In 1937, everyone’s favorite Fascist, Benito Mussolini (he’s actually the guy who coined the term) founded a movie studio to create propaganda films for his Nazi-sympathizing regime. Dubbed Cinecittà (‘Film City’), the studio was heavily bombed by the Allies during the war, and afterwards, its soundstages were used to house thousands of Italians who had been displaced by the war. By the 1950s, however, Cinecittà had turned into the hub of La Dolce Vita of Italian filmmaking, serving as the set for most of Federico Fellini’s films, and even American blockbusters such as Ben Hur.
Getting a tour of Cinecittà is about as easy as getting a private audience with the Pope. But, with a few well-placed phone calls by C-Monster.net‘s high-powered Hollywood agent, we managed to wrangle our way into a guided tour of the studio’s incredible backlot on a positively sweltering summer day. We saw everything from the satanic-looking sculptures that appeared in Angels and Demons to a recreation of the hilltop town of Assisi where St. Francis received the stigmata (“it’s too steep and inconvenient to film there,” said our guide of the real Assisi). Most significantly, we got to see the house where Grande Fratello, Italy’s version of Big Brother is filmed. The highlight, however, was walking through the $20 million dollar set for HBO’s Rome, a sprawling set of painted temples and forums that gave us a far better sense of the Imperial City than a year’s worth of trudging through ruins.
Click on images to supersize.
And now, on to fake Assisi — used as a set for the 1989 TV series Francesco, in which Mickey Rourke (as in The Wrestler) played Saint Francis. Proving once again that real life is indeed stranger than fiction.
Interestingly, the set was also used for some super-meta art films by German artiste Christian Jankowski.
Soundstage No. 5: Where Fellini worked. Just try and imagine the whacked out shit that went down in this room. A similar soundstage nearby contains a who-knows-how-many-gallon water tank used to film Wes Anderson’s Life Aquatic.
A prop from Fellini’s Casanova, which starred Donald Sutherland in the title role — a part that we are told he did not exactly enjoy filming. See the IMBD entry and the trailer (where the head emerges at about 0:12). Thanks to my colleague Yvonne Connasse for the encyclopedic film knowledge on this one.
And we’re onto big bad NYC: This is a street set used in Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York. We were told that the reason U.S. productions go to Italy to recreate NY is because their craftsmanship is head and shoulders above Hollywood’s. And boy was it. Unless you put your face right up to those fake bricks to touch them, you wouldn’t realize they were fiberglass.