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Marco Leonardi
Marco Leonardi at Venice Film Festival 2014
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Marco Leonardi and the success of “Black Souls” that opens in NYC

Marco Leonardi was born in Melbourne (Australia), but he’s very Italian and very fond of his homeland, Calabria. Acting since he was three years old, his breakout performance was in the film Cinema Paradiso, by Tornatore, that won the Oscar and in which he played the young Toto’. Then he starred in some American cult movies like From Dusk Till Dawn 3, Once upon a time in Mexico and Like water for chocolate, to name a few. Marco is an actor of great humility and extraordinary talent who, despite his successes, still acts in independent films, like the one we shot together last year in Rome and where I had the opportunity and the honor to work with him and get to know him. Today I reached him from New York in Puglia, where he is filming a new project, to make him talk about the success of Black Souls.

Marco Leonardi BLACK SOULS
Marco Leonardi BLACK SOULS

Marco let’s start right away with Black Souls, the intense film that  was awarded prizes in Venice 71 and has has been shown  in other important festivals in the world including the TIFF. Now on April 10th 2015 it opens here in New York at the Angelika Film Center. So besides the extraordinary cast, how would you explain the success of this movie in Italy and abroad?

 I think Black Souls is a different film in the genre of mafia movies. Here we wanted to tell more of the difficulties of those who choose a life that is not only made of “easy” money but it is a difficult lifestyle choice. Like all Italian mafia feuds it is a war that has no end, just a stupid gesture of a rebellious grandson to make sure that the flame that almost went out for many years almost will rekindle. With the death of a family member, the story takes a direction within this archaic Calabrian family, experiencing the drama and pain for the deceased. The ending of the film is really unexpected and it ‘was in fact a great find by the director and deviates from the usual and obvious vendetta that we often see in the movies of the Mafia. It is a film which leaves us reflecting, and despite the deaths of some characters it is a film that leaves hope for change in young people.

Black Souls
Scene from Black Souls

Black Souls is the demonstration that making an international film should not necessarily copy Americans or be made in the  English language, so I ask you why do you think in Italy there’s not  more ‘room for genre films like in other countries?

Surely Italy does not have a cinema as in the 50s, 60s, 70s etc but nevertheless manages to bring home the “Oscar” coveted by all. This makes me realize that Italian  talent exists and is internationally recognized and I am proud also because winning an Oscar can stimulate other producers to invest more in genre films. Now, the fact that that Italians do too much comedy and romantic films for teenagers is a reality. I think at this point people are starting again to have the desire to see more genre films or drama s just like Black souls.

What do you think of the American dream, since you’ve experienced it?

A dream in general must be part of a person ’cause dreaming is important. The American dream in the film business should be lived to know ways and preparations different from ours! Anyway back to the country of origin, sometimes this American experience can be a wildcard. You have to live life, experiences, but do not have high expectations because ‘if nothing happens, you’re not too disappointed and you can avoid the pain of not belonging.   Nothing ventured, nothing gained in life! Trying is legitimate!

Well said! After 9 years of living in Los Angeles, why did you decide to return to Italy?

There was no particular reason for my return to Italy, I just followed the flow of life! Today I live in Rome and I am married with two children.

I’m so happy and this is important for me!

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO – Marco Leonardi

Absolutely! What effect did it have starring in big Hollywood productions alongside actors like Johnny Depp or Antonio Banderas?

My experiences with Americans film studios were all positive. Having the opportunity to act in these adventures was extraordinary! Having big roles in the film in this genre is not easy but at the same time I was trying to keep my feet on the ground and thank the Lord for giving that to me! Sure, to be acting with movie stars like Banderas and Depp was a gift. Not just because they are extraordinary people and excellent actors but also ’cause I had the chance to learn a lot, especially from their professionalism’ and humility ‘, a feature that distinguishes most  American actors.

Among your films is there one in particular that you’re more connected to or that was crucial to your career?

Surely the film that I am  most fond of is Cinema Paradiso, not only for the quality of the film itself but because thanks to it really launched me! In fact, thanks to Tornatore I was chosen for the Mexican film Like water for chocolate by Alfonso Arau that was another worldwide success!

Marco what is success for you?

The real success is your own. That is, no matter how many movies you do or how much they have earned, the important thing is to feel satisfied in your ownsoul. This is the success of a man.

I totally agree with that! What is your next project?

Right now I’m on the train I’m getting close to Puglia where I will complete the filming of This is My Country a prime time Tv series for Rai 1.

In April I will start the shooting of a feature film and I hope to tell you soon the story for another interview on this cool magazine!

by Alessandro Parrello

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