Interviewed at the 2018 Offscreen filmfestival.
Sergio Martino is a director who was prolific during the 70s and 80s the golden years of Italian cinema. There's not a genre he didn't tackle in his career. Razorreel readers will probably know him best as the director of gialli. But he also made post apocalyptic features, westerns, action movies and comedies. To my surprise according to the director it's his comedies that have endured the most. In Italy at least.
(The interview was edited for clarity.)
RR: Did you stick close to the script when directing?
SM:In each movie a director like me, I don't know if everybody does that, puts something different in a scene makes some changes.. It's very difficult to find a script that we don't need to change during shooting. The condition, some type of circumstance, it is raining or some problem I don't know Most of my movie I made some changes. But most of the time especially at the beginning of my career I didn't put my name as writer of the movie. Because in that period nobody knows that later we have some not all because if you have the credit you get the comission each time the movie is shown on television they give to director the writer part of the money. So I lose but anyway it's too late to discuss all that anyway. Sometimes I wrote the script and also the story.
RR:You worked a lot with Ernesto Gastaldi?
SM: Ernesto was a big friend of mine. He did several of my movies. Also working with him I remember that in some sequence, especially in the beginning of my career I change some situation. I don't know if you have seen Milano Trema? The beginning of the movie is completely different from the script that he wrote because it was in that period the transfer of the man in the jail from the town In Aduan I was real adamant that this guy killed the policeman and just disappear in that way I did suggestion these things and I put them in the beginning of the movie I think we shoot they show Milano Trema tomorrow. Today they show Torso and after the show After the Fall of New York. Tomorrow afternoon is the showing of Milano Trema I don't remember the French name of that movie. The beginning is my own. Anyway Ernesto is a very good writer a very good scriptwriter that way my collaboration with him was very good.
RR: Did you write together before filming?
SM: Before mostly we discussed the screenplay, we talk about the story. After that he wrote and after that when he finished I tried to put into something in the way that I prefer as a director maybe I change some sequence. The Americans screenplay writers, they write with technical indication that way it's very easy to shoot. Because there is some time inside some sequence if I stand in the window naked and then I escape from the stairs I have to show some time you have to dress you understand. Sometimes int the story that I had in my hands we had this kind of problem. Not that one but maybe some other one. It's just to give you.an example. It's like theater if you do some story in theater there is some people that are in a sequence that is completely wet they need to dry. In cinema that's possible if there's cutting but you have to show that way you cut and to give the time for the audience that it is not the same sequence. In a script that you would film in America there's less freedom. The American writer is more technical if you read a screenplay from America it's already with storyboards. Not in Italy we leave a little fantasy to the director. In Italy the director is the boss. In America there's also a producer sometimes you also worked with other people. When we have the screenplay it's ready to shoot it of course the actor can give some more ideas but in the technical point of view it's completely the director. You do what you want.
RR: You've shot movies all over the world from Sri Lanka to the United States and the UK?
SM: Is it very different to shoot in different countries? Off course, it is the country we go the climate the weather is different maybe is too hot the people aren't always professional sometime I had good chance to find some people especially in Malaysia and also in Sri Lanka I had good technicians of course most are from Italian but also … Also the actors I shot in Argentina were very professional people in Brazil also in the Unites States off course (laughs). I shot several movies in the Unites States you can find very good people in towns like Miami Dallas or Los Angeles. And you take your technical crew there then? I always take my Italian crew because movies have a nationality you know I need that most of my crew is Italian otherwise you can't get the financing. You've jumped from genre to genre over the years. That's my fault and also my chance. I like to change movies I can't always do the same genre of movies. I don't understand in which way D'Ario Argento a very nice good director who always does thrillers I think if you do one thing after you do comedy or an action movie when you come back to the thriller you have some new feel something new. Maybe you can do something much better maybe more fantasy more passion to invent some new sequence.
RR: Castellari said the exact same thing Castellari never did a comedy movie he did several movies he did western he did action movie not much giallo. But I don't know if he did some comedy. My comedies are popular with young people in Italy movies like L'Allenatore nel pallone the coach of the football. The new generation they like this kind of movies because they see them on television. My career has been mostly comedy. I did also one movie with Marty Feldman. (Sex With A Smile) I wrote a book in which I talk I explain my very career with the title is mille peccati … Nessuna Virtu a thousand sins no virtues. Because in the beginning of my career I did documentaries I shot in Europe, in my 60 years, I've been to London and Germany there's a very big difference in the custom of the people. Because in that period Italian people were mostly catholic people, we can't see women naked and so on. In Germany, France and England that was completely different. Did you shoot the documentary? One is mille peccati … Nessuna Virtu another one is I shot in America I shot also the year of Vietnam I had a very big experience .. the young people that came back from Vietnam killed or injured.
RR: Is that material you shot yourself or is it stock footage?
SM: No I had help from some reporters to help me with some footage. I had the experience for some days to spend with a family that had a son that didn't come back. The family was waiting but the son doesn't come because he died in Vietnam. It was an important experience in that field. I don't know if you had a chance to see it. Any way my career was all over western …
RR: Are your comedies in Italy more popular than your gialli? Yes I think mostly especially for three or four movies that all the people like very much. Those comedies were they also intended for international market? Because what's funny in Italy isn't always funny in Germany. Oh yes we had co-production with Spanish and with French mostly with French production and is strange because is kind of international. If the wife has a lover and the husband you put the lover behind the bed it's funny everywhere. The humor is not just in the dialogue. Because if I shoot only with Italian sound it's not funny for Germany or.. One of my comedies Spaghetti a mezzanotte is kind of English comedy because it's not only what they say, it's the situation.
Item added : 10/9/2018