Here comes “The Old Guard”. Marinelli goes to Hollywood, alongside Charlize Theron.
“Alone, fragile and immortal.”
A story of love, friendship and compassion with an ancient warrior and a young African American, who has just discovered she is immortal, as protagonists. Because the world needs women and courage knows no gender differences. 20 years after “Love & Basketball” and after “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Beyond the Lights - Find Your Voice”, Gina Prince-Bythewood comes to the action movie with very clear ideas on how to reinvent the rules. We talked to her over the phone while she was in Los Angeles during the lockdown.
A superhero movie that doesn't look like a superhero movie. Is that why you decided to make it?
Absolutely yes, when I read the script I realized that despite the fantastic genre there was a very realistic background. These characters are real and it's easy for the audience to relate to them despite being immortal. They fight for goals and reasons that people understand. The more realistic the film, the more viewers can reflect themselves in the protagonists.
In fact, the most fascinating aspect of the characters is their vulnerability: they are immortal, but up to a certain point, which is a paradox. They too have to deal with the sense of the end.
There is a possibility that they may die, that their immortality is interrupted, that they still suffer from their wounds, and this brings them closer to us. The public still feels sorry for them when they see them in danger.
Immortals suffer, and not just physically.
Many think that being able to live forever would be extraordinary, but no one asks what this really means. Immortality has consequences: it can be a gift, but it can also be a curse.
And we don’t know why immortality fell to them.
The thing I loved about the graphic novel and the script is the fact that there is no explanation. Not only do we not know it, but neither do the protagonists. But it is a trilogy and therefore there is still a lot to tell.
Could you offer your contribution to the script?
It was a great script, with great roles based on the graphic novel so I stayed very true to the text. With the author, Greg Rucka, we wanted to reflect on the fear of taking someone's life, the one that sometimes overwhelms soldiers in war, whose psychology is often neglected. Hollywood films have never been very concerned with this aspect, as if killing had no consequences. The protagonists are forced to kill, but if someone has been doing it for centuries, for others it’s the first time.
What struck you about Luca Marinelli?
I could talk about him for days, I love him, he's the actor that all directors dream of having on set. He loved the character and gave him life in a very credible way. Between him and Marwan Kenzari is born a great complicity, necessary between two people who have been together for centuries. Luca's eyes are full of soul, his Nicky is the heart of the group, he’s the most sensitive character of all of them.
Charlize Theron, who is also one of the producers, has an increasingly and more torn body.
Charlize has already played roles like this one, she is very credible in the genre of action and has been helpful to who had never faced it before. From her, who really worked hard, others learned to do the same. She is very credible in the role of a woman who lived for thousands of years.
Matthias Schoenaerts, on the other hand, has an insidious role.
He embodies the tragedy of immortality, loneliness, betrayal. He is the actor who most resembles his character in the graphic novel. He wanted to make the film at all costs because he had never measured himself with the action genre and felt he had things to express.
The film underlines how today it’s no longer possible to hide, images can capture you at any time.
In a scene near the end, when the immortals look at photos and articles about them, they truly become aware for the first time of everything they have done to protect humanity. They understand the power of images from which they continually try to escape in order to hide their identity.
And then we talk about science and profit.
In the film, people from different places join forces to protect the world, a need even more relevant today. Yet it is increasingly evident that profit matters more than human lives.
Do you think the film industry is becoming more inclusive with women?
Things are finally changing and I am grateful that, despite having no other action films on my resume, I have been entrusted with The Old Guard. I am grateful for the trust they have placed in me. It should be taken for granted by now that women are capable of coping with any film genre and I think how much pressure from the industry Patty Jenkins, who directed Wonder Woman to success and opening the door for many of us, went through. But the door must be wide open because there are still few who have such opportunities.
In your opinion, have opportunities grown with the arrival of platforms like Netflix?
Netflix wasn't afraid to trust a series of directors. Which studio would have produced Roma or Irishman? He has the courage to make films that Hollywood deems too risky.
The Golden boy
“Luca Marinelli, as we have never seen him before: in his Hollywood debut, he becomes an immortal and fights with Charlize Theron to save the world.”
