Renato Vallanzasca is a notorious mobster who ruled Milan during the 1970s. His numerous crimes and elaborate attempts to elude the law made him infamous in his home country and now his colourful life has been adapted into a crime drama directed by Michele Placido. Underneath the intoxicating fashions, music and haircuts of the era which are expertly brought back on screen, his numerous indiscretions (if you can call them that) are just the tip of the iceberg as Placido instead divulges into the character of the man and not the legend.
Money, sex, power and greed all feature substantially as the film follows his life of crime but despite slight narrative issues that slightly fail to grip, Kim Rossi Stuart brings a subtle charm and gravitas to Vallanzasca’s not-so-likeable character. Dazed Digital caught up with the striking actor to discuss the film and its fascinating subject.
Dazed Digital: You’ve worked with Michele Placido before, what did you think when he approached you with the project and was his involvement part of the appeal?
Kim Rossi Stuart: When he proposed the movie I had already read the book by Mr Vallanzasca 10 years before so I already knew the topic a little bit. When I read the book I found it very, very interesting actually so as soon as he spoke to me about it I said OK, let’s go, let’s work on it. The fact that Michele was directing the film was an additional guarantee of the good quality of what I was interested in doing anyway so it was just something else that was good.
DD: Did you get to meet Renato himself? And if so, how did meeting him impact your performance?
Kim Rossi Stuart: Yes, I met him many times during the preparation, it allowed me to take a short cut in a certain sense. If you have a role of somebody who’s real, they’re either not available because they’re dead or simply not there you always have to fill in the missing parts with your own imagination to a large degree so it’s quite different if you’ve got somebody who is absolutely there, you have the possibility of really seeing what stuff he’s made of and that’s allows you to really get to grips with it.
DD: What’s he like?
Kim Rossi Stuart: The thing that is so striking is that knowing that he’s somebody who’s come from the sort of brutality and despicable thing that were at the very boundaries of what you would normally encounter in a life, instead you seem to meet someone who seems to have a lot of attention for others, he’s a very convivial and somebody who enjoys sharing a joke and all that is a nice part of his personality. And obviously, we’re talking about somebody who’s profoundly narcissistic and egocentric which also explains the way in which he finds it important and how good he is at being this nice person. Having met him and saw how he is, my impression of him is that he’s actually a good person who in some way has been lead to the violent and bad parts of life.
DD: He’s a celebrity in Milan now, what do you think of him becoming so infamous that he’s become famous?
Kim Rossi Stuart: He had already achieved the peak of his popularity in the 70s actually, when he had thousands of Italian housewives sending him photographs and proposals of marriage, he had this massive appeal. Now he’s regained that same sort of celebrity and young people who wouldn’t have known about those things at the time have now become acquainted with him and he’s risen again, his star as gone into the ascendance. The curious thing is that with this renewed renaissance of his personal celebrity which has happened as a result of the film it has brought with it, at the same time and equally as a consequence of the film, a negative impact from the view of his custodial arrangements. Where his personal narcissism is fed by this popularity, it doesn’t make him anymore popular with the institutions.
DD: Recently there have been a few European films about infamous gangsters, why do you think these kind of characters and stories are so popular and make such good films?
Kim Rossi Stuart: With people and characters of that complexity are full of contradictions like Vallanzasca who holds within him masses of good and evil at the same time, people like that appear every 300 years, as it turns out it seems every country has their own. I think it’s that complexity that makes it interesting for a viewer.
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