Starring in the TV series “The Ignorant Angels” by Ferzan Özpetek and the crime-comedy movie “(Im)perfetti criminali” by Alessio Maria Federici, Anna Ferzetti opens up with us, reckless on the job as much as in life.
With the eight episodes based on the cult movie “The Ignorant Fairies” by Özpetek, wearing the shoes of Roberta, a therapist living in a deep romantic crisis, Anna has experienced one of the most thrilling jobs of her career, which earned her the Nastro d’Argento for Best Supporting Actress, ex-aequo with Ambra Angiolini. Around a table of friends and colleagues, between improvising and sticking to the scripts, she became an essential part of the idyllic world of the Turkish director, made out of a friendly and family love that breaks the schemes, goes beyond the sexes, triggers a cultural revolution.
A lover of disguises and changes of looks, in “(Im)perfetti criminali” Anna radically moves on, playing Francesca, a humble, funny, lighthearted woman, and wife of a security guard on the quest for social redemption.
Between deep reflections upon the meaning of loss and rundowns of the magic of the theater, we chatted with Anna about her passions, meetings, hopes and everyday joys, in the name of great love for the freedom of expression.
What’s your first cinema memory?
I don’t really have a specific memory linked to cinema, but rather an ensemble of memories. The first one that comes to my mind is my dad’s first movie, which I rewatched as a kid, and it’s a film by Sergio Leone called “Once Upon a Time in the West.” It’s from 1986, but I watched it years later and realized that it was my father’s job, and seeing it on a screen impressed me so much, especially watching him play the bad guy. That’s my first memory, perhaps, and from there on, many other memories could come out.
“The Ignorant Angels” by Ferzan Özpetek: a cult of Italian cinema which has now been adapted for the small screen, available on Disney+ from April 13th. Did you already have an emotional bond with the movie before becoming part of the series? What was your first thought when you read the script and the first question you asked the director?
I think that the movie “The Ignorant Faries” is a cult because it came out at a specific time in history and disclosed something different in all of us. Ferzan, unconsciously, managed to open up a world, a vision of that world to which we were not used and didn’t want to be.
Ferzan was ahead of the times without knowing it, the movie was a cultural novelty back then: he, through his cinema, managed to legitimate something new, a love that goes beyond genders. I would call his work revolutionary, with him being unaware of that. I think he wanted to tell a story that was close to his way of being, having fun, and narrating human beings, with a strong link to family and friendships.
To be a part of the series, after having seen the movie, has been touching: my first reaction was emotion, I was surprised and happy. I was scared, too, of judgment, of the comparisons that would have been made with the movie, which actually didn’t happen instead because the show and the film are to separate things, in the sense that you need to step away from the original characters: there’s only one Stefano Accorsi and there’s only one Eduardo Scarpetta, each of them has given life to his own character, making it his own.
As far as I’m concerned, my and Ambra Angiolini’s roles do not exist in the film, so this was an advantage for us because we could be more serene and relaxed as we were creating a couple of brand-new characters.
Ferzan told me so many things, he also tells you about some real-life situations he witnessed, which make you dive into that atmosphere he’s looking forward to creating, he has this brilliant ability and I would spend hours listening to him. All of this helps you reach a character.
He works a lot with images, but also with metaphors, stories, and feelings that help you create situations and characters.
In the series, you play a therapist named Roberta, a very rational and caring woman, madly in love with her wife Annamaria (Ambra Angiolini). How did you build your character? Which questions did you ask yourself and which answers did you give yourself when you started working on your role?
Yes, I play Roberta, a therapist who’s married to Annamaria while being completely different from her: they compensate each other a lot.
Roberta is a very independent and strong woman, who analyzes everything and everyone because of her job, in a quite cynical and straightforward way, which sometimes is even very funny. She’s a listener, she does it quite well. Annamaria represents her abstract side, her lightweight and maternal nature: she’s sort of everything for her. In the series, Roberta will have to reveal some uncomfortable truths disrupting their house and their love life, but also their friends’ group. She’s an apparently strong, resolute woman, but eventually, she will turn out quite different because she’ll go through a deep crisis.
While building my character, I’ve asked myself tons of questions, and that’s something I always do when I play a part: I always wonder so many things, also based on the single scenes I have to do, I ask myself more or less specific questions. I also make up my character’s private life, a back story: where she comes from, what kind of relationship she has, in this case, with Annamaria. I also tried to work on something else, this time, something physical, I somehow slowed my heartbeat down – it’s hard to explain how to do that because there’s not a real way, but I imagined a character with a slower heartbeat – and I tried to change my breathing rhythm: I’m a much more energetic woman, I’m on fire, while Roberta is someone who likes to keep her feet on the ground, so she has great stability and a slow breathing rhythm, her own slow time.
With Ferzan, we decided to change my look, we cut my hair, it was brilliant teamwork.
