Check out episode twenty-two of Richard’s web series, “In Isolation With…” It’s the talk show where we make a connection without actually making contact! Today, broadcasting directly from Isolation Studios (a.k.a. my home office), we meet actor James Purefoy, direct from the south west of England, via Zoom. If you were a fan of HBO’s “Rome,” you know him as joyfully decadent Roman general and politician Mark Antony. Perhaps you were a fan of “The Following,” which saw him play a college professor-turned-serial-killer and cult leader for three seasons opposite Kevin Bacon. The versatile actor has a list of credits as long as my arm including the film he joins me to talk about today, “Fisherman’s Friends.” No, it’s not about the cough drops… it is a is a good-natured crowd pleaser about a real life singing group from Cornwall in England who went from singing at the local pub, when they weren’t on the water making a living, to producing the biggest selling traditional folk album of all time. Purefoy plays Jim, the leader of the group, who was initially skeptical about their chances for success outside their tiny village. When we did this interview he was sitting in his garden, and proudly showed me all the produce he’s been growing since the beginning of the pandemic. That also means that from time to time you’ll hear a bird chirping or a bit of wind… it’s not your speakers, it’s just nature on Purefoy’s property.
“I’ve become so inured and disappointed towards marketing people and advertising people,” he says in the interview, “what they’ve done to projects that I’ve been in where you go, “I can’t believe you even watched it, and yet you’ve come up with this poster. Do you know anything about this show?” So I think that one becomes a little cynical about that kind of thing and I think the answer to that is just to really be present between action and cut, and that that’s the thing. That’s the only really, really pure bit of job that I’m really interested in. That’s what I love doing. And the fame? Keep it. It really doesn’t bother me. If I can keep doing what I’m doing and not be vastly famous, then I’m really happy with that. That’s OK.”
Watch the whole thing HERE on YouTube or HERE on ctvnews.ca!
From Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni splashing around in the waters of the Trevi Fountain in La Dolce Vita to Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s romantic street tour in Roman Holiday the Eternal City has provided some of the cinema’s most unforgettable images.
According to Italian director Federico Fellini, “Rome is the most wonderful movie set in the world.” Now with the release of Angels & Demons, shot on location in Rome, a new industry has emerged from the ancient city — movie tourism.
Patrizia Prestipino, head of Rome’s provincial department of tourism told the New York Times that “a film like this could re-launch American tourism. For us it’s like free advertising.” And it’s marketing that seems to be working. Tour groups like the Angels & Demons Path of Illumination Tour, angelsanddemons.it, Sienna Reid’s Angels and Demons Tour, italyhotline.com, and the Rome Angels and Demons Half-Day Tour, viatour.com, have been enjoying brisk business with packages that range from $75 per person to $550 for a personal excursion.
If you’re not a tour group kind of person you can arrange your own expedition of Rome’s Angels and Demons locations and other cinematic sites with a good map from your hotel’s concierge.
(Take note that several of the places mentioned in the book are not geographically accurate. It’s best to do some internet research before hitting the streets.) Here are some good starting points:
Built between 135 and 139 by the Roman Emperor Hadrian Castel Sant’ Angelo not only figures in the climax of Angels & Demons, but also has a spectacular panoramic view of Rome. The castle can also be seen in Roman Holiday’s barge scene.
Santa Maria della Vittoria
Santa Maria Della Vittoria is the setting for Angels &?Demons’ most gruesome and exciting scene — the “fire” killing — but in reality is the home to the beautiful Bernini sculpture of the ecstasy of St. Theresa.
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi
Located at the center of Piazza Navona the ornate The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (“Fountain of the Four Rivers”) is one of Bernini’s most famous works and the backdrop for the film’s “water” assassination.
Other Rome movie must-sees include:
Mouth of Truth
The Mouth of Truth located in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The carved, grinning stone face which purportedly bites off the hands of liars most famously appeared in Roman Holiday but can also be seen in Only You starring Robert Downey Jr.
At almost 26 metres high the Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fount in Rome and the inspiration for the 1954 hit song and movie Three Coins in the Fountain. Every day tourists throw almost 3,300 euros into the fountain — legend says that visitors who toss a coin into the fountain are guaranteed a return to Rome—money that is donated to charity.
