Cannes: Italo Auteur Matteo Garrone Talks About His ‘Tale of Tales’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Matteo Garrone Cannes
Roberto Serra - Iguana Press/Getty Images

Italo auteur Matteo Garrone, a two-time winner of the Cannes Grand Prix for “Gomorra” in 2008 and “Reality” in 2011, has just started shooting in Sicily on English-language fantasy/horror film “The Tale of Tales.” In an exclusive interview Garrone spoke to Variety‘s Nick Vivarelli about his most ambitious film yet. Excerpts:

Q: The movie you are about to shoot is based on “The Tale of Tales,” a collection of fairy tales by 17th century Italian author Giambattista Basile which, among other stories, contains the earliest versions of famous fables like “Rapunzel,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Cinderella.” What made you want to work with this book?

A: I chose to enter Basile’s world and make it my own because when I read them I immediately felt these stories were something familiar. I really connected with their spirit,  their irony and also with their dark aspects. In his fables I found that mix of real and unreal that has always characterized what I strive for as an artist. This project could seem far-removed from the rest of my work to date. But actually I think it pretty much fits in with what I’ve done so far.

Q: How so?

A: Among my movies, “The Embalmer,” or “First Love” or even “Gomorra,” and also “Reality” all had fable-like elements. Perhaps in those cases I took my cue from reality to transfigure it into a fantasy-like, or dreamlike, dimension. Whereas this time I’m doing the reverse, I’ve taken fable-like situations and turned them into something more realistic and believable. However, it’s the first time I’m venturing into supernatural territory and playing with magic.

Q: In terms of genre how would you describe it?

A: I would call it a fantasy film with horror elements.

Q: What are some of the themes in “Tale of Tales”?

A: The stories we chose to work with are amazing because they are so modern, so contemporary. They comprise a yearning for youth and physical beauty, the suffering of a woman willing to do anything to have a child, generational conflict, the struggle for power.

Q: There are a lot of firsts in this movie for you: first time you will be really departing from naturalism, first time doing a period piece and your first film shot in English.

A: This is the first one of my movies I think can actually benefit from being shot in English. It will have something Shakespearean. Italo Calvino called Basile “a deformed Neapolitan Shakespeare.” So it’s the right movie to be made in English. It will also have a strong entertainment component, with special effects, action scenes and so forth, and therefore a pretty high cost. So it was also necessary to find a language that could broaden the film’s market potential. But I have to say that I am very happy that I’m making my first English-language movie in Italy. After “Gomorra” I was offered plenty of movies to be shot in the U.S. But I always had doubts about going into a culture that was not my own. This is my world, and being a fantasy world it can be universal.

Q: Speaking of which, can you tell me about the locations?

A: My location manager, Gennaro Aquino, traveled in Italy for seven months from the deep South to its Northernmost regions. Then we made choices. Our basic idea has been to find real locations that look like they could be studio sets. We found places that give you the feel that they could be reconstructed in a studio, but they are actually real. The opposite of what’s usually done.

Q: In terms of the production, you are self-producing this ambitious $14.5 million film  through your Archimede Film, albeit with Jean Labadie’s Le Pact as co-producer and financing from RAI Cinema, and Jeremy Thomas on board as artistic producer with his HanWay shingle handling world sales. Are you feeling under pressure?

A:Yes, but I feel good.It’s a big gamble, but I’m ready.