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Zombies, Glockenseile, Kannibalen - Ein Gespräch mit Giovanni Lombardo Radice

(Juni 2010) Giovanni Lombardo Radice ist Liebhabern italienischer Horrorstreifen als “John Morghen” eher ein Begriff. Seine Anwesenheit adelte Werke wie „Ein Zombie hing am Glockenseil“ (Lucio Fulci) oder „Der Schlitzer“ (Ruggero Deodato). Heute ist er auch in großen Produktionen abseits des Genrekinos zu sehen wie „Gangs of New York“ und arbeitet fürs Theater. Unser Kollege „Santini“ von unserer Partnersite deliria-italiano.de sprach am 3. Juni mit Radice.

Das Interview bringen wir mit freundlicher Genehmigung.

"Santini": Dear Johnny, first of all: How are things going and where are you presently?

G. L. Radice: I am presently in Rome and things are fine, thank you. I am rehearsing for a reading of “Off” by Michael Kearns which I also translated into Italian and that will be staged in 2011. I finished translating Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” and started translating an English stage adaptation of Pedro Almodovar: “All About My Mother”.

"Santini": How did you get your stage name John Morghen and why? There are rumors that your family was not pleased with your appearance in some horror-films and the gruesome death scenes. Can you tell more about this?

G. L. Radice: At the beginning of my movie career, when I was hired for Deodato "House at the Edge of the Park” (“Der Schlitzer”) I was asked to take a name, that sounded American. Being imitations of American box office hits, all Italian B horror films and thrillers of that period tried to pretend to be American. I didn't like the idea of using a completely fake name, so I translated Giovanni into John and added my grandmother's family name Morghen, which made my grandmother's brother very unhappy, an old gentleman, who was very proud of the aristocratic family traditions. The Morghen were a German family of engravers, that moved to Florence in the 18th century and mixed with the noble family of the counts Gherardini - the family of the Mona Lisa!!! Raffaello Morghen, my most famous ancestor, is buried in Santa Croce along with many others celebrities of all times. So you can understand, that cannibals, zombies and punks didn't match the picture....

"Santini": How did you step into the movie-business and how did you get your first engagement?

G. L. Radice: I always wanted to be in the show business, since my early childhood. I was always playing with little theatres, organising shows with my school friends and so on. I started with professional theatre at the age of nineteen, and then I started directing and acting at the same time. The movies arrived quite casually, in a moment, when I was having great money problems, and the first movie was Deodato’s "House at the Edge". I was contacted by his mother in law, who was a movie agent, and asked, if I was interested to be in the movies. With the lack of money I was suffering, I said “Yes of course” and in less than two weeks I was introduced to Deodato and casted as Ricky, a role originally thought for Michele Soavi.

"Santini": How was situation to record the audio commentary track for the “Cannibal Ferox” (“Die Rache der Kannibalen”) DVD together with Umberto Lenzi?

G. L. Radice: We didn’t record at the same time, God forbid! I was alone with Sage Stallone and his business partner and totally unaware of what Lenzi had said.

"Santini": Have you ever been verbally or physically attacked or harmed because of your violent movie scenes, e.g. after your role as a mentally deranged madman in “Cannibal Ferox”?

G. L. Radice: Not really, but once I went to a theatre to see “Dead Impact”, a movie I had made in Arizona, directed by Fabrizio De Angelis. In the row in front of me was a clearly deranged guy, who was muttering “************…I’ll kill ya…I hate you…” and so on, each time I was on screen as the bad guy,. So I tried to hide under my seat and hoped for the best….Fortunately he didn’t recognise me.

"Santini": When you look back: Which is your favourite movie you played in and who is your favourite director you worked with?

G. L. Radice: Same for movie and director: “Cannibal Apocalypse” ("Asphalt-Kannibalen") and Antonio Margheriti. As I said many times, I adored Margheriti. With more money he would surely have done better (who wouldn't?), but I think, he was too full of sense of humour to take anything too seriously and that's, what you need to get real success. I'm just the same and maybe that's the reason I went along so well with him. And, beyond the limits of the movie, I was quite pleased with my performance. The character was interesting, and I think, the character Margheriti liked more. He gave me space and care.

"Santini": Do you like attending conventions? Can you share some funny anecdotes?

G. L. Radice: Yes I do like conventions. They are fun. What I do not like, are the smoking restrictions in USA. I am a heavy smoker and get nervous, if I am not allowed to. And I do not like these huge hotels, where conventions are generally hold, far from any downtown, in the midst of nowhere….but meeting the people is fun and it’s very warming to see, that there are so many people loving me. Any funny anecdote? Sorry: People are always very polite and shy. No crazy fan until now….

"Santini": How are your memories about Lucio Fulci?

G. L. Radice: To me he was always very kind. He liked my acting and respected me. The atmosphere on set was edgy, because he was always shouting (at the production mainly), and work was quite hard. But all the same: I have good memories. Lucio surely had a bad temper and frequently mistreated people. He was very unhappy both for tragedies, that had happened in his family and because he was unsatisfied about his career.
Once I invited him to a party in my house. He went to the toilet and found out, that whilst theatre posters were displayed in the living room, the horror movie posters were decorating the bathroom. He came back yelling "Hey, people, I'm in the loo!" Anyhow, he was a cultivated man and respected me for my family background and for my theatre credits. He was always very polite and friendly with me.

