Alfio Caltabiano interview (English)

I’ve just translated the Alfio Caltabiano bio / interview. It’s a bit roungh’n’ready, but then I’ve done it in my lunch break, so..

The splendid frame of Villa Monte d’Oro is the result of forty years of creativity and work carried out by a single person of undisputed talent, Alfio Caltabiano.

A maestro d’armi and director during the golden years of Italian cinema, he was a versatile artist, equipped with considerable inspiration and creative skill

Alfio Caltabiano was born at Pistoia on 17-07-1932, his mother from Orvieto and father from Catania. His parents’ marriage was a stormy one, and they’d separated even before he was born, so his childhood wasn’t a simple one. By the time he was an adolescent his temperament had encourage him to be active, traveling to many cities before arriving at Nizza, where he earned a living as a life-guard. He then met a lady who employed him as a handyman in her restaurant, and also worked in a circus.

Reaching a greater age, he returned in Italy and, in order to support himself, he dedicated himself first to boxing and then to police literature (???). Later on, thanks to his extraordinary physique and skill as a performer, he was approached to become a film stuntman.

In 1959, he had the opportunity to act as Charlton Heston’s double in William Wyler’s Ben Hur: it was the beginning of a brilliant career. The following year Sergio Leone took a punt and asked him to act as maestro d’armi on his film Il colosso di Rodi.

Over the next eight years, Alfio became a legend of international cinema: the most important actors wanted him to be their doubles, and every director of reputation wanted him to work as their maestro d’armi. Here, Alfio tells of his extraordinary rise in the cinema:

“I first became a maestro d’armi because Sergio Leone asked me to, I had met him during the filming of Ben Hur. Then, after seeing a screening of this, the makers of Barabbas asked me to work for them. It seemed like a big film, with lots of fights, but there weren’t any stuntmen, so I bought in ten stuntmen from Spain, who’d I’d trained the previous year while filming Il colosso di Rodi, and set them to work training the Italians.

I trained them all at Safa Palatino, and then when I went to Verona I took eighty stuntmen, more than seventy of whom were Italians. In Verona, I also assembled more than one hundred more athletes, who I fund in gyms, and I trained for three months. They said “That’s just crazy, you can’t film those fights … it’ll kill you.” Then, a year later, “Oh! Please, I want Alfio Caltabiano to do my stunts!” There was a period when the films I worked on were sold because of the action sequences, and I worked with Scardamaglia’s “Leone Film” making gladiator movies.

They paid me a million a week, because the things that I was doing were enabling them to sell the films abroad, of course. I invented everything about the gladiators, I had a gladiator school, and began to do gladiator films. My fights were sometimes incredibly violent, but I prepared them all with my brain, so that despite the strong blows and strikes and the incredible weopans, it was so well constructed that nobody was hurt.

I was the number one maestro d’armi: just think that when Fantasia and Musumeci were making seventy thousand a week, I made a million and a half, and then I did all the second uint work as well.”

As a maestro d’armi and actor, and then as a director, Alfio used the pseudonyms Al Northon, Alf Randal and Alf Thunder.

Alfio decided to invest the money he earned, buying a beautiful piece of land in Grottaferrata, at Il Monte d’Oro, where shortly afterwards he began to build his own house.

During the filming of Barabbas, he also met Donatella, the woman who would become his wife and who he would remain close to throughout their lives.

Donatella and Alfio were married on 6 September 1964, in the church of San Giorgio in Velabro. Witnesses to the marriage were the bride’s uncles, Vincenzo Genovese and Antonio Nunzia. Witnesses for the bridegroom were the director Michele Lupo and Commander Mario Martelli, his mother’s friend. Among the guests were the legendary Silvana Mangano, and her two daughters, as well as many people involved in the filming of The Bible.

The young couple lived in a rented apartment Grottaferrata, then after a few months moved to the house, which Alfio had just started building, at Monte d’Oro. But that was only the beginning: Alfio continued his career in cinema and simultaneously invested the profits in the construction of what would become splendid Villa Monte d’Oro.

On 26 October 1968, Christian was born, Alfio’s only son, who he usually describes as his ‘masterpiece’.

The previous year, Alfio had also become a director. Between 1967 and 1973 he made seven comedies, westerns and adventures, which he also wrote the screenplays for. In 1967 there were Ballata per un pistolero and Comandamenti per un gangster, in 1968 Cinque figli di cane began his association with the actor Tano Cimarosa, which continued with Una spada per Brando (1970); Così sia (1972); Oremus, Alleluja e Così sia (1972); Tutti figli di mammasantissima (1973).

With these films, Alfio received a good success with the public, especially with Così sia, which was so popular it was necessary to shoot a sequel, Oremus, Alleluja e Così sia. Then, perhaps disappointed by the increasingly poor state of Italian cinema, he decided to devote himself full time to his family and his home which had, in the meantime, become a splendid Villa.

“I stopped making films for so many reasons … I wrote pretty well, but if I wrote a film I was committed to and then went to present it to someone, they’d never return my call. If, on the other hand, it was an action film, they’d call me back within two minutes, because by now I had the label as a Maestro d’armi. Also, I have to say that there was an occasion where I wrote a wonderful script, but it was stolen from me by an actress I’d given it to read, who then made it as a film without even mentioning me. So I said to myself: “Why on earth should I carry on …?”

With the support of his devoted wife Donatella, he then built six tennis courts, a soccer field, a gym and a swimming pool, all of which were open to the public; a sports complex that in a few years became a destination for those who wanted to train seriously at their sport.

He surrounded himself with high quality instructors: Alberto Castellani for tennis, Arrigo Carnoli in the gym, and his football field was used by Lazio. Alfio’s aim was to search for future athletes, such as Alfonso Trinca who became an Under 18 regional champion.

Alfio dedicated himself to the sports complex for over two decades. Following the decline of interest in tennis, Caltabiano decided to dismantle the gym and replaced it with another set: a magnificent, sumptuous room that recalled the glories of Imperial Rome and that was to become the ideal setting for receptions and conferences.

La sua lungimiranza e il suo talento ancora una volta furono premiati ed ancora oggi villa Monte D’Oro viene presa d’assalto da quanti vogliono vivere una giornata indimenticabile in uno scenario da favola che non è solo apparenza, ma solida sostanza destinata a sopravviere a lungo nel tempo.

Unfortunately, Alfio died in July 2007, but his presence in the Villa is almost tangible.

About Matt Blake 890 Articles
The WildEye is a blog dedicated to the wild world of Italian cinema (and, ok, sometimes I digress into discussing films from other countries as well). Peplums, comedies, dramas, spaghetti westerns... they're all covered here.

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