Milan is the perfect setting in which to connect with Brando De Sica, one of Italian cinema’s most promising names. Indeed, where better than the city in which grandfather Vittorio De Sica shot Miracle in Milan, the box office hit that has entered the canon of classical cinema. In a conversation and photographic shoot that took place on the sensational rooftop terrace of the Townhouse Duomo by Seven Stars, we discover what makes Brando tick, what new projects are making his heart race, and the secret
to his happiness, unlocked by none other than the iconic maestro David Lynch.
Brando De Sica, as the latest in a long line of artists who have played major roles in shaping Italian cinema what made you choose directing over acting?
At first I wanted to be a firefighter. I deliberately set fire to stuff on our terrace so I could use the gardening hose to put the blaze out, probably because I fell under the influence of my dad’s film I Pompieri after watching it so many times. I was always watching George A. Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead (1968) too, and was just totally awed by the special makeup effects, so much so that I went straight out to buy a kit of liquid latex, greasepaint and fake blood and to change my appearance and get myself up as a monster to go around scaring people. I was only eight years old at the time, maybe even younger. I thought these urges to play ’monster’ was a sign that I was meant to be an actor … but then, when I was 12, I was given a tiny analogue movie camera, the most precious gift ever.This started me on making horror shorts, roping in my sister Maria Rosa (now the designer and owner of the successful Mariù De Sica label) and our dogs, literally covering them in makeup.That’s when it dawned on me that if I became an actor I’d be limited to playing a role whereas if I wrote and directed I could create the entire film by putting all the component parts, the lighting, the editing, the soundtrack, together myself.The director’s job is to make order out of chaos, and the set is controlled chaos.
It helps me to be a better man and is the best job to have after that of rock star, although I could never have been a rock star, I’d not have lasted more than two days.
Five must-see films, and why?
The world of cinema is ‘polygamous’ by definition so an artist will never tell you that they prefer one or all five of his brides simply because he loves each and every one of them! Orson Wells used to say that there are no good or bad films, that all films are interesting because they tell you about the person behind the camera. I think films are like wine, offering many types of grapes and many different vin- tages, each of which is unique and distinct. Different things touch me in different ways, star ting with The Atlas by Jean Vigo,The Rules of the Game by Jean Renoir, The Pleasure by Max Ophüls, Kiss Me Deadly by Robert Aldrich, and Umberto D.and Miracle in Milan by Vittorio De Sica,my grandfather.Then there are cult movies like Fargo by the Coen brothers, the psychedelic elegance of Kenneth Anger, Michael Powell’s use of colour in films like Piping Tom and Black Narcissus, but also Lawrence of Arabia by David Lean, Soy Cuba by Michail Konstantinovič Kalatozov, Mio Zio and Play Time by Jaques Tati. The episode of La Ricotta, Le 120 giornate di Sodoma and Mamma Roma by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Don’t look now by Nicolas Roeg,The Devils by Ken Russel, Seconds by John Frankenheimer, the list is endless.
Which directors do you admire, which inspire you the most?
Definitely greats such as Andrei Tarkovsky, Stanley Kubrick, Luis Buñuel, Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, and Francois Truffaut, their entire filmographies are amazing feats. Plus the masterpieces directed by David Lynch’s, my tutor at USC in Los Angeles, Roman Polański, Orson Wells, Federico Fellini, Herzog, Sidney Lumet, Ernst Lubitsch,Vincente Minnelli, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino,Tod Browning, Roger Corman,Terence Fisher, Mario Bava, Elio Petri, and so many more.
How do you remember college? What did you absorb from David Lynch’s tutoring?
