Giuseppe Tornatore’s new film “Correspondence,” in which lovers played by Olga Kurylenko and Jeremy Irons communicate largely via Skype and text messages, marks the Oscar-winning director’s third English-language film after “The Legend of 1900” and, more recently, art world thriller “The Best Offer,” which did stellar biz at the Italian box office in 2013 and sold widely around the world. This atmospheric digital-age romancer, which goes on release in Italy today (Jan. 14), also marks Tornatore’s enth collaboration with composer Ennio Morricone, whose first score for him was “Cinema Paradiso.” Tornatore spoke with Variety about the challenges of making movies in English, the pleasures of working with Morricone, and his plans for a high-profile docu about the 87-year-old maestro who scooped a Golden Globe for scoring Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” and is nominated for an Oscar.
What prompted you to want to make a movie about love and transcendence in the digital age?
It’s an idea I first had many years ago. But at the time, the thought of lovers communicating through technology seemed like science fiction. And this aspect didn’t seem right. Then the digital evolution made my intuition become completely realistic. So I realised it was time.
This is your third English-language movie, and the second one in a row. It’s a very different process isn’t it?
I like making movies in English but I’ve always made the movies I wanted to make, never as a director for hire. That said, it’s more complex to conceive a film, obviously in Italian, and then transpose it into in English. It’s a never-ending process that only becomes complete on set, sometimes while working with the actors themselves to find the right words. On the other hand there are stories that free you from the constraints of a single language.
Of course it also opens up a bigger market for you.
Yes of course, I can’t deny it. If we had made “The Best Offer” in Italian I think it would still have been a good film, but I don’t think it would have had the same international success. So if you’ve go the right story these days it’s a good idea to make your movie in English.
You have been working with Morricone for more than 25 years. Was this time different?
Well yes, actually. We used our usual method, with him starting work on the score from the first draft of the script. It was a long process. But this time it was a matter of finding sound solutions that were a bit unusual for him. So it was perhaps more difficult, but very interesting. We experimented to find some electronic sounds. We understood from the beginning that electronic sound was key for this movie. So there are lots of them, combined with more traditional, orchestral music. From the beginning I asked him for a non-sumptuous, more simple, less imposing score.
Have you spoken to Morricone since he won the Golden Globe?
Yes, that morning I called Ennio, who is an early bird, to congratulate him. He was very happy. I had been following Tarantino’s courtship of Morricone who previously for various reasons had been forced to say ‘no.’ And even this time he was about to turn him down because of my film. I think I played a part in him accepting, because after three refusals it really would have been a shame. Ennio was persuaded, and he did an amazing job. I’m so glad he got this prize. The thought that an 87-year-old man is still doing all this – concerts; putting up with a director [Tornatore] who pesters him to make a different type of music; and making a movie with an American director [Tarantino] who has been courting him for so long, gives me energy. When I’m having a difficult moment during the day, I think of Ennio and then I feel better.
I heard you are making a documentary about Morricone titled “The Glance of Music.” Can you tell me about it?
Yes, I started shooting it last year. I’m doing it working around my feature film duties. Last year I shot a massively long interview with him during which I think he told pretty much everything about his professional life. I’ve also done some other interviews and we are working on gathering more materials. Then there will be a fictional component that I will shoot at the end. But it’s going to take a while. I don’t think it will be ready for a couple more years.