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‘Great Beauty’ Actor Tony Cervelo: ‘We actors are empty vases that are filled and emptied after every role’

Invited to speak about his acting career during a master class at the 40th Turin Film Festival, Tony Servillo – whose credits include Academy Award winner “The Great Beauty,” Cannes Jury Prize winner “Il Divo” and “The King of Laughter” ’, which won him the Best Actor award at Venice – get rid of the clichés the actors held on to, such as their stigmas and the characters they played.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I haven’t kept any of them. We’re just empty vases filled and emptied. I’m always afraid to ask, ‘How did you get into Pirandello?’” [he plays the writer Luigi Pirandello in Roberto Andò’s new film, ‘La Stranezza’] How did you get in? Well, through the door! ”

Servillo believed that there were many myths about these roles that would later prevent the actor from being himself again. “To identify with the character, the actor tries to control a stir that, if it doesn’t own you, doesn’t allow you to do that work, that work that consists of filling and emptying yourself, losing yourself and finding yourself again. Once you lose yourself in a character, you find yourself Again and the personality disappears.

Cinema Romano, the oldest cinema in Turin, was full of young people on Saturday night to hear Cervillo, considered one of the greatest actors in the world. In December 2021, The New York Times ranked him number seven on their list of the 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century. A few minutes before the event started, the line in front of the cinema seemed endless, and the atmosphere became charged as some feared not being able to get in. “Without any false modesty, I really didn’t think I would get much attention from people,” Cervelo said, at the start of the keynote talk, after taking his place in front of the audience, next to Steve Della Casa, the director from the festival.

The Italian actor seemed almost embarrassed by the name of the event, and hastened to correct it: it was not a major topic, but a discussion with the audience. “If I have to teach something to a young actor, I cannot sit here. I must first be challenged, that is, I must go on stage, face the audience with a script. Without that, I have nothing to teach him.”

However, he wasn’t stingy with good advice for the next generation: “Don’t wait for someone to put you on the market. You have to put yourself out there. You have to be determined, to push, to wrong. You can’t just sit and wait.” Creating his own opportunity, Cervelo began his career on the big screen: “Cinema came somewhat late in my life, but in a very beautiful way. It was an important human adventure because in our theater company the idea of ​​making a film was born. So, in the same way we were made Theater independently, our first film was also independent.”

For Cervillo, the theater is not the waiting room for cinematic success. Furthermore, he said he considers himself more of a theatrical man, even if he works in both fields. “I really believe that an actor is able to illuminate a film, just like a director of photography or a music composer. But the person who puts the deep content of the film into the heart of the viewer is the director. Whereas in the theatre, it is the actor who can do that.”

Why did he want to do this job? “One chooses such a path because one has a problem with being in the world. Some express it by writing poems, painting, or playing music. For me, it was through theater. Being part of a company, or a community, was a response to an identity crisis that corresponds to Post-puberty: You don’t know what you’re doing in the world, you wonder about others, about the future, about your own imperfections.

In the Servillo house, no one had been an actor before him. But the extended family members were “great spectators.” They often got together to see Eduardo de Filippo’s plays together on television: “One evening I well remember looking around and feeling a wound, so real life and the life acted out by the actors were so close.” For him, this profession must be selfless above all else, he reminds those who wish to follow in his footsteps, “You have to practice it without imagining that you will gain much. All these things come later, or even after a long time.”

The artist spoke passionately about his work, and also talked about music. He has directed scores of operas, and was keen to point out the importance of rhythm to an actor’s game: “It allows you to know exactly where you are in relation to the other characters. So music is a platform that you have to cultivate.” Perhaps this is the art he loves most: “When I travel and get to a city, if I have a choice between a concert, a movie, or an opening, I’ll go to the concert. I can’t be thankful enough for music to have this power to move us into a state of being.” They send your thoughts in all directions.” He added, “I am more pleased to read biographies of great conductors than actors. Mosul’s narcissism quotient is generally lower.”

For Servillo, acting also means knowing the text inside out. He sets up his scenes in such a way as to develop a mechanism, training his “emotional muscles” to be able to deliver the script as naturally as possible when “Action!” reverberation. “I always try to know exactly where I stand in a story. In a movie as in a play, it’s important to distinguish between a character and a role. A character is what you play, it’s someone you have a very intimate, personal relationship with. A role is what your character says or does to other characters, even When they’re not on stage. That’s why you need to know the script and other people’s lines. You also have to know the whole story line because sometimes we shoot the end of the movie before the beginning.”

While everyone has their own style, he explained that he approaches his characters by looking at them from below: “In the beginning, my relationship with them is always one of great shyness. I have to make an effort to reach them, I have to rise to them.”

With the exercises, this initial distance is gradually reduced: “The ideal is when the energies that come from the complexity of this personality and the energies that you put into interpreting it meet at their apogee.”

The main show ended with an emotional moment for Cervillo, when a spectator, invited to ask the last question of the evening, preferred to speak from his heart: “You are one of those great actors, who plays, both in the theater and in the cinema, always giving the feeling of being thought before others. And I think you are too In life “. He thanked Cervelo deeply: “That’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me!” He thought this might come from his start with a band, a community where you “take out some of your narcissism” and from his family. “I also believe that an actor makes himself available to an audience. He must ‘crush’ himself; that is, he breaks himself down into small pieces so that he can reach as many viewers as possible. I learned this by seeing great actors in roles and I felt grateful to them.” .