"I'm gonna do like Julia Roberts now: I go to Rodeo Drive and buy some clothes." Paolo Virzì
flew from Italy to Los Angeles for the promotion of The Leisure Seeker
, but his luggage went lost. "And the premiere is tonight." Going shopping might be a good idea as Rodeo Drive is close and interviews take place in the very hotel of Pretty Woman
. However, Virzì's film is far from Hollywood stereotypes. As the director says, "I don't see it as an American film. I made an Italian film in the US. I brought my crew with me, the cinematographer is Luca Bigazzi. The art director is American instead, Richard A. Wright: I love some small films of his, his languid and melancholic landscapes.
The landscapes of a journey from Boston to Key West, with a couple driving an old 1973 van. Ella and John (Helen Mirren
and Donald Sutherland
) have been married from fifty years: he's a former literature professor suffering from Alzheimer, she's a clear-headed woman with a terminal cancer. Based on the novel by Michael Zadoorian, The Leisure Seeker
tells of a rebellion - against the everyday life, against suffering, against medical treatments at all costs. "It's a love story," as the director says, "a love that's not only made of honey, but that is a challenge too, a mystery, a secret, an obsession. Maybe I identified myself with them, I saw my wife Micaela Ramazzotti and myself ending our life in this glorious way. It's a romantic story without romanticism. It's a human tale."
In competition at the Venice Film Festival, the film recently received a Golden Globe nomination for Helen Mirren. "Luca Bigazzi and I agreed on it: we should be invisible. I felt that two actors like Donald and Helen could lead the dance themselves. I could just relax and stop puffing up like a peacock, as European directors are used to do. I could just enjoy the show, that's why I invited these two great actor to improvise, to create the couple through small spontaneous acts."
It was Sutherland who convinced him to shoot the film in the US. Not with words, but with his enthusiasm. "I wrote the script for fun with Francesca Archibugi, Francesco Piccoli, and Stephen Amidon. Then I realized that the only actors that I really wished to work with were Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland. Donald asked to meet me in Miami. He came to pick me up at the airport with a huge S.U.V. He wanted to prove that he was good at driving. In the back seat there were volumes on Alzheimer and books by Hemingway. He already knew half of the script by heart. There I said to myself: "And now, how can I tell him that I'm not sure if I'm going to make this film?"
That's how the adventure started, with its blend of Italian creativity and American rationality. "At first, it was not easy to make the American crew understand that even if the script said something, I could have just changed my mind. They take cinema very seriously, sometimes maybe too much. In Italy we make films with the carefree feeling of those playing a game, while they work with the same seriousness as they are about to discover the cure for cancer. However, in the end we blended in very well, and it's been a beautiful experience. Even a dangerous one sometimes, like when Donald Sutherland - who wanted to drive for real at all costs - took unplanned routes in the real traffic jam, but the brakes of that van were not working really well. At the end of the shooting, we had the best wrap-party ever. We were just happy to be still alive."