An interview with Italian director Enzo G Castellari
“... I'm ex temporaneo (done without preparation). I invent even if I have a wonderful script I must do my shooting.“
First I want to thank the people behind the Offscreen film festival for making this interview possible. They've always had an impressive array of new movies but for me their retrospectives have always intrigued me the most. Among others a lot of prominent Italian genre directors have visited the festival over the years. There was Cozzi in 2011 and in 2012 there was Deodato and also Lenzi who has since passed. And this year they probably had the most impressive guest list yet with both Castellari and Martino attending as well as Luc Merenda. Be sure to visit the festival in Brussels next year if at all possible.
I met Castellari at the hotel lobby and have found him most eager to talk about his movies. He would answer questions before they were finished. To be truthful I wasn't able to finish a single question. He was enthusiastic and modest it was a joy to meet him and have this short interview. An interview that has been slightly edited mostly deleting all my yups, yeps and other pointless interjections. I've decided to keep most of Castellari's answers completely intact without revising for grammar because I didn't want to compromise the content in any way.
To a new generation Castellari will probably be best known for being an inspiration to Quentin Tarrantino. Tarrantino payed hommage to Castellari naming his movie Inglourious Basterds after the Castellari movie Inglorious bastards. It's not a remake so only one of these movies has naked women shooting machine guns.
More seasoned genre fans will need no introduction to the director who had fruitful working relationship with Franco Nero. He directed some of his best politsiotesschi. He directed both High Crime and The Big Racket and many more. He discovered Mark Gregory casting him in both 1990: Bronx Warriors and Escape From The Bronx. Castellari started his career directing Spaghetti Westerns but it's Keoma a western he directed in the end of the genre's popularity he's best known for.
RR: You've had a very illustrious career. Tonight they'll be showing Keoma a movie you reportedly rewrote every day?
Castellari: Not rewrote, wrote because I took the script the first day of shooting and I tore it up, (laughs) because it was very bad. But the story was very good. George Eastman, he wrote the story but not the script. So I read the script in the night and I called immediately the producer and Franco Nero and I said the script is bullshit. Really it's awful ,it's not a script, it's not a western.
So what we do? Let me think all the night until tomorrow. I decided and I explained to the actors, especially the actors that I will rewrite every day the scene. And all of them are to take confidence with me and believe in me. And they say okay as you like.
And sometime Franco Said yes we do this now but later I don't know. I don't know yet. (laughs)
RR: Was that something that happened before or after or just with Keoma.
Castellari: No I did was it before … no later. Later .. the shark hunter with Franco Nero we did on a Caribbean island Cozumel from Cancun. I was supposed to … that period preparing high speed, I don't remember the title, an action movie in Italy but the producer was Dutch. There were delay delay delay. And Franco called me. I am here in Mexico. There's a producer here they want to do a movie. Where? In the Caribbean. Immediately the day after I took the plane and I went to this wonderful island. And it was a co production with Spain and the actor Eduardo Fajardo he arrived in Cozumel bringing the Spanish script with him. But when he arrived he said they have stolen my luggage in the airport I don't have ... even the script. And the producer said what we do now, because there was no fax or nothing at that time. I said no problem no problem the story more or less is this. I will invent every day, no problem. Especially because each place I like I invent the scene on the place, very easy.
RR: So there are some advantages to write a script .. while shooting.
Castellari: It's true it's advantage for me because I'm ex temporaneo (done without preparation). I invent even if I have a wonderful script I must do my shooting. So all the trepidation, I'm very ... it depends how I sleep, I was sleeping in the night. If I wake up, it depends. In the morning when the chauffeur comes with the car to take me to the set. At that time I start to thinking in the back.
RR: That late?
Castellari: So I arrive, it's fantastic for a... to create a scene invent dialogue is .. for an artist is something unusual. Is giving to you a big big gift to be free to do what you want during the moment.
(When asked about a sequel to Keoma the director tells me he prefers not to talk about it. But he's eager to share some info on another project he's working on)
I'm preparing with five colleagues of mine. Before there was Umberto Lenzi unfortunately he passed away. Then we have Sergio Martino, Ruggerio Deodato, Lamberto Bava, Romolo Guerrieri, and me. So we are six and doing Rome Violent City. Each one will write and direct an episode of this. Six episodes made by six directors. (Because Castellari repeats Deodate he names only 5 of the six directors.)
RR: Short movies or for television.
Castellari: No, no short movies, each one will be 10 minutes 12 minutes, it depends.
RR: So they will be cut together into one movie?
Castellari: Yes, the first director that did his first episode start to editing and the second director start to shoot the second.
RR: Has shooting already started?
Castellari: No I wait for.. There's a .. in Germany now they've found the last part of the money and then we're ready.
RR: The last movie you did was in 2010 “The Caribbean Bastards”. Did that shoot go well?