“…I imagined a character with a slower heartbeat – and I tried to change my breathing rhythm.”
With such a huge cast, did you have any relevant confrontations or dialogues on set about your characters, that actors usually don’t have while filming?
Being part of a numerous cast is amazing: at the beginning, it can feel scary because it’s lots of brains and personalities put together, but in the end, if you collaborate well and listen to each other, everything works much better, and in synergy. It was great. Starting off, I was very excited, I’d been waiting for the coral scenes of the meals around the table for so much time, I couldn’t wait to shoot them. I was also a bit scared because there were so many of us, but in the end, everything came naturally, we put up amazing lunches and dinners, just like the ones you have at home with your friends. Therefore, it was an experience made of listening, sharing, and chatting, but with a written script behind that we all acted out.
After one single week of filming together, we had already become that one thing, we had become friends, those very Ignorant Angels, so straightforward, cynical, outspoken.
What was the most intense scene to play for you, for one reason or another?
There wasn’t really a specific one. Obviously, the whole part Ambra and I shot at home. Perhaps, the hardest moment was when I tell her that I’m going through a crisis, that I’m in love with someone else. I, myself, was a bit in crisis, in the beginning, because it’s always so hard… In the end, though, it worked out fine, but I felt anxious about filming that scene, and explaining Roberta’s difficulties, not to label her as someone doing something negative, but the reason why she does it, what makes her do that, which is a crisis that goes beyond love, it’s a deeper crisis she’s going through. She needs her wife beside her. I found it, somehow, a sincere gesture.
These things happen, some people must have related to that, but we usually don’t communicate everything we should and pretend like it’s no big deal. But, in this case, in the name of love, they’ve helped each other: one has maybe been more straightforward, the other one has accepted it, has respected her by saying: “Okay, stay.”
“A crisis that goes beyond love, it’s a deeper crisis”
You tend or find yourself playing roles that are always very different one from another, as in this case: your character is different from any other you’ve ever played. How does your approach and preparation process change according to the role you have to play? Has this one time been “special” in any aspect?
I love to vary my characters a lot, especially from an aesthetic point of view, which is what I always try and do, otherwise, the risk is I get bored. I want to try and feel surprised every time, try and find different things, try and radically change a character. I think that actors are often divided into two categories: some actors love to revolutionize their looks, “disguise,” change completely from a physical point of view, and there are actors who don’t like that and walk a different path. I would maybe place myself in the transformation category certainly because, as shy as I am, it helps me cover up, and that’s why I love theater so much, as it allows you to become someone else, aesthetically, while cinema, maybe, allows you that to a lesser degree. I like to revolutionize myself, change, change my look, hair color, and hairstyle, I’d also love to change era, and tell other eras which I didn’t live, and this would certainly bring out different sides of me, ways of doing, walking, staying still or socializing: they’re expedients to work and study while always letting things surprise you, and surprising the others and myself.
How would you define “The Ignorant Angels” in one word?
Hard to choose just one word… Love, friendship, and family, let’s name three.
You also star in the movie “(Im)perfetti criminali,” a Sky Original production directed by Alessio Maria Federici and currently available on Sky and NOW. The comedy focuses on four security guards and their desire for social redemption, following a series of events that upset their lives and friendships. What can you tell us about your character?
My character is Francesca. She’s part of the life of one of the protagonists, Riccardo, played by da Filippo Scicchitano. She’s a simple girl and theirs is a couple of newly-weds living in a one-room flat, with a life of hardship, and an unlikely intimacy that they look for every time. It’s a humble, simple couple, seeking to go on and make ends meet, and they will find themselves having to share certain things.
It’s a light comedy, that makes you smile, think, and reflect, like those old-style comedies, the typical Italian ones.
“(Im)perfetti criminali” belongs to the genre “funny comedy,” following the narrative thread of the so-called “perfect shot,” in the style of the cult American movies like “Ocean’s Eleven.” In which way did you approach this kind of mood and setting?
I get along very well on set with Alessio Maria Federici, with whom I had already worked before, and who loves to revolutionize me a bit. I like to also play light roles, with an unconscious kind of comedy style, a natural one, which is something that Francesca has, being a funny, hilarious, joyful woman.
The possibility of social redemption, as we’ve already mentioned, is another big theme of the movie: what message do you hope that the story conveys to the audience?
There is more than one. The movie speaks for simple people, sometimes called “losers”, but we all are losers in life, we all get to lose, for one thing, or another, and it’s good because it makes us grow up a bit more every time. About the movie, the final dedication is also relevant: to all those who couldn’t make it, who try hard in life, who fight.
According to me, it speaks to all of us, those who’ve been trying to succeed for years and will somehow then make it, have their satisfactions, but before having them, they have to really work hard.
