There aren’t mobs or paparazzi lying in ambush for him while Fabrizio Gifuni quietly treads the stage of the Italian Cultural Institute in Belgravia. The actor instantly starts to recite with his smooth, deep voice the novel ‘That awful mess on Via Merulana’ by Carlo Emilio Gadda. He looks so comfortable wearing a mask that it’s arduous to glimpse the man behind the actor. He does conceal himself very well, indeed.
The 50-year-old stage, film and television actor won two Silver Ribbons and a David di Donatello Award, nominated for a Golden Globe and won the Shooting Star Award at Berlin Film Festival. Histrionic and complex on stage, genuine and disarming in life. He is considered a sex-symbol but doesn’t look like one. His scruffy beard covers half of his skinny face; baggy corduroy pants wear his scrawny legs, that he crosses clumsily showing a pair of blue striped shabby socks when he sits on the wooden chair for the interview. Maybe his artist look is not what Fabrizio is most focused on.
Apparently at ease only behind a camera or on stage, what he lacks in real life he does very well in fiction, though. In terms of cinema, he has been the interpreter of Pope Paolo VI, Alcide de Gasperi and Aldo Moro. Not to mention the mean, wealthy businessman Giovanni Bernaschi, in ‘The Human Capital‘ by Paolo Virzì. Yet, one year later he was an irresponsible and penniless bohemian artist. ‘I’m not different from the characters I play. All the different roles I’ve been dealing with constitute my portrait in some ways’.
‘If you want to see the man behind the actor, you have to observe him playing with a character. The attitude to the game is different in any actor as in any child. Every child plays games, but each one of them in a different way’.
Maybe his ‘attitude to the game’ came out once he became a father. When his mask is down, he is the most affectionate father going to fetch his daughters at school.
Being a father on stage is as challenging as being in real life. The last two characters he played represented two opposite ways to deal with fatherhood.
Although he’s comfortable in playing a father, when asked about his real daddy duties, he started to become nervous. ‘Being a father is one of the most difficult things in life. Assume that you will always do something wrong and make mistakes’.
Despite the dramatic roots of several of his characters, Gifuni ensures to deal with life lightly. ‘My daughters saw ‘The Human Capital’ and said – dad, this is not you. You always play. – To play is why I chose this job, it’s a kind of insurance on your mental health. It forces you to stay in touch with your childhood’.
Gifuni’s mind is difficult to decipher and his answers are always scrupulous and almost prepared, like a diligent student who studied for his exam. Although he is tickled in answering some out-of-the-blue questions, like whether or not he has been to therapy (he said acting is his own way to save money to go the shrink), the moments he seems more at ease are, absurdly, the moments he’s not. He starts to mimic in an incredibly charismatic way his teachers from the Accademia Silvio d’Amico in Rome, one of the most respected schools of acting in Italy. Indeed, one of his secret obsessions are the people’s voices. ‘Human voices are mysterious and hypnotising’.
Surprisingly it comes out that he spent almost five years studying law before realizing he wanted to be an actor, better late than never. Hard to imagine him wearing a Dolce&Gabbana suit going to court at early morning with a bunch of fierce lawyers in Milan. Although he admitted he fancied wearing fashion clothes when acting in ‘The Human Capital’, it’s definitely better when he is passing his hands through his wild, sweaty hair, after having received a five minutes’ applause from the tiny public of the Italian Cultural Institute.
Despite his human being is well hidden behind his fictional roles, it is actually true that Fabrizio Gifuni looks and acts like everyone else. He’s a celebrity who merges with normal people and probably not too keen on being in the spotlight. That is why he chose the stage as a convey of truth where ‘different bodies find themselves alive in the very same moment. It’s a unique experience’. Apparently, his fatherhood might be the hardest adventure on a very devoted-to-art life path.