Italian actor, Giancarlo Giannini, now in 60s, is still going strong. Some may have thought he was passing the torch to his son, Adriano Giannini, when Adriano starred with Madonna in Giancarlo’s original role in Swept Away, but that’s not the case at all.
Giancarlo Giannini was born on August 1, 1942 in La Spezia, Italy, and began his performing career in the early 1960s. Not wanting to be the typical one-dimensional handsome Italian leading man, he began a unique association with Italian director, Lina Wertmuller. This collaboration led to Wertmuller becoming the first woman to be nominated for an academy award for directing.and, amazingly, Giancarlo was also nominated for Best Actor despite the movie being in Italian. The movie was Seven Beauties (Pasqualino Settebellezze in Italian). Seven Beauties is the tale of Pasqualino Frafuso, a small-time crook from Naples who has seven fat and ugly sisters. He is trying to get out of supporting them by marrying them off with very little luck. The misadventures of one of his sisters and Pasqualino’s reaction lands him up in jail in his botched attempt to defend the family honor. Pretending to be crazy gets him a ticket out of prison into the mental hospital and to get out of there, he volunteers to enlist in the Italian army and to serve his country in World War II.
In Germany, he and another Italian soldier who are trying to walk back to Italy are captured and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. There he gets it into his head that he can somehow get out or at least survive by seducing the bulky and unattractive female German commandant, played by Shirley Stoller (who was also on Pee Wee’s Playhouse at one time). As has happened with just about every brainstorm Pasqualino gets into his nutty head, the plan turns out to have unforeseen and horrifying consequences.
Giancarlo Giannini’s has far exceeded his ambition to be more than just another handsome leading man in this film. His acting is nothing less than brilliant and while the film certainly is a dark comedy, it is the events that take place at the prisoner-of-war camp that make it much more than that. Seven Beauties is a film that you should definitely buy because you will see something different in the movie every time you watch it, and you will want to watch it more than once.
In the original Swept Away (1974), Giancarlo played Gennarino Carunchio. The female lead is played by Milanese actress, Mariangela Melato (who is still acting herself). While Guy Richie and Madonna’s remake only received one star from Roger Ebert, the original received four stars. If you have seen the original, you really should get a copy of it and you will see why.
Both of these films are available in the original Italian with subtitles or dubbed. Giancarlo Giannini also made quite a name for himself in the field of dubbing. He dubbed Jack Nicholson’s voice for the Italian version of The Shining for which he received a telegram of congratulations from Stanley Kubrick.
Another quite charming movie Giancarlo played in is La Famiglia Buonanotte (a/k/a Brown Bread Sandwiches and Good Night Michelangelo), a poignant comedy about the lives of Italian immigrants in 1950s Canada. Giannini also played the hapless nephew of scheming Vittorio Gassman in The Sleazy Uncle (1991) and a deadpan police inspector in Once Upon a Crime (1992). In 2001, Giancarlo had major roles in The Silence of the Lambs sequel Hannibal, and Roman Coppola’s C.Q., and also played Rene Mathis in the Bond film, Casino Royale (2006).
In 2002, Giancarlo won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Milan Film Festival.