“…we all get to lose, for one thing, or another, and it’s good because it makes us grow up a bit more every time.”
You also work in the theater: what does the stage represent to you? Does your approach to the experience of acting change between cinema and theater?
I mostly come from theater, and maybe it was my first love because, when I was born, my father would work mostly there, so he would always take me there with him, and I would breathe the smell of the wooden stage, curtains, moquette that often covered up the cushions, so that’s part of my childhood, and growth.
It’s my first love because I love approaching the audience, which certainly differs from the way it works in cinema or television, where you don’t see nor hear the audience unless it’s the premiere. I feel the need to see the audience, to hear them. I think it’s 99% part of the show because it often influences it: we can hear everything, the small movements, we often let ourselves be surprised by their reaction, and certain things can change also according to the audience members that are there from night to night. It’s a kind of feeling that cinema and television don’t give, though they can give you other different kinds of feelings, which allow you to change, given the number of takes that you have and thanks to which you can risk a bit more.
Trying to find something new every time.
The most significant encounter of your career so far?
I can’t name one, there have certainly been lots of relevant encounters for me. Every professional encounter I have leaves me with something important, that makes me grow. I’m particularly fond of every encounter I’ve had so far.
Who or what inspires you on the job, but also in your everyday life?
So many things. I like to observe, the people in the streets, I stop and look at them, imagine what they do for a living, and how they move, I’m a great observer and this helps me with my job. Besides that, I watch films, study and admire the work of other artists, I like doing that. It’s a job made of curiosity: I’m very curious.
What’s the movie you almost know by heart?
Right now, all animated and young adult films because I’ve seen them multiple times as I have two daughters. I’m also a big fan of musicals: I love “Grease,” I know it by heart, I love “Dirty Dancing,” I’m such a romantic girl, and those lighthearted and fun movies I would watch when I was 13, when you experience your first love, I know them very well. From those to all young adult stuff, like “Home Alone” number 1, 2, 3, all of those [laughs]. Up to a great movie that reminds me of my teenage hood, which is “Dead Poets Society,” starring a great actor named Robbie Williams. As for Italian movies, I’m a fan of Verdone.
Your latest binge-watch?
The TV series “Succession” and “The Ignorant Angels” because I was curious to get to the last episode and see all that we’d done together, and re-experience those moments. I’m currently watching some Italian shows made and performed by some friends of mine: I want to support Italian TV series.
An epic fail on set?
I try and forget about them! [laughs] However, when I’m not focused enough, maybe after a break, I start saying absurdities, forgetting lines, I get tired and start saying nonsense lines, get it wrong all the time.
In those cases, I get frustrated and make everyone waste so much time, but I don’t think it’s something that maybe can happen, we’re not machines and it can happen that maybe when you repeat a scene so many times, you can eventually get it wrong.
Your must-have on set?
I’m very superstitious, so I always carry with me excerpts, I’m one of those who always need to have excerpts of the script in my prop bag or in my pockets, or I just give them to the assistant directors [laughs]. Because it makes me feel serene. On set, I always have with me the script, and also behind the scenes, it’s a bit like my security blanket.
Then, as I have low blood pressure, I always carry with me a sugar sachet, although I know it doesn’t help because it’s usually salt you need.
What does it mean to you to feel “comfortable in your own skin”?
It’s when you know you can make mistakes and take risks, that you don’t need to justify yourself in front of anyone because no one is there to judge you, so you can be yourself.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
I don’t think I have done the bravest thing I can. I’m reckless, I’ve done some crazy stuff like hanging on those things you see at the beach, those speedboats that lift you up in the air. I did it once when I was filming in Tunisia, a friend of mine and I agreed: “Come on, let’s try!”.
They lift you up while you’re in a sort of harness and take you around with a parachute. I’m quite brave, I’ve always liked to go out there and do lots of things, I’m so reckless.
What are you afraid of?
I’m afraid of death, it’s always scared me a lot, maybe because I’ve always lived with a father that was much older than me, I’ve always lived with the fear that that day would have come one day. When it eventually came, I was somehow readier than usual, even though you’re actually never ready for that. This is a therapy session, by the way, such challenging questions! [laughs]
What’s the latest thing/person that has made you smile today?
My daughters, my partner. My daughters, when I wake up in the morning, are always the first ones (and last ones) to make me smile.
Your happy island?
Freedom, managing to be free and express in the way I want.
Photos&Video by Johnny Carrano.
Makeup by Francesca Naldini.
Thanks to The Rumors.
Location Manager Luisa Berio.
Location Bottega Buonarroti.
Thanks to Antonella Sava.
Suit: Alessandro Vigilante
Necklace: Argento Blu
Total Look: Sandro Paris
Rings: Voodoo Jewels
Dress: Edoardo Gallorini
Earrings: Gala Rotelli
Dress: Art Dealer
Earrings: Gala Rotelli