Vincenzo Amato and Emanuele Crialese
of Golden Door (Nuovomondo)
Written by Frank
Photo Credit Dave Alloca/Star Pix
Emanuele Crialese and Vincenzo Amato)
Read Frank J. Avella's
review of Golden
Focus on Vincenzo Amato--Lead
Actor in Golden Door (Nuovomondo)
Vincenzo Amato’s handsome
and sexy matinee-idol looks are pretty well
hidden in Nuovomondo (Golden
Door), the terrific new film by Emanuele
Crialese. Come to think of it, they were pretty
well hidden in Crialese’s Respiro
as well. Had I not had the pleasure of sitting
down with the actor in person at this year’s
Tribeca Film Festival, I would have assumed
he was the poor Sicilian peasant he usually
Quite the contrary, while
he may be proud of his cine-peasant turns
(and he should be), he is quite the cosmopolitan
guy who speaks perfect English. And, in addition
to acting, he’s quite the accomplished
sculptor (working with steel) and has his
own shop--in Manhattan! But refer to his leading
a double life and Amato is quick to correct
you. For him being creative is being creative,
and there’s no extreme difference between
Born in Sicily, Amato emigrated
to the U.S. many years ago, but he used that
experience to infuse the character of Salvatore
Mancuso (which means left-handed in Italian)
in Nuovomondo with an honesty not
seen in many American features. He also did
his share of homework, spending time with
an old world Sicilian farmer to prep for the
first portion of the film. And it paid off
as his Salvatore felt so real to this reporter,
I thought one of my great Uncles had come
back from the dead!
Once he gets into character,
Amato finds it fairly easy to go from sequence
to sequence. He explained how the first days
of shooting involved the Ellis Island scenes
(in the final act of the film) so the actors
who played his family members were forced
to become instant relations. It worked wonderfully,
though, because they were all supposed to
be nervous and confused so the lack of bonding
was an actual boon. Was that part of the director’s
Well, it happens
to be the third film Amato has made with writer/director
Emanuele Crialese (Respiro and Crialese’s
first feature, Once We Were Strangers).
Both artists admit to having an intensely
creative, sometimes volatile but always passionate
relationship. “Emanuele gives me the
freedom to explore and develop the character...and
he would just give me a look, and I would
know what he wanted.” The result is
absolute magic onscreen.
Amato would love to one day work in the U.S.
but up next it’s off to Rome where he
will be portraying a jealous psychopath for
a first-time, female director. That will be
a refreshing change from his peasant portfolio,
although no one makes the poor seem quite
as alluring as when Amato dons the tattered
rags and defining beret.
Interview with Emanuele
Crialese--Director of Golden Door
Emanuele Crialese is one
of the most promising new directors to emerge
in recent years. A Roman, he studied film
directing at New York University, graduating
in 1995. Shortly thereafter, he made his first
feature, Once We Were Strangers,
which was an official Sundance selection.
2002 brought the much-celebrated, Respiro,
which was a New Directors Selection at Lincoln
Center and won the Cannes Critics’ Week
His new film Golden
Door (Nuovomondo) was Italy’s
Best Foreign-Language Film entry last year
and proves he’s a auteur force to be
reckoned with. Note: The title, Nuovomondo,
literally translated means “New World”
but to avoid confusion with the Terrence Malick
film, it was retitled (much to the disappointment
of Crialese) to Golden Door.
I sat down with Crialese
during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival
where the film was being presented.
J. Avella: I have to ask you about
my favorite sequence in the film. Where the
steamship is pulling out of harbor. It took
my breath away.
Crialese: I actually made the film
around that image. I had a clear, easy image
in my mind coming from a precise sensation
I wanted to evoke. A sensation of land opening--one
piece of land going to another.
J. Avella: This film felt very personal.
Why was it important for you to make it?
Crialese: This film was in my mind
since 1998, before Respiro. No one
would finance it at the time. My wanting to
make it has a lot to do with my personal experiences
being an immigrant hoping to change your life
in America. And I was fascinated by the postcard
I saw (from early in the 20th century)...Propaganda
already portraying America as the land of
J. Avella: There are very few Italian
filmmakers who currently make films in Sicily,
yet there are so many fascinating Sicilian
stories to tell. Why do you feel you capture
la Sicilia so accurately?
Crialese: Because I am NOT Sicilian!
(laughs) My ancestors are from there but I
am Roman. I went back to Sicily after I went
to New York and I felt rooted in the culture.
I had a genetic memory of Sicily. It’s
in the DNA...Sicilia is primitive. I don’t
like the contemporary world. The brutality
of the place wakes my curiosity. Sicilia is
the beginning of our civilization...going
back to the beginning...
J. Avella: I noticed you worked with
several of the same Respiro actors.
Was Nuovomondo easy to write and
Crialese: I like to invent my characters
and you can invent something good only if
you know them well. In your head, when you
are writing, the characters are like puppets.
Then the actor is cast and you finally have
a body and face. So you can write FOR the
specific actor...the character inhabits the
actor and vice versa.
J. Avella: What is the directorial
process like for you? Do you make changes
as filming goes along or is the script followed
Crialese: I do one month of rehearsal
but we don’t really rehearse. I cook
and we eat pasta. There’s no script
present the first week. We just talk. I force
everyone to communicate. Force them to play
the idiots. Then I understand where to bring
J. Avella: After three films together,
do you and Amato have a working shorthand?
Crialese: Yes. Vincenzo is clay I can
just touch. Or I give him a look and he knows
instinctively what I want. No need to waste
J. Avella: Was blending the fantastical
aspects of the film with the harsh realities
always in your script plan?
Crialese: There was even more of the
fantastical in the original script. Then I
realized I need not be indulgent. Audiences
will appreciate it more, if it’s a rare
J. Avella: The character of Fortunata
reminded me of my Zia Italia, a tough woman
who sees no need to uproot herself and has
no use for a nuovomondo. What was the inspiration
for this character?
Crialese: She is part me, part my grandmother,
who says we live too fast today. And there’s
a deep truth in that. She doesn’t like
modernity. She’s very in touch with
nature. She said we are destined to go to
war because we are always losing touch with
our environment. Fortunata doesn’t want
to go to the new world but she goes KNOWING
she will return to her home. She has a role
J. Avella: Was it always your intent
to not show the Mancuso family beyond Ellis
J. Avella: In the sequel, what do you
think happens to the family in the new world?
Crialese: I would love to make a sequel
that is different completely in tone. A comedy.
Salvatore (Amato) drops Charlotte Gainsbourg
because she can’t cook and he realized
he can have many other women. The two brothers
become silent film stars...
J. Avella: I loved Respiro.
What similarities do you see in that film
Crialese: I recognize myself in both
films. In Respiro, I wanted to show
the audience a peculiar point-of-view. The
children of Nuovomondo can be seen
as the characters in Respiro. Writing
Nuovomondo made me discover Lampedusa
(the town Respiro was filmed in).
The same three principal male actors are used
in both films. There are lost of connections.
J. Avella: Who are your cinema inspirations?
Fellini is the genius of the geniuses. Then:
Antonioni; Pasolini; DeSica; Malick; Scorsese;
Coppola...there are fifty or sixty films I
watch over and over again. I like Von Trier.
He’s courageous always giving us a different
version of things. And Ang Lee. The Ice
Storm is a masterpiece at capturing the
American people and he isn’t American.
J. Avella: What is your next project?
Crialese: I’m not sure. I’d
like to do a love story. It takes time for
me to decide and it’s a big commitment.
I like to control everything. I’m every
producer’s nightmare. I need to recover
before I think about the future...recooperate
from Nuovomondo which almost killed