Filmmaker savors grim experience with Will Smith
By Steven Zeitchik
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Talk about la dolce vita.
After making such acclaimed but little-known (in the U.S.) Italian-language movies as "Ricordati di Me" and "L'Ultimo Bacio," the Italian-born Gabriele Muccino suddenly jumped from the art house to the mainstream. "Bacio" became the basis for DreamWorks' "The Last Kiss," and after he hooked up with Will Smith for 2006's "The Pursuit of Happyness," which grossed $300 million worldwide and earned Smith an Oscar nomination, Muccino was squarely on the Hollywood map.
He and Smith are teaming again for the arty drama "Seven Pounds," about a man who causes the death of someone he loves and sets to make it right; Sony opens the film this weekend.
Muccino recently talked about the movies that have influenced him, the real difference between Italians and Americans and the challenge of making Will Smith less like Will Smith.
"SEVEN POUNDS" IS A MOVIE IN WHICH YOU DIRECTED THE BIGGEST AND MOST CHARMING STAR IN THE WORLD ACTING MOURNFUL AND DEPRESSED. WAS THAT HARD?
Gabriele Muccino: It wasn't always easy! Will's a great actor and very collaborative, and there's a part of his character Ben that's charming. But you have to get something different out of him. You have to detach Will Smith from Will Smith. I don't even know if he was fully aware sometimes of how crazy the character was.
THERE'S GOING TO BE SOME AWARDS TALK FOR SMITH BUT ALSO SOME PEOPLE WHO FEEL LIKE HE'S SUCH A BIG STAR THAT HE DOESN'T NEED A STATUETTE. DO YOU THINK HE SHOULD BE NOMINATED?
Muccino: There's definitely a bias against him because he's such a big movie star. But I really hope he gets attention from the Academy. He did this movie very honestly. He didn't have to do it, and it's strong enough that I hope they recognize it. Continued...