Cosimo Gomez: «I wanted to be Tony Scott»

There are directors, authors that you feel from the very first shots who – they may like it, and you like it or not – have their own grammar, their own original, particular aesthetics. Well, you could sense that Cosimo Gomez was one of them from the very first scenes of Ugly and badwith the trio Claudio Santamaria, Marco D’Amore and Sara Serraiocco, transformed and very powerful in a wildly noir story, as well as in the very strange and very different Spotty and I. Now in his short career behind the camera comes a new challenge, the platform (Netflix) and a revenge movie like My name is revenge (already first in 16 countries and second worldwide on Netflix), also ugly (dirty) and bad, with an Alessandro Gassmann who after Do not hate it brings together another great painful and unsettling performance and a Ginevra Francesconi who proves to be one of ours shooting stars most interesting and promising, natural talent and veteran artistic rigor. The story is that of a happy and taciturn father who will see his unmentionable past break into his muffled present and will have to fight it again. No holds barred and sacrificing everything, starting from the innocence of the light of his eyes. Because if Santo Romeo (namely Gassmann) goes back to being Domenico Franzé, she will discover that she is different.

Cosimo, how do you feel after this adventure?
It’s time to sum up after years of work, it was a long gestation for writing, making and editing. I am anxious to understand what object it is, if what I have imagined, wanted, sought will reach the spectators. I’m feverishly waiting to figure it out.

For what little it’s worth, I think you, you, hit the spot. Taking a cinematographic object, a genre that hasn’t traveled much in Italy, such as the revenge movie and being able to return it with this power and without mimicking more illustrious international models is a great success. What were your references?
We tried to do it, with the spirit of making a genre and entertainment work having as inspiration Taken (translated into Italian I will find you, ed.), Man on Fire – The fire of vengeance, Léonall the revenge better, without imitating them. It was the common point of view between me and the producer, a challenge within the challenge.

But Guinevere looks so much like the Mathilda played by newcomer Natalie Portman in Leon.
In this film we have done many trials and tests on every detail, in the end you won’t believe it but the quote is more casual than intentional. We needed to tell a very young girl and Geneva, for insurance and legislative issues, when she filmed she was already 18 years old. That haircut, that iconic bob of hers, made her normal, simple, small, infantilized her just right. So as to find even more surprising the evolution of her during the story that invests her.

Alessandro Gassmann (Santo) and Ginevra Francesconi (Sofia) in ‘My name is revenge’. Photo: Emanuela Scarpa/Netflix

Alessandro Gassmann was surprising and very generous in this role. How did you work together? He came from a movie like Do not hate in which he had already followed a different expressive modality.
Do not hate by Mauro Mancini is a beautiful film and Alessandro is incredible in that role, and it is true that in his career in this period there is the discovery of a new style, at least in the cinema, because in the theater he had already experimented with a different way of stay on stage, more complex and ambiguous characters. He and the movie, when he felt the character on him and said “it’s me” My name is revenge it really started, it got underway. In the revenge, let’s not ignore it, the star is an integral part of the narrative, his recognition status, his fame are fundamental components, the notoriety of the protagonist who finds himself in a different context from the usual is essential. Only he could do it in our star system: he has it all, talent, physical prowess, courage. I respect him very much, I always see him at the theater, I also wanted him in Ugly and bad. And he wasn’t just an actor, in My name is revenge we worked side by side from the very first readings of the script and developed the character and film together. This feature film is very much about him. Alessandro Gassman is special, unique in his acting discipline, in bringing harmony to the set… I owe him a lot. A huge part of this film and its success I owe to the actors.

An excerpt from the storyboard of ‘My name is revenge’. Credit: Marco Valerio Gallo

Alessandro’s identikit looks like that of Liam Neeson in the saga of Taken.
Taken it has focus and entertainment, it has a target audience, and yes, I’m not ashamed to say that I wanted to give the audience, a certain audience, a story they wanted. By putting something else inside, like family history, but without doing another thing, hiding inside a masked auteur cinema. To be clear, I love Tony Scott (director of Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II – A cop in Beverly Hills II and Public Enemy, ed), one that is not in the history of cinema as it deserves, for prizes and critical acknowledgments, that you cannot find in the rankings of the best films of all time, but has changed the grammar and use of cinema itself. He put together action, show, pure entertainment combined with the name on the poster that he had talent. And when the audience came into the hall, you could be sure it entertained them. The world of these products fascinates me so much more than others, which are perhaps too self-referential. And it’s not an attack on auteur cinema, because in my sphere of cinematic loves there are also the Dardennes. Here everything is shot with a handheld camera, exactly like Stefano Sollima or Paul Greengrass do in the saga of Bourne and not only. I wanted that elegant dirt, it’s an “other” and important language that is often underestimated. And in this I was helped a lot by the photography of Vittorio Omodei Zorini, who did a sensational job, and which we have already appreciated in ZeroZeroZero, Dampyr, Diavoli, Gomorra, Bang Bang Baby and with whom I had already worked in Ugly and bad.

