A “Wrong” Negroni in the right place, a stolen picture for a gifted memory: this is just enough to set the mood, the ideal one to talk about everything in the unframed background of one of our interviews.
Between day and night, resting gondolas and dark alleys, Enea Barozzi opened up in a sleepy Venice, persuading the tired barman at the end of his shift to let us stay for those last transitional hours: he’s a young man who never gives up.
Commercials and photographic catalogs, first auditions, and sets have only marked the beginning and hints of a passion that, from year to year, has been growing up with him, changing and developing together with his brain, when in contact with the characters he plays and the people he likes to observe.
Between eras and places, Enea says things that sound right, that if written in a script, would make the “right” kind of script, just the one he’s looking for. Just the one we’re looking for.
What’s your first cinema memory?
A commercial I did when I was 6, for Giovanni Rana, my first job ever, and I had so much fun. I was the protagonist of an ad that we filmed in Chamonix, in France, and there was Mr. Giovanni Rana himself who told us so many youth memories of his. This is the first thing I remember about my job.
About cinema, specifically, my first memory is Gabriele Salvatores, when I got the part for “The Invisible Boy”, for a co-protagonist role. That was my first job in the movies because I’d never really worked in cinema before, I had mainly done photographic catalogs, commercials, and things like that. To be honest, I’d done three auditions for the part of the protagonist, and in the end, the finalists were me and Ludovico [Girardello] – who eventually got the part, of course. I remember that, while I was on holiday with my mom, I got a call and they told me I was in the film, but in another role. I felt awful because I was so excited! The thing is that, on my second audition, Gabriele told me: “You’re in the cast. I don’t know whom I want you to play, but you’re in the cast”. The audition was in Trieste, I’d gone there by car with my dad, and on our way back home we screamed the whole time with the windows down on the freeway. So, when they told me I got the part of Brando Volpi, I felt so bad because I was sure I would have gotten the lead role. Anyway, then I read the script and fell madly in love with my character, and I felt so happy. Plus, Gabriele is a wonderful person, I’ve never met a director with such humanity. We were all 12 or 13 on set, and he seemed to be treating us as kids only from the outside, but we, from the inside, felt like he was treating us as peers. It was truly amazing.
There’s something that Gabriele once said and that I will never forget – we were filming one of the last scenes of the movie, the one in which the barge explodes, and after that one, we had to film another one where I, who played the bully in the school, made peace with Michele, the main character; we tried this scene so many times because we couldn’t get it right, and Gabriele came to us, took us aside and said: “Let me tell you a story. I was once working with an actor, and this actor couldn’t get this scene right; so, I told him, ‘Try and act it less’ and he said, ‘What does it mean to act it less?’, and I said, “You just cut things, and then we’ll see’”. In the end, he told us that this actor, despite trying to “cut things”, was still too fake in his acting, and after three, four, five, six takes where he just couldn’t get it right, he got pissed and said, “Gabriele, what should I do, should I not act at all?”, and he answered:
“Exactly. You don’t have to act”.
That sentence completely changed my vision of acting. I realized that, in the end, sure, you need to know how to act, but you need to also know so many technical things about the camera, about where the camera is placed at the moment you perform a certain action, but this thing about “not acting” has completely changed my view, and I’m also seeing it now, as an acting student. I’m currently attending the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Milan. You know, acting is just about impulse, the feelings you really feel on the scene, so you need to follow a certain flow, a path, that’s improvised anyway, but only partially because you obviously need to follow a script. However, what you feel while acting a scene is not necessarily what’s written on the script, it depends on you, and that thing Gabriele said has really changed my life.
What is it that made you realize you wanted to live and work in this world?
I started when I was very young: I was 6 months old, my mother had registered me with an advertising agency and they immediately hired me.
For a small part of my childhood, it was a job “wanted” by my parents, but they never pushed me to do anything, they always gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted to do. The thing is that I liked being on set, and I realized it with “The Invisible Boy”, but also later on with my following projects, like when I worked with Sorrentino, I had a small part in “The New Pope”, and when I worked with Ozpetek in a commercial for Mediolanum starring Filippo Nigro.
To be honest, I realized that this was the path I wanted to follow when I was even younger than that, but as I hadn’t really been on any cinematographic set, I didn’t really know what it meant back then. My passion for cinema was born on my very first set, the Giovanni Rana commercial one: it was there that I understood and decided that that one would have been the job of my life because I loved being with adults, I loved getting jokes that other kids my age didn’t get, I loved being part of a world where people treated you like a person with a job even though they were 7.
