Bernardo Bertolucci says TV shows better than Hollywood now

Tue May 28, 2013 9:10am EDT
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - When he was 12, Bernardo Bertolucci looked in a mirror and imagined himself as John Wayne. Now, at 73, he is confined to a wheelchair but is still a towering figure of Italian cinema.

Today, the Oscar-winning director is disappointed with the Hollywood that once inspired him and prefers television series such as "Mad Men", saying they are better casted and better directed than big screen productions.

Bertolucci discussed his love affair with American culture - and his disdain for what Hollywood is producing today - on Monday night when he was honored by the American Academy in Rome.

"Jazz was the first music I heard in my life and jazz for me meant America," Bertolucci told the crowd at the gala benefit to fund grants for artists.

The Academy, the oldest American overseas center for independent study of the arts and humanities, honored Bertolucci with the prestigious McKim award, whose previous recipients include conductor Riccardo Muti, composer Ennio Morricone, director Franco Zeffirelli and writer Umberto Eco.

"I saw 'Stagecoach' and for me (director) John Ford became Homer," he said of the classic American Western film made in 1939, a year before he was born in the northern Italian city of Parma.

"I was in front of a full-length mirror and what I was seeing at 12 wasn't me, it was John Wayne."

But today, the director who made "Last Tango in Paris", "The Last Emperor" and "Novecento", says the Hollywood that once excited him now depresses him.   Continued...

Director Bernardo Bertolucci attends a news conference for the film "Io E Te", at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, May 23, 2012. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier