SIMONA AND VALERIA TAKE YOU TO HOLLYWOOD
We have visited the Italian set of the latest movie by Sofia Coppola, the Oscar-winning director, whose cast includes the Ambassador of Belize, who has given us an advance behind-the-scenes account of the the secret behind the shooting of the movie: “Cameo parts are played by Simona Ventura and Valeria Marini: I was the one who suggested that Sofia should take Valeria.”
A piece of Italy has landed in Hollywood. Sofia Coppola, the Oscar-winning film director and daughter of the world famous film-director, Francis Ford Coppola, has just finished shooting her fourth full-length feature film, Somewhere. After a three-year absence from the screen she has come back with a movie that has attracted attention because it will also have an Italian flavour – not to say, an Italian mass appeal. The cast includes Simona Ventura and Valeria Marini, Nino Frassica and Laura Chiatri. It tells the story of Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff), a famous actor living a debauched and wild existence at Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, until he finds his 11-year-old daughter again (played by Elle Fanning, the sister of the better-known Dakota). He starts taking care of her, and this changes him. He intends take her to Italy to collect a Telegatto, which explains the “Italian TV” interlude. “Diva e Donna” was given its premiere screening on the set where this long-awaited movie (which is expected to be presented in Cannes) was shot, for which we had an exceptional guide: Nunzio Alfredo ‘Pupi’ D’Angieri, the Ambassador of Belize, and friend of the Coppola family, who improvised as an actor for the occasion, at the invitation of the director. The film was shot in Milan, between the luxurious Principe di Savoia hotel, the Teatro Smeraldo and Malpensa airport: Stephen Dorff grabbed a sandwich during a break in the shooting, and platinum blonde Elle Fanning could not stay still for a second, singing and joking with the film crew; Sofia Coppola took pictures of her two-year-old daughter, Romy, checking the shooting on a portable screen. The climate is relaxed. Behind the scenes are names of the likes of Harris Savides (director of photography, also for Gus Van Sant and Fincher) and Fred Roos (the producer of Apocalypse Now and The Godfather – Part II). The Americans in the cast include the actor Benicio Del Toro and the TV personality Chris Pontius, known thanks to the MTV Jackass series. In this new movie by Sofia Coppola, the television world seems to play an important part, and the Italian scenes bring in a touch of trash to the silver screen. Dance routines and a display of female bodies were shot, but whether it is reality or a parody will only be known when the movie reaches the cinemas next year.
Ambassador D’Angieri, what was your part in the film?
“I play the part of the hero, Johnny Marco’s Italian film producer: I follow him around and do all I can to help him when he reaches Italy. In the film I am called Pupi, and my wife is Jo Champa. Fiction here is almost a revival of reality when, in 2004 I took Francis Ford Coppola and his daughter to Telegatti as my guests here in Milan, and in this film, Sofia wanted to indulge is some personal reminiscences, “with great pleasure” she said. When I read the script I said, “But this has already happened!” And she smiled. The scenes were shot at the Principe di Savoia hotel where we also stayed in 2004 in the suite (the scenes of the prize-giving ceremony were set in the Teatro Smeraldo and not in the former Mazda Palace – our note). Sofia called me on the phone and said, “I have written a part for you. Are you interested?” I immediately agreed, for fun and friendship for the Coppola family.
How did you meet Francis Ford Coppola?
“He has two superb hotels in Belize. I met him in 1997 and we have remained close friends ever since. He is a very simple man even though he travels in his own personal aircraft. His great quality is that he loves his family more than himself. Perhaps we get on together because we share the same principles. My son, Teava, is 23 and went to the United States on an internship and stayed to with “uncle Francis”, who always sleeps at my house whenever he comes to Italy. I also recall that I helped him with the formalities to get an Italian passport: he is very keen to remember his origins. He has also bought a house in Bernalda, in Basilicata, the village where his grandparents came from, to turn it into another hotel.”
What kind of film director is Sophia? Is she the same person on the set as the Sofia you know in private?
“She has a very gentle approach, and always with a smile: she speaks quietly but with all this gentleness, she knows exactly what she wants. She is very meticulous, but manages to put everyone at their ease.”
Did it come as a surprise to you when she said that she wanted Simona Ventura and Valeria Marini to act in her movie? What part did they play?
“No, precisely because she wanted to link this film to Italian current affairs and to pay tribute to Italy. Sofia said that Simona Ventura was very “beautiful, nice”. She had taken advice and had chosen her without any hesitation because today she is Italy’s the most popular TV presenter. In the movie, she plays the part of the presenter of the Telegatti award ceremony, with Nino Frassica (in reality, in 2004, the Telegatti presenters were Gerry Scotti and Raffaella Carrà, but “when we contacted her to to play the part in the movie, she was otherwise engaged and had to turn it down”. But it was I who suggested Valeria. I thought that she would be an excellent choice and Sofia immediately agreed. She plays the part of the soubrette in the movie and dances around the hero on stage and sings a song to him, Allora che si fa, composed by Enzo Jannacci’s son, Paolo. It is quite extraordinary that a film director of Sofia Coppola’s calibre chose Italian actors in one of her films.”
Laura Chiatti also has a part in the cast. What character was chosen for her?
“She will play the part of the hero’s Italian mistress: just a common he met here in Italy, but who embarrasses him because his daughter is there with them. Sofia Coppola saw Laura on Marc Jacobs catwalk in Paris and was immediately taken by her.”
Was Sofia Coppola happy with the Italian shoots?
“Extremely happy. We always took dinner together and the atmosphere was always very friendly. We were all honoured to work with her, even those who had small parts, like Giorgia Surina (the former MTV presenter) who plays the part of a journalist, the film director Maurizio Nichetti, who collected another prize, and Silvana Zamparini (the daughter of Maurizio, the chairman of the Palermo football club) playing the part of my assistant.”
Did “scenes” break out between the prima donnas on the set?
“No. Simona Ventura also improvised as a film director on the set, giving some useful advice to Stephen Dorff who has to say one sentence in Italian: ‘Thanks to Pupi, thanks to you all: it has been an honour’. It was all great fun”.
Sofia Coppola’s films are often metaphorical. Are there any parallels between fiction and reality in Somewhere?
“The hero’s unruly life is certainly nothing like Francis Ford Coppola’s, but the young girl in the film might be Sofia: a daughter with an important father who sometimes feels that there is a distance between them, and wants to get closer to him.”
With the hero, Stephen Dorff
Milan. Stephen Dorff (‘Blade’), 98, ‘Public Enemies’, 09, aged 36, the leading actor in ‘Somewhere’, seen here in a scene with Pupi D’Angieri.
Above: left to right, Valeria Marini, Nino Frassica, 58, and Simona Ventura, during shooting.
Parabiago (MI), the Italian-American director, Francis Ford Coppola, 70, at the home of Nunzio Alfredo D’Angieri.
Havana (Cuba). Ambassador D’Angieri talking to Fidel Castro, 83.
Wives between fiction ad reality
Milan. Above, during the shooting, Jo Champa as Pupi D’Angieri’s wife in ‘Somewhere’.
Right, The Ambassador of Belize with his real-life family, his wife, Wendy, 49 and sons, Stephan, 21, left, and Teava, 22.
Life on set
Milan, during a break in the shooting, between the actor Stephen Dorff and Jennifer Iacono, dancer in the second edition of ‘Amici’, who is also in the cast. Right, Simona Ventura and Valeria Marini on the set talking to the choreographer, Brian Bullard, 56.