David is the most remarkable person I’ve ever met. But I was terrified that I’d made the worst ever first impression on him. I was a graduate Cinema student at the University of Southern California (USC), it was 8 o’clock in the morning and raining so hard that what arrived in the hallway outside the classroom was not me but a sopping, dripping mess. So I balked and decided to go back to Rome. My moral was at low ebb; I was so flustered and so full of self- doubt that I stumbled over to the emergency exit door, shoved it open and barged right into David Lynch. I was in total shock; I couldn’t believe that I’d actually crashed into my own iconic hero. But David was ultracool; he asked me if I was OK, if maybe something bad had happened. It was a serendipitous moment, in hindsight, one that struck something deep inside me: it was telling me that I absolutely had to stay. And so I pulled myself together and walked into the classroom with him. It was one of the best lectures I’ve ever attended.
Did you become friends?
I met him again after I left college through my friendship with Isabella Rossellini, who often came to LA for work, when he introduced me toTranscendental Meditation. Isabella then gave me a beautiful and treasured present, a painting called ‘Chicken Kit’ that David had given to her when they were together at the time of Blue Velvet it depicts a dismembered chicken next to a set of instructions on how to put it back together again. I feel part of their tribe and they consider me a friend. I paid a visit to him when I was in LA recently to take him a mediumlength film I’d just finished called The Right Woman (La Donna Giusta). It was a magical moment and David gave me a drawing he’d just completed of a guy tempested with dots, holding a radio in his hand and standing next to the words ‘I’m Crying my Radio’. He personally inscribed it with the dedication ‘Keeping Promises’, alluding to the pro- mise I’d given him to meditate every day. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to doTM every day but am now making a renewed effort.
How do you and fashion get along? What is your favourite piece of clothing and what is your take on style?
I enjoy experimenting. As a kid I also went through a Punk moment in which I dyed my hair all kinds of colours. It’s fun and exciting to decide what to wear. I’ve always experimented with different kinds of dress codes but now I’m veering towards a more minimalist style, going more for T-shirts and jeans in plain dark colours. I like to wear elegant attire when the opportunity arises but always keep it simple, usually a dark grey suit, white shirt and black tie. For me, elegance is synonymous with simplicity.
Who would you like to work with from the movie world?
I really love the work of Daniel Day Lewis but let me stick to the new generation here otherwise
I’ll have to reel off another long list of names. At present, I admire and have great respect for Leonar- do DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender,Tom Hardy, and Woody Harrelson. I’m ‘in love’ with Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Lawrence and Carey Mulligan. In Italy, Alesandro Borghi and Luca Marinelli’s works are exceptional; they’re not only good filmmakers but also good people.The same goes for Micaela Ramazzotti and Alba Rohrwacher. My ultimate dream is to work with Industrial Light and Magic, the American company that did the special effects for the Lucas movie, to create the sound inside the ‘Skywalker Range’ and maybe even get Spielberg to produce it. But that’s me aiming for the stars again.
Any Hollywood dreams?
I lived in LA for seven years and got my degree there. I still have a small apartment in Century City, which was once the back lot ofTwenty Century Fox. I love LA and I like the idea of going back there to work. So, yes, I will chase that dream and make it happen!
What does the future hold?
I just filmed a shortmovie for Persol starring the famous director Wim Wenders. A film within the film. Moreover, I just signed a contract with Paco Cinematografica, the producer of Giuseppe Tornato- re’s latest films. I’ve put together a great team with the help of Arturo Paglia and Isabella Cocuzza, the founders, who I met after L’Errore.They gave me free reign to create something adventurous and bold in which I fully believe and let me develop the screenplay, which I scripted with the help of my girlfriend Irene Pollini Giolai and the epic Ugo Chiti. I was really inspired by Edward Scissorhands, Let me In and Carrie. But I can’t reveal too much, it’d spoil the surprise, so I’ll just say that it’s a dark fairy tale set in modern day Naples, it talks about the importance of dreams and adds the horror element to the coming-of-the-age genre.
And Brando’s secret to happiness is?
Self-confidence. It’s not easy but happiness must be won every day through purpose and passion.
Photography | Pier Nicola Bruno
Stylist | Giorgia Cantarini
Stylist assistant | Orsola Amadeo
Photography assistant | Andrea Benedetti
Grooming | Luca Lo Coco
Location | Townhouse Duomo by Seven Stars
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