whom he has worked throughout his extensive career. As he himself affirms there have been many and diverse film currents. “I can't choose a director, because everyone has a different thing. I've never had problems. Everyone I've worked with has liked to make movies with me. I have many experiences”, he says.

This is given by Franco's own desire to be a director. Yearning that has been able to materialize, although he remembers with sympathy that from a young age they always "saw my face and said no, that I was an actor".

On the experience of directing, he says that it is also the result of “personal inspiration because if you have talent and want to be a director, it is how to write a book. In the cinema you must tell a story”.

In addition to directing, he has also produced, written, edited about twenty films, including Outside the Society (1970), Jonathan degli orsi (1994), No Invitation (1999), Forever Blues (2005) and Love Island (2014 ).

”The best film directors are the actors. Remember Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton and then Richard Attenborough, Fassbinder, the new generation of Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford; in Italy, Vittorio De Sica and Pietro Germi. We have a great experience and can guide the actors better than the rest”.

Being an absolute connoisseur of the film universe, to which he has dedicated his entire life, today Franco feels at home on a film set. It does not matter the geographical place, nor the language, nor the most adverse climate. “I feel like a director, also screenwriter and actor –confess–. I like everything. I am a real movie man”.

The time is shortened. Filming is like that. Ten minutes of dialogue to summarize a life dedicated to the seventh art. In the walkie talkies I hear his call to the set. Before finishing our dialogue, he announces that he will soon film again in the streets of Havana, a city that has captivated him. He will star in the script of an American who until now is entitled Black beans and rice and in which he is working with producer Gabriel Beristain, creator of the company Vedado Films.

His apparent calm before each scene, his tranquility when he is made up and combed, the bearing of his figure on the set is imposed. The cinema has been his life and he has delivered part of himself in every roll, frame, film. As a last confession, as a creed of a life he says that “cinema is like a big city, where people of different colors and races live. They all have their home and their dreams. The cinema will continue to exist as long as people continue to dream. Cinema is also freedom”.

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