My fi rst encounter with cinecittà goes back many years ago to when i was just 17.
i was studying at the academy of Fine arts and my dream was to become an art director for cinema. For me, a country lad, entering that hallowed place was like a dream. From then on, the fascination of those walls has never left me. i remember that, back then, cinecittà was an isolated place, in the middle of the countryside. The tram arrived in front of the studios, then turned round and went back again. over the years, the surrounding landscape has changed, entire neighborhoods have grown up around cinecittà , but the studios have remained intact, impenetrable.
in ’69, aft er working as art director on “medea” with Pier Paolo Pasolini, following a long assistantship, Federico Fellini off ered me a chance to work with the great Danilo Donati on “Rome”. i had assisted on “Fellini – satyricon” and he liked my work. i didn’t feel i could accept on that occasion. i remember that i said to him: call me again in ten years’ time, because my career has just started. he kept his promise because ten years (and many fi lms) later, Fellini’s call arrived. We met at night underneath a streetlight, at cinecittà , and he asked me to work on his next movie. it was “orchestra rehearsal – Prova d’orchestra” and was the beginning of an association which was to last over ten years and produce fi ve movies. an association which was inextricably linked to the studios on Via Tuscolana.
The walls, the stages of cinecittà played a very important role in Fellini’s life. it was the venue designated to represent his interior world. Federico loved rebuilding everything inside the studio, because he had a very personal type of vision, a dreamed-of dimension, far removed from real proportions. however, every now and again we would say: let’s do some location hunting, and we went around the restaurants. With the excuse of location hunting we always ended up at a table in a restaurant. aft er we had eaten we would decide it was better to make fi lms at cinecittà and went home. i remember that, every day, on the dot, Fellini asked me to tell him about my dreams and i didn’t know what to say to him. Then i understood that he wanted me to invent something and so i started to imagine whatever i thought he wanted to hear, to create custom-made dreams. and so, during the hour’s journey i had to make every morning to get to cinecittà , i would think up things to say to him “¦ he knew i wasn’t telling the truth, but it was like a test, a game between us. and seeing as i came from the country, my stories always struck a chord with him. i did my own personal “amarcord” for him.
my meeting with martin scorsese also took place in the studios on Via Tuscolana, on the set of “city of women – città delle donne”. he came to visit Fellini with his parents and isabella Rossellini, who he had just married in Rome. i remember that Federico got some chairs out so that they could watch the fi lming and it was very amusing because the scene being shot was set inside a brothel and scorsese was there on honeymoon, with his mother and father “¦ That is where we met, then he called me to make two movies together but i was always busy, until “The age of innocence”, which was the beginning of our wonderful working relationship. When we started talking about “gangs of new york”, we immediately started thinking about where we could shoot a movie set in late 19th century new york. i started designing the movie sets at cinecittà and then went to see scorsese in Venice, where he was presenting his documentary on the italian movie industry and i suggested he come to Rome to visit the stages and backlots for the outdoor scenes. We arrived on a sunday aft ernoon, the studios were naturally deserted and we could see the spaces available. i said to him: this is the place. Then we went to eat at the “la cascina” restaurant, which is right opposite the studios. i worked very hard on that fi lm, the set design took almost a year and a half to prepare whilst the construction work at cinecittà took fi ve, six months. it was an enormous set because we reconstructed three entire neighborhoods of new york, all the ships, as well as the indoor and outdoor scenes of the fi lm. it was a huge job and very satisfying to have been able to fi lm it at cinecittà .
i have had my studio at Via Tuscolana for thirty years now. i would like to bring all my movies here “” as we did for some big names like “The name of the rose” by Jean-Jacques annaud and “The adventures of Baron munchausen” with Terry gilliam “” because it is the place i love the most and it is important that international cinema, as well as italian cinema, enters these walls. cinecittà is a place of culture of which there are very few in the world, our own unforgettable piece of history. i think these places need to be protected and supported. Because they are not just history but “” above all “” they are the present and the future.
Cinema&Video International 5-2007