Several weeks prior to the 2018 Week of Italian Cuisine (November 12-17), San Francisco's fine dining establishment Perbacco, offered special guests...
“If this is the price you have to pay, it’s not as bad as it looks, it’s a very small price”: Edoardo Ponti, son of actress Sophia Loren and producer Carlo Ponti, has never been scared by the figlio d’arte stereotype.
Once taken the challenge of learning and working hard, he could prove he had earned the given chance of coming from a well-known family. We talked to Edoardo after the successful opening of the New Italian Cinema in San Francisco, where “Human Voice”, the movie with Sophia as solo character, was screened.
Have you ever thought of anyone else for that role?
When an actor shows consummate passion for a project, it means that an important part of the character speaks to him. When we cast a movie, we don’t cast it about how the actor looks like but whether or not the soul of the actor aligns the soul of the character. I knew, from the very beginning, this was the right role for my mom.
How was it like to work with your mom?
What matters in such journeys is to be able to tell the same story. Despite the artistic challenge, we both wanted to do so. The thing I am most proud of - regarding my mom’s performance - is how current her performance is. This is not the performance of an actor of another era, this is a performance of today. She applies her brilliance, her sensitivity, and her passion within the current context.
What do you think of the overall experience?
It’s unforgettable. Imagine if you would work with your mom… It’s an experience on one level, mother and son embarking together on an artistic journey, as actor and director telling the same story.
She tried the role for six weeks before starting. How did that time turn out to be so precious?
My mom is a very instinctive actress, she has never trained to become one and the problem, in a piece like “Human Voice”, is that, if you don’t prepare and you don’t carve the character’s emotions, after a few minutes, the movie gets boring. We needed six weeks to create the journey of up and down feelings: we wanted to carve those colours of emotions of a woman who wants to fight for her man, before the slow realization he is lying and the final desperation.
How did this experience change the relationship between you and her?
We’ve always been so close that it is just another confirmation of how great our relationship is.
Did you watch the movie together?
Of course we did. My mom felt this would have been the last role of her career. But the truth is, after she watched it, she got the courage, the inspiration, and the energy to say: “I may have a bunch of roles left”. She is a vulnerable actress: when she takes on a role, she never knows if she is going to succeed and that’s what makes her magic. When she saw what she did and what she can still do in those conditions, she decided to challenge herself more…which is fantastic! I was proud as if she was my daughter.
Why do you think she still inspires many?
She was able to conserve her feet on the ground despite the enormous success that would make other people go crazy. She was never motivated by any kind of vanity, despite her beauty. She is an actress, but she is a mother and a woman first. She is just a great woman who happens to act, that’s what she is.
Can you find three words to describe her?
Either Sophia Loren or my mom can’t be defined with three words.
Which of her qualities would make an actress as good as her?
It’s very important not to believe your hype. Actresses are surrounded by people who make a lot of money out of them. People who make them believe God gave them the world. The more you believe so, the more you become dependent on those people and the more you loose yourself in the process.
How did your mom and your dad influence you?
They have the same quality: the enthusiasm of taking an idea and turn it into reality. I remember my father once saying “The movie business is just great. You can create something out of nothing. You see a person on the street, he gives you a certain look, and you come up with an idea for a movie”. It’s incredible. When I do something, I prepare 150%, when I walk on set I know what I want, what I need, and how to express it. That’s my mother.
The advantage and the disadvantage of being a “figlio d’arte”…
We weren’t part of the Hollywood life, we lived a separate life, we really had a home. What I saw in my family is that this job is a craft that only later can be called ‘art’. We are craftsmen, the moment you think you are doing something artistic you enter a very dangerous zone. What I learnt from them is the work ethic. The disadvantage is that you are judged on your parents’ success more than on your own achievement. It took me three years before people started seeing what I am good at.
How is the Italian cinema changing?
My favourite Italian director is Matteo Garrone but I also like Paolo Sorrentino, Asia Argento, Paolo Virzì. I think no good movies can come unless you like cinema and they all do. American HBO has influenced the Italian TV and, thanks to it, the bar has been raised over the world: it has created new interest and new love for good stories.