I remember reading an article about Gianni di Gregorio making his big 2008 hit, Pranzo di Ferragosto (Mid-August Lunch), when Gianni was deciding who should play the lead character. He was talking to his crew and telling them that he needed an ordinary middle-aged guy that looks like he might be unmarried, unemployed and living with his mother and he noticed that everyone was staring at him – eventually he realized that everybody understood that he was that guy and that the part was his.
Pranzo di Ferragosto was written and directed by Di Gregorio, and luckily, he starred in it too, because he’s just perfect for the lead in the movie that almost didn’t get made. He wrote the extremely low-budget film (€500,000) in 2000 but couldn’t find the money for it until Matteo Garrone, director of Gomorrah, offered to produce it. (Di Gregorio co-wrote Garrone’s award-winning mafia movie).
I found this interview with Di Gregorio about his 2011 movie, Gianni e le Donne (which means Gianni and the women but was for some reason given the English title The Salt of Life. The US rights to The Salt of Life were acquired by Zeitgeist Films and will be released here in Spring 2012. It’s the story of a man in his 60s who goes into retirement and immediately realizes that he’s losing his identity. “There’s a big part of me in that film”, said Di Gregorio, “including the passivity. A few years ago women started to look at me less and it was a blow. I was hoping that with the success of my first film things would change but that didn’t happen!”
Di Gregorio’s life has been different in the last few years, as he himself says. “I am always very emotional, even if at my age you shouldn’t be. I have a lot of affection for my audience. Also I wasn’t used to traveling so much. My life was a lot more ordinary a few years ago.
Telling about meeting Matteo Garrone in 2000, determined to get his script to the director, he said, “With Matteo I went back in the street working with a movie camera, and becoming a director was very natural.
Of his great passion for cinema, he speaks of the beauty of its collective effort, “because a film is made by a lot of people and by yourself you can’t do anything”. He stresses the importance to involve young people, too often left out in Italy. And for those who want to make movies, he says to have fun with them and to never lose your spirit. “In life if you believe in something it will come, sooner or later.
For Di Gregorio, 63, an extraordinarily talented movie maker who has so far only given us two of them, he must know what he’s talking about. I’m sorry his movies didn’t come sooner instead of later.
And Gianni, I know that when you are talking about women not noticing you, you are referring to young women, because I am an older woman who knows all too well the invisibility that comes with age. But if it means anything to you, I think you are great. I think you are something really pretty special and can’t wait for more of your movies.