ROME — Nobody, not even his mother, recognized Pierfrancesco Favino in his first Hollywood role: a cameo as Christopher Columbus in “Night at the Museum.”
But the 35-year-old Rome native has followed up with a meatier part in another Yank pic, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” as Lord Glozelle — a general on horseback whom Favino calls a “bad guy with a conscience.” This time, could international notice be far behind?
“Of course I care about visibility,” says Favino, “but I’ve never been that hungry for popularity.”
A rare case of Italian talent working internationally, Favino is a graduate of Rome’s Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica Silvio D’Amico acting school and a bit of a late bloomer, even on his home turf.
After a long stint doing mostly stage and telepic gigs, Favino caught the eye of Italian film critics in 2002, playing a stoic soldier in the WWII ensemble drama “El Alamein,” his first prominent bigscreen role.
In 2005, Favino played a cold-blooded mobster named Il Libanese in “Crime Novel,” a gangster epic in the “Goodfellas” vein. “Crime” won him a David di Donatello Award for best supporting actor, but more importantly gained him fans outside national confines, especially in France.
And while Favino is still waiting to land a proper lead on either side of the Pond, playing Glozelle in “Narnia” is “really a gift,” he says.
“The thing about this type of (Hollywood) production is that — unlike Italian films I’ve done before — if you have a scene in which you’re on a horse, you prepare by riding for two months.”
But that doesn’t mean Favino is indiscriminate when it comes to big-budget Hollywood endeavors.
“I’ve had several offers from the U.S. to play stereotypical ‘pizza and mandolin’ Italians,” he says, “but I had to turn them down. I just can’t.”
Claim to fame: Enzo Monteleone’s “El Alamein.”
Career mantra: “The promise I have made to myself is to continue to choose roles based on passion, not on money or fear of the void.”
Role models: “It’s always good to choose several role models. Mine are Marcello Mastroianni, Gian Maria Volonte and Sergio Castellitto.”
What’s next: “I have offers from France and Italy, and will pick the project that best represents me in terms of where I am personally right now.”