Reel Corner - April 2018

Behind the Scenes at Cinecittà: Italian Hollywood

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Behind the Scenes at Cinecittà: Italian Hollywood

ReelCorner0418Five miles southwest of Rome, hidden among the quiet suburbs, and just a stone’s throw from the famous Appian Way, lies Cinecittà Studios: Europe’s dream factory. It is the largest film and movie studio in continental Europe, covering 99 acres. With a production community of more than 5,000 multilingual specialists, Cinecittà, which literally translates to “cinema city,” certainly lives up to its name.

Cinecittà was founded 1937 by Benito Mussolini to be used for propaganda films in the promotion of fascism. During the bombing of Rome in World War II, the studios were seized by Western Allies. Following the war, between 1945 and 1947, Cinecittà was used as a displaced persons’ camp for an estimated 3,000 refugees.

After rebuilding in the postwar years, the studios were used once again for their post-production facilities. In the 1950s, Cinecittà, described as Hollywood on the Tiber, was the filming location for several large American film productions: Roman Holiday , Beat the Devil, The Barefoot Contessa and Ben-Hur.

Cinecittà is still the only studio in the world with pre-production, production and full post-production on one lot. This means you can walk in with a script and out with a completed movie.

Do you remember Ben-Hur (1959)? The set for the famous chariot race between Ben-Hur and Messala cost one million dollars to build and required more than 1,500 extras for that one scene alone. By the time the set was finalized, it covered more than 18 acres and was the largest single set ever built for a movie. Upon the movie’s release, Ben-Hur was a runaway success, earning around 90 million at the box office, which saved MGM from financial disaster. To this day, Ben-Hur stands as a triumph of cinematography and the jewel in the crown of Cinecittà Studios.

Writer and director Federico Fellini had an apartment on the property and would often walk into #5 Sound Stage, imagining the next film. Audrey Hepburn honeymooned there, Ursula Andress’ career started here, and the largest prop in cinema history, the 40-foot Trojan horse for Helen of Troy, was built there, too.

This was my second visit to Cinecittà. It was even more spectacular the second time around. This storied studio holds many secrets of the cinema. It’s a place where one can trace the history of the storied studios and absorb the magic of the sets, costumes, actors, directors, producers and all who passed here. The tour describes specific phases of filmmaking, from script to post production, reviewing the work and crafts of the people involved in the realization of the works. The costume room is chock-full of stunning, iconic movie-wear, showcasing the talents of great costume designers and fashion houses. There is also a chance to participate in a green screen commercial of special effects, which was really fun.  

The walls are decorated with posters of both recognizable and some not so recognizable faces. Sophia Loren, who is not only noted for her beauty and acting talents, is also heralded as having the "best walk" in film; a film clip of her balancing a suitcase on her head from the film Two Women is a memorable film loop.

There are several rooms devoted to Spaghetti Westerns, a broad subgenre of western films that emerged out of Italy in the mid-1960s by director Sergio Leone. Used mostly by American critics, the term, Spaghetti Westerns, refers to westerns produced and directed by Italians. The typical Spaghetti Western team was made up of an Italian director, Italo-Spanish technical staff, and a cast of Italian, Spanish, German and American actors, sometimes a fading Hollywood star, and sometimes a rising one like the young Clint Eastwood in three of Sergio Leone’s films.

Over 600 European westerns were made between 1960 and 1978.[7] The best-known Spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone are notably the three films of the Dollars Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood: A Fist Full of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
The most exciting part of the tour was the permanent sets that are rented out for films of many different genres including an old western town to streets of Jerusalem or the Roman Empire as it looked 2,000 years ago.  All made of plastic…but oh how real it looks.  Cinecittà Studios—a must see when visiting Rome!

ReelCorner DonneHeadshot0318Donne Paine, film enthusiast, once lived around the corner from the Orson Wells Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts where her strong interest in films, especially independent ones, began. Supporter of the arts­—especially films—she travels to local and national film festivals including Sundance, Toronto and Tribeca. There is nothing like seeing a film on the big screen. She encourages film goers to support Hilton Head local theaters—Coligny, Park Plaza and Northridge theaters. To support her habit of frequent movie going Donne is an executive recruiter and staff development consultant. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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