Eventually, I realized that, as a very extroverted person who likes to be with people, study people, observe them for hours, and then imitate them, the acting job to me is an extraordinary thing because it means that you can be twenty different people in only a year and still keep being yourself, but changing only small parts of your brain because that very small part of your brain has been in contact with someone similar to the character you’re playing. This totally blew me up! [laughs]
“The acting job to me is an extraordinary thing because it means that you can be twenty different people in only a year and still keep being yourself”
Transformism seems a bit of a constant in your projects: none of the roles you’ve played so far is similar to another. What is it that makes you choose one project instead of another? When do you understand that the script you’re reading is “the one” for you?
When the script doesn’t sound wrong to me.
What I mean is that, and we’re currently studying this at school, in a script, there should always be a subtext: what you say is never really what you mean. And this also happens in real life, when you’re saying something that you wouldn’t really want to say, you don’t really say it explicitly, but you say it in a way that only suggests to your interlocutor that you’re meaning that one thing you have in mind. The scripts that are written in this way, with a subtext that makes sense, drive me crazy, in a positive way; while if I’m reading a script where the characters say exactly what they mean, there’s no chance I would like them; I don’t want to say I wouldn’t audition because I would and then see what happens, but if I could choose, I would opt for some decently-written scripts [laughs].
Then, of course, my work relationship with the director and the other people who are auditioning is important, as well. Even though, you know, with Covid and that kind of stuff, now in-person auditions are rare, and almost everything is done in self-tape, so it’s you, at home, on your own, without a context, without a professional actor auditioning with you. Now, I’m lucky enough to have classmates who can act, so we arrange accordingly and help each other when possible.
Speaking of locations and settings, you’ve lived in the sci-fi Trieste with “The Invisible Boy”, in Sorrentino’s Rome with “The New Pope”, in the 1980s Milan with “Bang Bang Baby”, eras and places that are very different from each other. What is it that enchants you about this sort of teleportation? How do you prepare, from time to time, before starting filming?
It’s the definition of teleportation that actually enchants me!
The fact that you can live in different eras while still being in 2022, and with all the politically correct that’s fashionable right now and pisses me off so much. In “Bang Bang Baby”, for example, there’s this first scene, the one with the bag of chips and the penis inside: if that kind of thing would have been set in our times, it would have turned up everyone’s noses; but the series is set in the ‘80s, so you can do whatever you want, literally. I’m also a big fan of stand-up comedy, I like Ricky Gervais, Daniel Sloss, and Louis CK, and this has also opened my mind a little bit because they often joke about past shows where they could say anything they wanted. Anyway, they don’t care about it and say what they want to say even now because they do black humor, but I actually understand that it’s something people would criticize today.
Especially in Italy because outside our country, the situation is a bit different, I guess…
Yes, absolutely, in Italy it is how it is, unfortunately, and this pisses me off.
What questions do you ask yourself when you read a script for the first time?
The first thing that comes to my mind is: does what I’m saying actually sound good?
Because I would often want to change my lines in the way I would say a certain thing… Plus, many times I wonder whether I fit the role I’m auditioning for or not. In fact, they often offer me to audition for roles of like 27-year-old guys from Calabria, and I say, “Guys, all right, I can fake the accent, that’s fine, but what the fuck” [laughs].
So, when you play a character, do you usually tend to be more rational or emotional?
I’m emotional when I act the scene: when I’m acting, I let myself go and become one with my character. Before that, if we’re rehearsing and we’re in the dressing room and I have free time to spend there, I study the scene, spend hours reading it and figuring out what I could do, and then, maybe, when I’m on set, I do the opposite of what I’d thought, I do what my instincts say I should do.
Everyone has their outlet: some people meditate, some journal, some work out. What do you do when you need to unplug?
I really love going out with my lifetime friends, playing basketball, and playing chess because you focus so much on the game that all the rest falls away. One of my best friends is from Albania, and there in Albania, there is a very strong chess culture – half of the people from Albania that I know were thought to play chess by their grandad (“baba” in Albanian) or parents, so I’ve been playing chess with this friend of mine since forever: when we play, I’m 100% focused, there’s only the chessboard, the person in front of me, and all the rest passes in the background. The same goes for basketball, I started playing basket when I was 13 and it’s become some sort of therapy for me, it means letting off steam even just from a physical point of view.
You know, being an actor as your only job is actually a source of anxiety, in the sense that you can work for three or four months straight and then do nothing for the rest of the year, and you get horribly depressed for that. Basketball helps me a lot with this kind of feeling. Moreover, I belong to a family of basketball players, my dad used to be a high-level player, and my mom has played for 20 years, even though I’ve actually played lots of sports, including taekwondo, swimming, tennis, table tennis…
What about soccer?
