Italian director Paolo Virzi is a hard man to get in touch with -- after seeing his new film Napoleon and Me at this year's Tribeca, I attemped to track him down for an interview, but he would only consent to being emailed questions and responding thusly. So I sent him questions, and I'm happy to say I got a response back a few days later. For those who didn't get a chance to see it at the festival, Napoleon and Me is a historical drama that tells the story of Napoleon Bonaparte's brief exile-imprisonment on the Italian island of Elba, before he escaped with a loyal following and was eventually captured once again. Here are Virzi's answers to my questions about the film: I have to say I love the fact that in response to my question about whether or not he has any ambitions to work in Hollywood, he said that the "Californian majors" are not looking for him to come to Hollywood. I think Californian Majors would be a good title for a movie, don't you?
Talk a little about the casting of Monica Bellucci -- was it easy to get her involved in the project? How did you view her character? Also, did getting her involved help sell the movie to the financiers?
PV: Monica and I had repeatedly promised each other for a long time that we would work together, and the role of the Baroness, who is malicious and vulgar, infantile and wise, sentimental but a bit of a whore immediately seemed the right occasion. I also enjoyed the opportunity to ironically work against the myth of her picture-perfect beauty that has made her a global icon of Italian glamour. I made her speak in an unusual mix of literary Italian, broken French and Umbrian dialect. I also asked her to assume the manners of a spoilt, gossipy idler. Working with Monica I learned a lot, but it was also a lot of fun. I was struck by her modesty, her great dedication to the film and the intelligent self-irony thanks to which, especially here in Italy, she managed to give the impression that she was making fun of herself, too.