You are obviously from Italy. But you are well known and your work is mostly appreciated in USA and Europe namely for Apocalypto, Moulin Rouge, Troy, Gangs of New York, The dreamers, Dolores Clairborne, The last temptation of Christ, Ginger and Fred… to name a few. You have been working with great directors and actors.
What do you think a director should say to you to inspire you to give your best?
I’ve always tried to read into the director’s mind and to try and understand what he/ she wants. A good director must give clear indication at all times, for all the team to be at the service of the film. That’s the director’s job: to know how to indicate to his/her collaborators what is going to be the image of each scene, not the one that we create but the one that has been thought out beforehand. The colaboration betweeen the team is important inorder to achieve success. No one can create if they don’t take in account the story itself and the desired images that that are thought to be the right ones. Cinema and TV are chains of creative work.
Which scene surprised you the most in Borgia 1 when you were filming?
The quality of Borgia lasted for 12 months, to choose one scene would be difficult. All the actors bring so much that each day is always a surprise and a challenge. For us, it is a pleasure to see great actors who come into their roles so easily. We decorate the actor to help him/her to enter in action, not only phisically but spiritually. But is up to the actor to bring the carácter to life. The art of the performer is to transvestite, to transform, to play another person, and that’s is also a wonderful and amusing experience.
What is the best hint you’d like to give a new generation of actors in relationship to the hair department?
I think hairdressing is the architect of the aesthetic image. The actor can always give indications because he/she knows best the internal and external traits of the character, but we are the frame of a face who tells the story. The hair designers and the actors have been expressing art for very long time. Even in the Ancient World, the actors who wore masks had their hair dressed by their hair designers. The hair is the external part of our body where we can see sensitivity. Hair has a soul and a life of its own. Actors and hair designers have to learn to develop their creative work cultivating immagination.
In a period movie or a TV series, do you think a good actor is the one who’d like to research the hair of that period and work with you on the making and appearance of your role?
The young actors have sometimes difficulty to entry in a foreign context, but to play a role is a game. The actor is a “buffone” as Mastroianni so many times said. And he /she needs elements to feel he is the role. The period dress help them also, because is an element that defines sometimes how to breath, how to seat or walk.
The actor must learn how to be comfortable in a period dress, in fact they have to feel dresses are not a costume but a dress.
What is the nicest compliment an actor/ actress had given you whilst working with you?
Actors have given me lots of nice words. We must be allies. I think the nicest thing I remember, was by director Bernardo Bertolucci, while I was working in Dreamers. He was looking and looking and I was really uncorfortable. At a certain point, I said: Bernardo if you look what I am doing, I can’t… I look at you when you work because you don’t have any prejudgement, you can change your ideas… To me, that meant a lot, he saw right through me, I felt free inmediately, that he understood me and I was free to confront any difficulty because I am concentrated only in my work.
What do you miss from those days in American and European cinema? Money or time? Creativity? Both?
Both things go together. You can’t pay for creativity . You either have it or you don’t. Money helps give creativity to make a project more interesting, you can complete the scenes with more ease. Time always goes together with money. More money you have, more time you have.
Can you indentify between the different traits of Italian, Czech and German crew members in Borgia?
Professionalism doesn’t have nationality. I ‘ve worked around the World and it is not a question of nationality. The professionalism is a way of living your own life. A good professional is a good professional everywhere in the World.
Being a hair artist, you have a close relationship with actors. Do you think, in general, good actors are good people? Does a good actor need to be intelligent to be a good actor?
To do well in any job, we need to be intelligent: to manage a career, to behave in the right way, suitable for the movie so they call you again. Some are smart and I enjoy watching them/ But they tend to be more selfish. Intelligence is rewarded. Being smart has an objective, being intelligent doesn’t. The actors from the Golden era, in America or in Italy, became Gods in an abstract World. However in the past years, I’ve met many different attitudes; Crazy people, normal people. But actors/ actresses are always a slightly different. Basically, they are special people who work with their imagination, recreating personalities of others, an actor invests in an attitude. I don’t think that the good actors are schizophrenic or must have complicated personalities to succeed as actors. I am someone who believes that their role has to appear only on set. I think a good actor continues to be himself when he is not acting.
During your career, you have created a team of hair artists who learn from you in USA and Italy. How do you choose your collaborators? What are you looking for in a young hair dresser? How do you think he/ she has to behave on set? Dedication? Good mood? Effort? Tecnique?
True, throughout these years I’ve trained lots of people… I think I have given all of them something more. I think that whilst everyone is working they keep me in mind, but all of them have their own personal criteria about their job. I would like to think that they have wonderful posibilities and potential, that they are polite people, that they do know how to relate to the rest of the crew and with the actors because this job is a form of expression. We create with our hands, but also with our mind, hands cannot work without the head … I choose them because I appreciate how they are, because I know they can help with something different that I don’t have specifically for that job.
I have felt working with you, that positive creative tension every time you were thinking about a new style for all the actors. Each hair style is a new challenge for you, what is the criteria you follow to consider a hairstyle finished and a job well done?
It is a difficult question. I don’t know if I have a criteria in my thoughts or that it’s a wide vision that can change, it’s never a precise way. I work from my guts, it is my instinct that brings me to do something. It is the instinct that helps me. I can’t plan it the day before, everything is shaped on the very morning I am working with a real face, when I am creating his/ her hair style. My thoughts don’t help me much. I read, I observe a painting, an image, I visualize it, I digest it and it helps me as a referent to create but finally, it serves me as a reference for rebuilding, but in the end, is what I do at the time is express myself.
In a period piece like Borgia, you mix so well what defines the period, what the character represents in the story and what suits the actor’s face. What do you think it comes first?
When we are working, we need to find a dimension between the story of what you want to say because it is the most important: to create an image that’s created by the actor but it needs to say precise things to define it. All the things you said are important to take into account. Not one must exclude the other. For me, refining the period through hair is essential but the way an actor/actress carries my work is also very important. The actor must feel great… it is a way of representing my work. Images fill our lives. The director sets up the objectives but we all are the creative context that must collaborate with the image. When I try to create a character, I want to center it on the character, the style of the movie, because to make a nice hairstyle for a wrong character, does not help anything. The context goes together with his/ her face, they have to go together.
You have worked now for more than a year with Spanish actress Assumpta Serna. What would you say is the best definition of her and the character she’s playing?
I think that as a person, Vannozza’s character is wonderful. Assumpta resembles Vanozza’s character because she is a fusion of the two things. Assumpta had entered into the role of this “mamma” who has a big pain to send her children to be educated away from home. But at the same time, she wants power for her sons and daughter. Assumpta is so in tune with Vannozza that for me she is the same person. She is a true “mamma” of the Cinquecento, who creates a matriarcado, a very precise role in that period, where the women had a subtle but strong power.
You are working also with Scott Cleverdon, who plays the great Spanish Captain, Gonzalo de Córdoba. What can you say about both?
I was really amused by the idea that a Scotttish man is representing a role so well known as quinta essentially Spanish. He is a great actor. What really amused me most is to see him arrive on set with his kilt to play a Spanish role. To have seen him then talking English with a Spanish Accent, with his big, imposing figure, striked me. Scott is also very positive, he has a great sense of humor.