Just before the lockdown he was one of the jury members of the 70th Berlinale in the city where he has lived for years - and he swears he had so much fun watching three films a day. The audience awaits him in theatre in the role of Diabolik, in the film directed by Manetti Bros., but on July 10th he arrives on Netflix with The Old Guard, the action movie that sees him alongside Charlize Theron. And where he plays the Italian Nicolo, Nicky for the group of immortals he belongs to. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández, the film offers Luca Marinelli an insidious superpower, an endless love and a new opportunity to demonstrate his talent as a true champion. We reached him on the phone and he, less shy than usual, told us how he became a secular "superhero".
How did you get to the project?
I auditioned in London, where I later returned and met the director. Lastly, there was a final meeting between me and Marwan Kenzari. We made a scene together and then they announced to me, "We'd love for you to be Nicky."
What struck you about this character?
The story fascinated me because it tells of immortals as if they were the damned. Nicky and Joe live this condition as a gift because they are linked by a wonderful love story and they are not alone. They met in an absurd and paradoxical situation, during the Crusades, ready to kill themselves. They did it a hundred times and then they looked at each other and fell in love. But others suffer from it, like Andy and Booker. In a beautiful scene, Booker, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, explains what happens to them: they see the people they love die and blame them because they cannot prevent it. And they are tired of watching the world repeat itself following the same dynamics. They fight to save people, but everything seems to go on the same way. Only in the end will they discover what they have done and what they are doing.
How did it go with Charlize Theron?
Well, it was wonderful! As I read the script I said to myself: am I really going to make a film with Charlize Theron? And hug as well! I was very excited and intimidated already while reading. She is an extraordinary actress. In the scene where we are at the table and everyone tells Nile something about us, Andy tells her what we are and it was nice to see her running and venturing into the midst of emotions and thoughts. Sometimes I got distracted and didn't say my line. But Charlyze is also a crazy athlete. You have to be really athletes, otherwise you don't survive at the end of the day. And Charlize is an athlete of the body and the heart.
What about her athletic training?
We got together a month before shooting to start working with the stunts. I had to get some athleticism back: when I arrived and they looked at me I think they were a little worried. We had to become familiar with martial arts and then we switched from the sword to other weapons and to hand-to-hand combat. We prepared scene by scene, including the choreographies, different for each fight, and each of us had his own rubber reproduction of the sword. It was an unforgettable training.
The immortals come from different places in the world. How much of Italy is there in Nicky?
Apart from the pronunciation? They still laugh at some of the things I said. Marwan and Matthias, but also Charlize, speak Italian at different levels and every now and then I enjoyed shooting a few sentences to which they could answer me.
Did you offer your character something that wasn't in the script?
Well, being in such a group, shy as I am ... I tried. I have always focused on the bond between Nicky, Joe and the other members of the group, because I am interested in discovering what is inside a character, his feelings, how he looks at the world, what excites him. Nicky has lived for centuries, but still greets the people he meets in the desert with a smile, inside him there is the flame of an infinite good. Each character has a different sensitivity and their own armor. Nicky is perhaps the least armored one.
The challenge was also to make people believe in a love story that has lasted for centuries.
Marwan recites a beautiful monologue in which he talks about their love story. I hope that each of us, in their short life, can say the same thing about the person they love.
You’ve already had superpowers in “They Call Me Jeeg”. What is your relationship with this genre?
I like it very much and I think that both films, very different from each other, have a very interesting soul. In Jeeg Robot, Enzo Ceccotti uses his superpowers to help others, taking on a social responsibility. In The Old Guard the protagonists put themselves at the service of others, even if no one has asked them to. “This is what we do,” they repeat over and over to each other. What they do is save people, participate in what they think is right.
How do you think they would react to protests on American streets and around the world?
I don't feel like playing games, mixing reality and fiction on a terribly real subject like this. I think that in reality, outside of any cinematic fiction, it’s fundamental to fight for equality, within society, but also within ourselves. To go back to our film, if in a microscopic way we manage to carry a message in that direction, I would be very happy.
What director was Gina Prince-Bythewood?
She is always ready to listen, and I am someone who asks a lot of questions even at inappropriate times. She always had great patience and was very attentive to the emotional side of the film, to the interiority and beauty of the characters.
CIAK Magazine - Luglio 2020
Just wanted to translate this old interview for the non-italian’s fans ^^ (sorry for my English)
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