INTERVIEW BY PAOLA JACOBBI
Pierfrancesco Favino has the face of a man of the sea. Sailing is an innate passion, the call of a voyage at sea is constantly with him. Cinema and sailing intersect in his life and on the silver screen, finding their perfect union in the short film Riva in the Movie.
Not surprisingly, the actor was chosen to star in the short Riva in the Movie, a tribute to cinema and its wonderful power. The film, which premiered on 4 September, 2020 at the Venice Film Festival, features Favino cruising through the world’s most famous canals aboard a legendary Riva Aquariva.
A stellar career of popular films and complex roles. A unique talent for transforming his appearance. A solid background as a stage actor and a successful turn as the host of the Sanremo Music Festival. Not to mention several important recognitions: in the last year alone, he received a David di Donatello Award for Il traditore (The Traitor) and a Volpi Cup for Padrenostro, which premiered at the latest Venice Film Festival. Then there’s his membership in the exclusive clique of those allowed to vote for the Academy Awards, his position as head of an acting school, and his work as a film producer. At 51, Pierfrancesco Favino is a workaholic: he never stops, and above all, he’s a born explorer and an avid discoverer of worlds, whether through the characters he plays or through new life experiences. And the sea is among them.
What does it feel like to be at sea?
A boat is an ideal dimension, I leave all my neuroses behind. But aside from that feeling of extraordinary tranquility, it’s like just looking at the sea puts me back in my place, where I’m supposed to be.
Is this an adult passion or have you always felt it?
Always, but in recent years I’ve been turning into a Labrador: as soon as the warm season hits and I see a wave, I dive in. I’ve developed a physical need for the sea, like those who are born in a seaside town and often long for it.
You were born in Rome. Where was your seaside when you were a kid?
It changed every year. We visited pretty much all the Italian coastal areas until settling in Argentario, where my parents spent twenty years.
Any sailing experiences?
I have a license that’s valid out to twelve miles from shore. I started sailing as a kid. Years ago, I traveled with a friend among the Italian islands between Ponza and Sicily for two months; we were on a pilot boat from the ‘70s that constantly took on water. It was an unforgettable vacation. Two years ago, when we were shooting The King’s Musketeers, my colleagues and I took a sailboat and explored Liguria, which we didn’t know very well.
Generally speaking, do you consider yourself adventurous?
I might not seem to be from the outside, but I definitely think so. I’m always searching for new and unknown things, I’ve traveled a lot without planning anything in advance. When I was young, I’d work so I could afford faraway trips with just a one-way ticket. I’ve slept in every condition, in some of the weirdest places.
Now that you’re a husband and father of two girls, and your schedule is so busy, do you miss traveling that way?
A little bit, yes. I’m extremely happy with my life: the things I wished for came true, so I would never complain about having a family or the fact that I work a lot. But I’m still enticed by the idea of an unplanned trip without time constraints, where I could just lose myself a little. And now that the girls are grown up, we’ll take a trip sooner or later.
You piloted a Riva at night in the Venetian lagoon while filming Riva in the Movie, which was later presented at the Venice Film Festival. What was that experience like?
It was August, Venice was deserted, there were only some locals and a few Italian tourists. That Riva was extraordinary. The day before, I had the captain go over everything with me because I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t make any mistakes, not with such a precious boat in my hands. I had never seen Venice at night like that. There was complete silence, a kind of limbo, like a Felliniesque dream.
Speaking of dreams, for an actor, the ultimate goal is making it in Hollywood. You succeeded, working with major international stars like Tom Hanks. What did they teach you?
They confirmed the importance of the work ethic. It’s a part of me, but it’s also something that my family taught me and was reinforced at the Academy of Dramatic Arts where I studied. I spent a lot of time with Tom Hanks, six months while filming Angels and Demons. He became a role model for me. I never saw him once lose his temper or behave as you expect a star would.
Do you want to work abroad again?
At the moment, I’d rather do stuff here in Italy. I don’t like the idea that you’re considered successful only if you’ve made movies with the Americans. I’m proud of being an Italian and European actor.
Why did you decide to go into producing?
It wasn’t to have more control over what I do, it wasn’t out of frustration or anger. I see it as a continuous path: acting, directing stage plays, running an acting school, producing. I’m interested in the various facets of this world of mine. I’m constantly exploring it, getting involved and challenging myself, without ever boring anyone or being bored myself.