Castellari: (immediately) No, the shoot no no, yes. Well quite difficult in Venezuela because it is dangerous and violent place. And so we was during all the day surrounded by police. Police on the set police on the corridor of the hotel in front of the door police police police. Very violent but was very easy all the collaborators were great. I took from Italy four or five persons the rest there. Especially the stunt men I choose in karate gym. I choose between the athletes.
RR: But you were disappointed in the distribution?
Castellari: Well later was because we didn't finish the movie there we must wait but the money doesn't come. So I come back in another Island I remember in Italy we did a little part to finish the movie.
And the distributor was ..., the producer was a very nice man but there was you know no how do you say … no friendship with the distributor.
RR: The producer was Mattei?
Castellari: No Mattei was the production manager.
RR: The movie is hard to come by. I only know of an Italian DVD with the English soundtrack.
Castellari:There was no distribution
I remember very nice guys as actors very young. They have a lot of not experience but they want to learn. For me was very good Anyway there were very nice guys as actors no experience but they want to learn, very good I like.
They had some martial arts training?
Castellari: Yes a lot. Especially using the police there. Their guns but no shoot, there were no special effects. So I redone everything in Rome in Ciné Citta.
RR: In post production?
Castellari: Yeah, in post production, no not only on post production. I shot several scenes with my high speed I did in Rome. And Then with the computer they did something to the film to help me. Especially with the sky and the sea. One accepted Immediately when they .. Do You want to do this movie? Where? Where will we shoot? In the Carribean! (immediately) Okay I say I don't care. Because from Venezuela Margarita the Margarita islands awful the sand is dark, the sea is green, the sky never shine … But later in post production uhm color correction.
Now with technique, now … it was impossible with film but now with digital it's so easy to invent what you want to invent.
RR: You're very much a fan of the new technology?
Castellari: I like, I like so much because I do I can do a lot of things that was impossible to do with film. When I'm teaching in several schools I like the young guys that want to learn. And there's a moment that they're to do a short movie. Everyone say no we want to do with film. Why? Eh.. because .. Tell me why because you are more free with digital you can do what you want but with film no. But the atmosphere to remember that time. It's something romantic reason it's okay but not for technique it's difficult.
RR: You can't make old movies you can only make new movies.
Castellari: Ooh well said. To do right now to repeat all the movies that I did it was so simple and so easy with digital.
RR: You also wrote a lot of your movies?
Castellari: Yeah almost of all of them. Because I need even if you do the script I must rewrite because I with my idea with music. I need my script my own personal script.
RR: Jonathan of the Bears was dedicated to Sergio Corbucci, who was known for his political view points and putting them in his movies..
Castellari: No no Sergio Corbucci because he did Django …
RR: But also Il Silencio which had a very strong …
Castellari: yes yes on the snow...
RR: Corbucci's known for his political view points and putting them in his movies.
Castellari: No no not really. You can find something political inside but...
RR: Not deliberately?
Castellari: We shot most of the movie (Jonathan and the Bears) in Russia in Moscow. All from the beginning to the end. Even the mixage and the music everything I did in Moscow. It was with a lot of difficulty, because politically it was the moment passing from the old regime to the new regime. So it was quite difficult. But I invent a lot of things over there.
RR: I think the actor you're asked most about must be Mark Gregory.
Castellari: He was 17 years old, he was a young guy coming to my gym where I'm training. He was good looking and silent doing his exercises in the corner. A giant a very beautiful man and the moment Fabrizio De Angelis asked me to do Bronx Warriors I said him.
So he was cast just for his looks?
Yes as an actor he was not .. He was a very intelligent guy so he learned immediately the way how to stand in front of the camera he listen to each detail you look there you move there. He was great. I remember Mark Gregory with the sympathy like a child and I was using him and teaching him like a son.
RR: He had to work with a lot of veteran actors.
Castellari: We did the second one escape from the Bronx and then they offered me Tuareg a wonderful book a Spanish book fantastico about the Tuareg. I read the script and I want to do this movie and at the same time Fabrizio De Angelis offered me Thunder. But I went to Israel to do Tuareg.
RR: Gregory has dissapeared..
Castellari: Nobody knows nothing
RR: Well someone claims to have found him.
Castellari: Yes there is a guy he came to live in Italy just to look for Mark Gregory. He's still looking for him.
RR: He still is? I thought he found him living in Rome.
Castellari: No he found two or three he send me picture but no no no. My son knows where he lives and sooner or later we're going together to say hello.
Do you do a lot of festivals?
Castellari: Yes it's so funny and so great because I can watch again my movies and in front i-of the audience is great. And sign sign ..
RR: When I think of your movies they're very much made for a public.
Castellari: Yes, first of all I'm a spectator of my movies. When I'm deciding
Because I'm doing for the public. I'm the first spectator. So if I like maybe the rest of the public will like as well.
Item added : 20/4/2018