Guess what, soccer is kind of banned in my house! [laughs] When I was about ten, I tried to ask my mother, “Mom, all my friends play soccer, will you take me to the playground? I want to try it!”. My mom answered, “What did you just say?! You won’t get out of this house if you don’t tell me you want to play basketball.” [laughs] Later on, I actually gave basketball a try and realized it’s my world, it’s the sport I like to play.
“…when we play, I’m 100% focused, there’s only the chessboard, the person in front of me, and all the rest passes in the background.”
What’s your must-have on set?
They help me stay focused and spend my downtime somehow. The thing is that, when you’re on set, you can’t keep things in your pockets, so maybe you hide your cigarettes under a pillow and, as soon as I have some downtime, I smoke. To be honest, I don’t really smoke a lot, especially during winter, but when I work, I need to have cigarettes with me, also because smoking includes you in the circle (and everyone smokes within the circle), and it’s an excuse to ask for a 5-minute break. You know, I’ve met lots of actors who necessarily need to have their phones with them on set, but it’s something I don’t understand. I hate my phone, if I could, I wouldn’t even have one, but I need to have one, I need to work… [laughs]
I hate interacting with people in ways that are not “live”.
So, would you have preferred to live in another era? Or do you feel like you belong to our times?
I feel like I belong to our times because I was born and I live in the now, and I’ve learned lots of things about technology that my father taught me when I was a kid. However, if I could choose, I would live in the ‘90s.
The glory days of the Game Boy…
Yes, exactly, I’m also a big videogame player, but I don’t like PlayStation, I prefer Nintendo world, Mario, Pokémon… I find that shooters are just a pain in the ass.
“If I could choose, I would live in the ‘90s.”
Your dream collab?
An epic fail on set?
Uuuh… I know this! Actually, the story is not about me, but I remember it made us all laugh for about two hours.
While we were filming “The Invisible Boy”, specifically the scene of the explosion of the barge, there were small, fake fireworks that would have been converted to CGI later on; what happened is that, when we all rush out of the barge, Filippo [Valese], who plays Martino, the first boy to be kidnapped, jumps on the mattress (that’s obviously hidden from the camera), this burning tire runs over his leg, and his trousers burst into flames. We spent several minutes trying to putting his trousers out, it was hilarious.
I wouldn’t know about my own epic fails, but I could tell you about a few embarrassing moments, for sure. For example, in “The New Pope”, there was a scene where I had to do “promiscuous” things with a lady who was a mother of two children in real life, but in the show, she played a prostitute who got paid to entertain the boys of the villa. It was awkward because there were lots of people behind the camera and I was with this lady with her breasts out and I had to touch them, it was a bit nerve-wracking.
Anyway, you get used to these sorts of things!
What was your latest binge-watch, if you’re a binge-watcher? I’m not, for example, I don’t like watching shows in one go…
Me neither, actually. In fact, I’ll tell you which are my two favorite shows: “Vikings” and “Breaking Bad”. The latest one I watched is “The Office”.
What’s a song you can’t stop listening to in this period? And the one that describes this very moment of your life?
Shit, this one’s hard! [laughs]
At this time in my life, I love listening to French rap, French drill. My absolute favorite Italian artist, instead, is Caparezza, I think he’s a genius, I’ve been listening to his music since I was 9. To be honest, I listen to a bit of everything, I like lots of stuff. I don’t fancy boybands and shitty music like that, even though, for example, Justin Bieber, whom I would despise when I was 14, is an artist whose music I would listen to now.
Songs I can’t stop listening to… Tunes by Paky, I like him so bad in this period, is a rapper who also makes rap and drill music, he’s from Naples but he’s been living in Rozzano, near Milan, for many years now. He represents the suburbs, like all rappers kind of do, but in my opinion, if we consider the current rapper scenario, he’s one of the most authentic ones, who’s truly lived the shit he talks about, he knows what he’s saying, and I like his meanness, the “cazzimma” with which he talks about things. You know, in this period I’ve been listening to lots of dance music, but the genre I listen to the most is ‘90s rap music: Eminem, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes.
The song I can’t help but listen to on repeat these days is “No Church in the Wild” by Kanye West and Jay-Z.
“No Church in the Wild”
What’s the biggest act of rebellion you can recall?
Shaving my head.
It happened all of a sudden, in the sense that for 20 years I’ve always had long hair because my mom, my manager, and everyone would tell me that, if I wanted to be an actor, I would have had to keep my hair long because “you can always cut them if you need to, but letting them grow takes time, and they would have to create a wig for you, and it’s extra work, and they would choose someone else over you”. It totally makes sense, but I realized I was 22 and I’d never had short hair in my whole life, so I said: “Fuck that, I’m shaving my head”. If I think about my personality, my way of being, and my brain, this has been my biggest act of rebellion so far.