Movie lovers will find much to see in Rome and many memories to take home. As Audrey Hepburn said in Roman Holiday, “I will cherish my visit here in memory for as long as I live.”
While sitting atop the Castel Saint Angelo in Rome waiting to interview Angels & Demons star Ewan McGregor, I had a panoramic view of the city and the beautiful chaos that makes life in the Eternal City tick.
The traffic is crazy and there are people everywhere. It’s an intense place, even more so, I imagined, if you were shooting a big budget Hollywood picture that takes place in some of the city’s busiest spots.
“The funny thing is I didn’t shoot any of it in Rome,” McGregor said when asked. “I shot in this place called Caserta. There’s a palace in Caserta that I thought it sounded really romantic, so I arranged for my wife to come over and spend a weekend with me, but it’s a dump, a horrible place. I’m sorry but it’s just a suburb of Naples that’s exploded around this old palace. It’s really nasty. Not a good place.
“Apart from that I did most of my stuff in L.A. because my character is mainly inside the Vatican and of course, the Vatican didn’t want us to shoot inside their buildings so they built the Sistine Chapel on the Sony soundstages in L.A. They also built the exterior of St. Peter’s Square, this huge, huge set, in the parking lot of Hollywood Park Racetrack in south L.A. That was cool. I saw it from an airplane. I was landing at LAX and I looked down and thought, ‘God, that’s a big set… look at that.’ Then I realized it was ours.”
Despite never having stepped foot in an actual church during the shoot, McGregor convincingly pulls off the roll of Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, a priest who acts as the pope’s right hand man in the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel.
“We had a priest from New Jersey who came over and was our religious advisor for any of the technical things,” McGregor said, “the ceremonies and the ritual stuff. But he also gave us a kind of idea of what would be going on behind the scenes during those ceremonies and humanized it for us.
“It looks so precise from the congregation’s point of view but in actual fact behind the table there is a guy with matches trying to light the incense. He put that into it for me which was great.”
The training paid off, he says, at least superficially.
“I didn’t get to understand the meaning of all the ceremonies; why everything is in a certain order, but I did learn enough to look like I knew what I was doing, hopefully.”
According to Italian director Federico Fellini, “Rome is the most wonderful movie set in the world.” A quick IMDB check reveals thousands of movies shot in the ancient city—everything from forgettable fare like The Exorcism of Baby Doll to classics like The Bicycle Thief. The latest movie to use the Eternal City as a backdrop is When in Rome, a new Kristen Bell rom com opening this weekend.
The most famous Rome scenes in cinema are arguably Gregory Peck teasing Roman Holiday’s Audrey Hepburn by putting his hand in the Mouth of Truth, which purportedly bites off the hands of liars, and La Dolce Vita’s iconic image of Anita Ekberg standing in the Trevi Fountain but for my lira the famous last scene of Fellini’s Roma is the most spectacular.
The sight of a gang of motorcyclists driving through the city, past such landmarks as the Colosseum, the Capitoline Museum and the Forum, is breathtaking. Actress Claudia Ruspoli says it was an eye opener for Italians as well.
“Rome used to be a dark city; the monuments unlit,” she said. “When Fellini shot Roma that summer, the monuments were all lit and we saw them at night for the first time. Beautiful!”
A grittier vision of Rome appears in Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City. Mixing documentary footage of German troops on Rome’s streets with a fictionalized story of Italian resisters on the lam from the Gestapo Rossellini created a new film genre—Italian neo-realism—and by moving the camera outside studio walls, using real locations, available light and nonprofessional actors, provides a real life glimpse of war ravaged Rome.
More polished than Rome, Open City is Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief. It’s still neorealist, but where Rossellini struggled to cobble together bits of film stock to complete his film, resulting in an uneven look, Bicycle Thief is beautifully photographed. The story of a poor man searching for the person who stole his bike plays like a walking tour of late 1940s Rome.
Since then hundreds of films have shot on the streets of Rome and while the city has been kind to the movies, the movies have also been kind to Rome. Patrizia Prestipino, head of Rome’s provincial department of tourism views any film set in Italy as “free advertising” and notes that the release of movies like Angels and Demons has created a new industry in the country—movie tourism.