A team-up between Sofia Romeo and Alice Barone, the two protagonists of My name is revenge and Bang Bang Baby. Going back to the actors, it seems to me that with you everyone feels at ease in stepping out of a certain comfort zone, becoming something else and putting on uncomfortable clothes.
Alessandro was delighted to be as you see him in the film, more marked in the face, without make-up and without deceit. Also with D’Amore and Santamaria in Ugly and bad I’ve been fortunate to have performers who are happy to change and become the character. They are all actors who have done a lot of theater and it is no coincidence, they know their job deeply and have followed conscious and complex paths; they know what an opportunity transformation is, even a radical one. I come from drawing, painting, scenography, it’s natural for me to ask myself how the actor can change, what he can give and where he must, we must go. I already draw them like this, in my head.

An excerpt from the storyboard of ‘My name is revenge’. Credit: Marco Valerio Gallo

And that goes for women too. I remember a crazy Sara Serraiocco in Ugly and badand Ginevra Francesconi does an outstanding job here.
With women there is even more work behind it. Geneva is a natural talent, I have seen all the colleagues of her age for her role, fundamental for the film, even Netflix was very anxious about the choice of who should play Sofia, the casting was very long. All good candidates, but she’s crazy, you’re right, and that’s why we chose her among the three finalists. But that casting made me realize what incredible talent there is out there, a new generation of very young female performers with above average skills.

On the soundtrack we find Imagine Dragons and Royal Blood. How did you work on the music for the film?
I tried to work with songs, real ones song that I had in mind and wanted to put in the film, which of course you recognized. Actually over 50% of the film I used songs: Thunder by Imagine Dragons accompanying theoff road between father and daughter, Boilermaker of Royal Blood that accompanies the moment in which the first alliance between daughter and father is triggered. But I want to mention among others also Letter from a Distance by Akira Kosemura, which accompanies the farewell letter that Santo writes to Sofia and Santo’s theme, that is, that of his death, which was written by Matteo Curallo, a very talented Italian composer. In general, my inspiration was the way of working used in the television series Hannah, which I loved very much. Using these tunes represented a major cost in the film’s budget. My musical supervisor Giovanni Arcadu together with two musicians (Marta Lucchesini and Giorgio Giampà) and the extraordinary work of the mix engineer Nadia Paone of LaserFilm then did, in my opinion, an excellent stitching job, which is not very simple when you use so many tracks.

The ending leaves no doubt that there will be My name is revenge 2.
Maybe. I won’t say anything else, because it will depend on the success of the film… but I wouldn’t mind.

You know that with this film your leap into the void is now mandatory, perhaps in Hollywood. You also have the right surname, very international.
My life has had too many roller coasters to hope for. I don’t have the American dream as an end in itself, but that of making beautiful and quality things wherever possible. And yes, also abroad, obviously, even if I believe that this, like other recent products, demonstrates that this cinema, this series, can also be done well in Italy. However I take it as a wish.

An excerpt from the storyboard of ‘My name is revenge’. Credit: Marco Valerio Gallo

What is the secret to making spectacular Tony Scott-like genre films in Italy too?
Invest in resources and time. Here we were able to prepare, we tried a lot. To give an example, the stunt scenes started from the videoboards that we shot off the set, and they are more days of work. And not even a few. We had the opportunity to work on the film with uncommon rigor and workload. In Italy it is not so normal, and yet it is fundamental. Because it’s important to learn to be competitive and it all starts with credibility: if you can prepare the scenes in the best possible way, it’s more difficult to make mistakes. I’m a nerd, I love backstage, spying on other people’s work, it’s the stories that fascinate me the most and here’s a lot of work behind the film to tell. And then, as I said, the complicity of the actors is essential. Ale also physically prepared for the role for months, I don’t know how many kilos and muscles he gained, in addition to working on movements and fighting techniques. Even the best screenplays are always on paper, rehearsals enrich them, because the written word passes through the mouths of the actors, in front of your eyes, and is modeled and perfected.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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