The Academy Award for ‘Cinema Paradiso’, theater and then again cinema and TV. The nomination for Nastri d’Argento for ‘Tolo Tolo’ directed by Checco Zalone and the daily appointment on Rai 1 with ‘Il Paradiso delle Signore’. Here is Antonella Attili, a Roman actress who brings Sicily on the stage and in her heart.
Q: Your very long career counts several movies, TV shows and theater. When did you start taking your first steps in this world?
A: I have a very eclectic career. In 1982 I was working as an extra in RAI, although I started playing at the theater when I was only 18. In the audience it also happened to be Giuseppe Tornatore, who before shooting ‘Cinema Paradiso’, came to understand what kind of actress I was. I went from avant-garde to popular theater, but even commercial. I moved from niche shows to ‘Duck in Orange Sauce’ with Lando Buzzanca, this has always been my characteristic. I’ve never tied myself to a genre. For a long time, I was considered the tragic mother of Italian cinema but then, I became even a comic actress. My witty side came out too late, after many years of being considered very dramatic.
Q: You just mentioned Tornatore, a key person in your life. Your career in movie industry began with an Academy Award for ‘Cinema Paradiso’. You played the role of the mother of the young Salvatore, how did this role come about?
A: This role arrived in a lucky year of my life, 1988. I was working at the theater and it was a magical year. I already knew that I had to go to Sicily for a show, when it happened that some friends introduced me to Tornatore during a dinner. When he saw me, he said I looked a lot like his aunt and although I was young, he asked me to do an audition for the role of Salvatore’s mother. Actually, I did many auditions, they also tried to make me play the role of the old mother that then they fortunately assigned to Pupella Maggio.
Q: Let’s talk about your new funny side. In this case, we cannot avoid mentioning ‘Tolo Tolo’ directed by Checco Zalone, although it is a different movie compared to his previous ones. This film brought you a nomination for the Nastri d’Argento. How was this experience?
A: Checco is not a very experienced director, he is not Tornatore and counts on a very good staff. But he is brilliant, intuitive, he has a unique ability in creating the best comical rhythms. To work with him, and even more to deal with him in general, it’s fantastic. He was able to make a different film compared to his previous ones, he risked a lot and faced enormous difficulties proving to have a remarkable personality. Although he was not helped by anyone, he completed his project. I really appreciate him, he’s a great man.
Q: Antonella Attili and her relationship with Sicily. It started with Tornatore and goes on even today with the character of Mrs. Amato in ‘Il Paradiso delle Signore – daily’ who is a perfect Sicilian woman. How is your bond with this island?
A: Sicily is a place where I often came back, like Apulia. I know dialects very well, I like to study them and it’s pretty easy for me. Many people think that I am Sicilian or from Apulia, just a few people know that I am from Rome. I have been to Sicily many times on tour, I have dear friends both in Palermo and in Panarea where I have always been going every year. I’ve just been close to Trapani to shoot a TV series. It is a bond based on beauty, Palermo is a city where I feel like home and there are many emotional connections with this island.
Q: Let’s talk about Agnese Amato, your character in ‘Il Paradiso delle Signore – daily’. In the first season she arrives in Milan with her daughter Tina (Neva Leoni) introducing herself as a classic lady from the 60s moving from the South. And now she flirts with her colleague, Mr. Armando (Pietro Genuardi). How has your character changed?
A: I did a lot to improve the screenplay, the authors don’t know it but I work a lot on the dialogues, I rewrite some scenes … I edit my character putting something personal. I strongly followed the evolution of Agnese, for example I insisted on changing her hairstyle and her way to get dressed. This woman has to run a family on her own, she is a matriarch but also invests energies on herself, she is emancipated. I really enjoy playing this role. Even in life, every restart is fascinating, more than boring and simple existences.
Q: What is one of the characteristics of this role? And how was the relationship with the young actors with whom you share the set?
A: I’ve never lived with a character for so long. I immediately established an excellent relationship with the guys, there was comprehension and affection. I lived Agnese on my skin, I also felt my fictional children very close and sometimes I scolded them if I felt that they were doing less than what they could actually do. I stimulated them, sometimes I sounded too hard maybe, some other times I conveyed great enthusiasm since I think I am working with talented actors. It was fair to be demanding!
Q: ‘Il Paradiso delle Signore – daily’, however, is a success and the audience loves it.
A: I didn’t think it was loved by so many young people. Our stories happen in the ‘60s, years that were full of beauty, with less violence and less stress. I believe that the best part of this series is to bring everything back to a human dimension that has often been lost in contemporary TV series. In ‘Il Paradiso delle Signore’ we describe strong and deep relationships. Before feelings explode, many episodes pass. Everybody can see themselves in the characters, moreover – since it’s a daily show – we follow the salient events that occurred: the rivalry between Coppi and Bartali, the first man on the Moon, etc. A simple way of talking about certain topics that sound interesting even for young people. Important emotions and feelings that must be lived.
Q: Antonella Attili and the cast, from social networks it seems that on the set of ‘Il Paradiso delle Signore – daily’ you and your colleagues live and share days like a family. Is it really like this?
A: There is a good atmosphere, there are true relationships, and it isn’t so obvious. Sometimes you can also take part in an interesting project but have to deal with hysterical colleagues or people who do not create harmony. At ‘Il Paradiso delle Signore’ we love and take care of what we do, in all departments.