"Santini": Have there been shootings, which were especially hard and challenging?

G. L. Radice: “Cannibal Ferox” for sure. The film was shot in the Amazonas. We were staying in Leticia, Colombia, and went around shooting in the jungle. The only scene I shot in Rome was the sex scene with Zora Kerova. And when the Almighty created Amazonas he must have been very upset: terrible heat, mosquitoes, snakes, crocodiles, piranhas.... And Letician people were not exactly little angels. The city is in the middle of the cocaine triangle and gangs were always openly at war, shooting each other on the street. We were filming in the jungle at some two or three hours by motorboat. Quite frequently, apparently from nowhere, an aeroplane appeared in the sky, and if you asked, what it was to, the sailor driving the boat would answer quite casually: "Oh, that's an aeroplane full of coca. Leaves on it's way to Bogota"...

"Santini": Do you have some special memories about Zora Kerova? And did you meet her recently?

G. L. Radice: She was nice, friendly, but very in love with Danilo Mattei, whilst we were shooting. So I didn’t spend much time with her. I haven’t seen her since, but spoke with her quite recently by the phone. A journalist, who was interviewing me, had her number and I made her a surprise. I called and whispered in a frightening voice :”I am Mike Logan, I am back from hell…” We laughed and had a good chat.

"Santini": In your opinion, what have been the reasons for the downfall of the Italian cinema in the middle of the Eighties?

G. L. Radice: Since than filmmaking has been strongly tied to television and networks money. We don’t really have a strong pay-per-view-TV or thematic channels rich enough to produce. And big networks put money in prime time family stuff. So horror is definitely out. And not only horror. Producers do not risk their money anymore, and so everything is connected with TV, which in Italy means politics… Not a good scene for free artistic expression.

"Santini": Did you do other jobs beside acting?

G. L. Radice: I am a theatre director, I translate plays and poetry, I wrote a book and many screenplays for TV series and from time to time I still use my old diploma as a physiotherapist, something I learned doing when very young.

"Santini": How did you get in your role in the remake of „The Omen“ (2006)?

G. L. Radice: Most simply a casting lady was meeting people in Rome and I auditioned for her. Probably when John Moore saw the filmed audition, he recognised me - he is a great horror fan - and so he asked for another audition with some directions from his part and then offered me the role. He was incredibly kind during the shooting and very complimentary. Nice man.

"Santini": Did you make “good money” as an actor?

G. L. Radice: Difficult question….Some movies were very well paid, some less, some others almost for free (because I believed in the project)… All in all I always survived, considering my other works. Translating plays and writing for TV (which I did for many years) can be very financially rewarding.

"Santini": What do you think about the censorship and concealment of movies in general and especially of your movies?

G. L. Radice: I think, that an adult should watch, what he likes and that censorship for things as animal or minors abuse should be activated before and not after. Thus said, I strongly believe, that children or early teenagers shouldn’t watch violence, raping, murders and so on. But considering the DVDs, the Internet and whatever else technology, that will be invented in next future, I realise, it’s probably a war lost before fighting.

"Santini": Is it true, that you staged an opera and if yes, where?

G. L. Radice: I staged more than one. My first was Luciano Berio’s “Opera” at the Florentine May Festival in 1977, then I staged Rossini “Cinderella” at a Festival in Montepulciano at the beginning of the Eighties and later on a little comic opera by Pasquale Anfossi with some Mozart arias in it.

"Santini": If you could do it all again, from the beginning – what would you avoid?

G. L. Radice: “Cannibal Ferox”

"Santini": If your children would like to work as actors / in the movie-business – what would you advise them?

G. L. Radice: To believe always in what they do and put their heart into it, even if they are doing it just for money - as it may happen.

"Santini": Have there been offers for jobs in familiar Italian films, especially from the horror genre, that you refused to do?

G. L. Radice: As far as I remember, I didn’t say no to anything. I always needed the money badly.

"Santini": Which active Italian director do you presently like best?

G. L. Radice: Matteo Garrone, Nanni Moretti, Michele Soavi, Marco Tullio Giordana.

"Santini": In which projects are you actually engaged?

G. L. Radice:  The translations I mentioned above. The second season of the Neil Simon play I directed last winter. Some other theatre plans.

"Santini": Please give us some info about the movie “The Beautiful Outsiders” (2010). You were working again together with your old friend David Hess?!

G. L. Radice: The Beautiful Outsiders is like a vision in the desert, it keeps appearing and disappearing….there were a lot of production problems, changes in the cast…I don’t know, if or when it will be done, but the idea of being with David (Warbeck) again is appealing. We recently met in Scotland and it was as if these thirty years hadn’t passed. We had a great time. I love David a lot.

"Santini": If you had free choice to realize one project – what would be your favourite project?

G. L. Radice: Directing and acting in some major Shakespeare. The Merchant Of Venice, or Othello (as Iago) or Richard the Third….there are so many…..

"Santini": Thanx a lot for the interview and your great work so far. For you all the best for realizing at least some of your further plans.