R.I.P. Massimo Sarchielli

Massimo Sarchielli
Massimo Sarchielli

I’m a bit late in posting this one, but Massimo Sarchielli died on the 12th May.

Sarchielli was a busy actor who appeared in both Italian and international films from the 1960s onwards.  He was in several spaghetti westerns (such as the superior Requiescant and Bandidos (both 67)), a number of arthouse favourites (Giulietta degli spiriti (65), Il conformista (70), La notte di San Lorenzo (82)), and also crime films (Il poliziotto è marcio (74), Da Corleone a Brooklyn (79)).  When the Italian film industry went into decline in the 80s, he kept busy working on International co-productions such as Ladyhawke (85), The Sicilian (87) and Under the Tuscan Sun (2003).

Here’s a translation of an interview I found with him on the Witchstory website…

In anticipation of La terza madre, here’s an exclusive interview with Massimo Sarchielli, and noted actor with experience in all kinds of Italian genre cinema, who started his career with Federico Fellini and has worked often with Dario Argento…

Witchstory: What’s your background and what were your first steps in film and entertainment industry?

M. Sarchielli: You should ask my late mother about this! What can I say, I was born in the thirties, 1935, and my first work in this area was as a mime when I was thirty to thirty five years old when I worked with Giorgio Strehler, then I moved into theatre

Witchstory:Your early work was of a certain importance and it must have given you much satisfaction working on that level of project

M. Sarchielli: My first film was Fellini’s Giulietta degli spiriti, and that gave me a lot of pleasure.  At the beginning of the 80s I did La notte di San Lorenzo for the Taviani brothers, in which I played a fascist, and in France I did Il maggiordomo with Jean Delannoy, who was an important director.  I was also able to work with Lucio Fulci on Beatrice Cenci.  Then I did L’arcano Incantatore with Pupi Avati at Todi in Umbria.

Witchstory: Moving on to the subject we’re talking about, horror and Dario Argento, a person you know well, how did you come to work with him on Il Fantasma dell’opera?

M. Sarchielli: In this film I remember taking a bit of a thrashing.  We shot it in Budapest and they put a coat on me and then hit me all over, it was pretend, but also true.  My character was called Mr Bouchet

Witchstory: Il Fantasma dell’opera didn’t do very well in Italy, but in France it was a success, why do you think that was?

M. Sarchielli: Yes, that’s true, it’s because the cinemas were saturated with assorted films

Witchstory: In Non ho sonno you had a decidely more effective part, almost integral to the story as Leone the Vagrant

M. Sarchielli: Leone is usually upset that he’s become involved in this mystery and is a victim of society

Witchstory: In this film your scenes are often shot at Villa di Torino, which was also used in Profondo Rosso

M: Sarchielli: I had the opportunity to work with Max Von Sydow, who played the part of Commissioner Moretti (I then worked again with him in a historical film in which he played Emperor Tiberius and I was a Roman slave whose life he saves).  It was all shot in English because Dario wanted it to be, and this wasn’t difficult for me given that I’d lived in America for a while and had had the chance to learn the language well, also to study with the founder of the Actors Studio, and this also gave me the opportunity to work in some important international films.

Witchstory: Was it complicated working with the dwarf puppet?

M. Sarchielli: Look, you have to say to Stivaletti that it had to be done smoothly, and it was already the second time I’d worked with him and his staff, who were all very good and nice.  Regarding the puppet, I ruined my knees and my elbows being under the trapdoor.

Witchstory: In La terza madre, which was awaited with some trepidation by Argento fans, you played pretty much the same character as in Non ho sonno

M Sarchielli: Yes, I played a vagrant who’d lived undreground for more than thirty years and had never cut my beard or my hair, but I’m nonetheless recognizable.  I play a kind of guardian of the place where the followers of Mater Lacrimarum have their rituals

Witchstory: You shot it at assorted locations in Rome and Turin

M. Sarchielli: At Rome in the catacombs, at Turin in an abandoned villa.  The scene with Asia p[reoccupied me a lot because it was a kind of monologue and it had to last about four minutes, but then Dario had had to reduce it a bit here and a bit there.  It’s an important sequence.

Witchstory: Of your three films with Argento, which gave you the most professional pleasure?

M. Sarchielli: Undoubtedly Non ho sonno, which I was also able to give a physical level, such as in the long sequence with the bag.

Witchstory: And, to conclude, do you have any future projects?

M. Sarchielli: I’m going back to America for a while to play the part of a Cardinal, shooting in Brooklynn with the director Cristina Rosati, it’s called Le strane abitudini del Cardinale Canetti.  I also shot an episode of the new series RIS Delitti Imperfetti near Rome, in which I am the director of the Circo Williams where there’s been a murder.  And then I was contacted to play the part of the father in a film version of Margherita da Cortona.  I have various things in the pipeline!

About Matt Blake 881 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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