‘Ennio’ Director Giuseppe Tornatore on Portraying Iconic Composer: ‘There Was No Moment When He Felt Calm’

Ennio Morricone Walk of Fame
Courtesy of Muthmedia GmbH

Italian helmer Giuseppe Tornatore’s (“Cinema Paradiso”) documentary “Ennio,” on the late music composer Ennio Morricone, features a pantheon of commentators influenced by the maestro’s scores, from Bruce Springsteen to Hans Zimmer — not to mention the music.

Morricone is a two-time Oscar winner who scored over 500 film tracks, including a slew of Sergio Leone films, like “The Good The Bad, and The Ugly.” Morricone died when Tornatore was editing the documentary in July 2020. The film, which is 150 minutes, premieres out of competition at the Venice Film Festival on Friday.

“It didn’t change the contents of the film but it changed my vision,” he told reporters at a round table, speaking through a translator. “Editing the scenes made it feel like he was still there. That he wasn’t really gone.”

Some of the talking heads that would have been obvious go-to interviews for a film on Morricone are no longer with us, including Leone. “One thing I had to do… was to look for archival footage of those filmmakers no longer alive. I would look for footage where they spoke about [Morricone]. Sometimes I found it. Sometimes I didn’t,” he said.

But anyone that still could opened their arms to Tornatore. “Quentin Tarantino was shooting his latest film but he invited me on set, did the interview and then resumed filming,” he said.

Others interviewed for the film include Dario Argento and Barry Levinson but Tornatore said he wasn’t just interested in big names.

“I didn’t just want famous filmmakers and musicians, but also less known people that had a relationship with him. I wanted to create a three-dimensional perspective, like talking also to the electrician. It’s a sign of affection that so many people wanted to talk about him,” said Tornatore.

What the film didn’t feature is Morricone’s son, composer Andrea Morricone (“Liberty Heights”). “I wanted to focus on his work,” said Tornatore. “I intentionally decided not to talk to Andrea because I decided not to dwell on Morricone’s private life. Also I couldn’t get rights to material I would have liked to include.”

“Ennio” was not made all together in one sequence. “It was kind of episodic. We would work on it. We would do interviews for a few days. Then we would stop and think about who we would interview. Only the editing was done in one shot. It made it possible for me to make choices on who to interview next, also based on what the others had said,” Tornatore added.

Tornatore said he discovered the music of Morricone when he was a boy. “I was maybe 8 or 10 and I wanted to watch a Western and watched, ‘For A Few Dollars More,’” he said. “I particularly remembered the music. A few days later, I was at a beach. It was the time of jukeboxes. One started playing the soundtrack for ‘A Few Dollars.’ I was so impressed that film music could live without a film. Since then I’ve been interested in Morricone.”

The composer, however, was a complex artist. He didn’t necessarily have an inferiority complex, Tornatore explains, but he was “tormented” and this was only resolved at the end of his life.

“It’s one of the elements that explains why his music is so rich,” said Tornatore. “There was no moment when he felt calm. There was this conflict of creating the music and also trying to make it understandable to the people. Finally he understood film music is contemporary.”