Director to Watch: Luca Guadagnino

Filmmaker feels like an 'outsider' in his native Italy

Luca Guadagnino, who started shooting his first shorts at age 6 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is undoubtedly an Italian anomaly.

Though his potent third feature, “I Am Love,” starring Tilda Swinton as a restrained society dame who gradually bursts out of her loveless Milanese marriage, made a splash in Venice and Toronto and sold to 18 territories, Guadagnino still considers himself “an outsider” in his native Italy.

Born in Palermo, Sicily, to an Algerian mother and a Sicilian father, Guadagnino grew up in Ethiopia and in the Sicilian capital before moving to Rome where his self-taught filmmaking training consisted of what he calls the Rainer Fassbinder film school: watching three movies a day and devouring books about film.

Meanwhile, after becoming “obsessed” with Swinton, first seen in Derek Jarman’s “Caravaggio” (1986), he approached the actress about shooting a short. It never got made, but they struck up a friendship that blossomed into a creative partnership.

Luca and I have known each other for a very long time, and we have a very compatible vision,” says Swinton. “We both like the idea of a cinema born out of a classical history of cinema — but truly modern.”

Their first collaboration was Guadagnino’s feature debut, “The Protagonists,” a “totally crazy” faux experimental docu in which Swinton and pals try to reconstruct the motiveless murder of a London waiter.

After its 1999 Venice bow, “The Protagonists” was slammed by most of the Italian press.

In 2005, Guadagnino shot what he calls his “first Hollywood movie,” steamy teen pic “Melissa P,” financed by Sony. Based on a bestselling memoir of a Sicilian 16-year-old’s sexual awakening, “Melissa” did boffo B.O. locally.

Still snubbed by local industryites, Guadagnino subsequently set up his First Sun production shingle, in partnership with fashion creator Silvia Fendi, among others. A David Gordon Green-helmed remake of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” is in the pipeline.

Guadagnino’s goal is to “become a Hollywood insider.” To this end, one of his dearest desires is to shoot a remake of 1958 Warner Bros. hit “Auntie Mame” toplining Swinton.


AGE: 38

HOMEBASE: “I am in the midst of making this big decision, but will certainly be moving away from Rome.”

Roberto Rossellini, Alfred Hitchcock, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Jonathan Demme, Jean-Luc Godard, William Friedkin

REPS: Managers: Bart Walker, Christina Bazdekis, Dana O’Keefe (Cinetic); agent: Graziella Bonacchi (TNA in Rome)

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