Cary grant said: when you become famous it’s not us who change but the others around us. The famous or the famous are addressed with deference and flattery, flattery, even. Like this, the actors who made themselves stars, these “gifted misfits” (it’s always Cary Grant speaking), are a human category apart, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Knowing both aspects is a privilege and, at times, a misfortune for those who live next to them, in particular of their agents, figures of liaison and similar kinship who follow them one step behind, the only ones who know exactly what happens when we spectators don’t see them, when they decide what the next engagement will be, when they get in and out of cars like cakes in the oven, excited (or maybe not) in view of a red carpet, of an interview, a performance.
It is dedicated to the agents, unknown soldiers of the star-system Call my agent – Italylocal version of a hugely successful French series, whose original title is Dix pour centten percent, understood as the percentage that the agency keeps on the earnings of its talents, just to clarify that certain heroics are still well paid.
This is not the first series set behind the scenes of the show, in the past there have been the American ones Entourage and EpisodesEnglish Extras and obviously, the Italian Boris. The detail that made the French format highly imitated (aired from 2015 to 2020 on France 2 and then spread across the platforms, already replicated in England, Canada, Turkey and Korea) is the presence of the guest stars not in the form of passing cameos but really as protagonists. In each episode the fictitious agency deals with the case, always fictitious, of a real star who is himself in all respects. In the four seasons of the French version, big names such as Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini; in the English one Helena Bonham Carter; in the Korean one Cho Yeo-jeong, the actress of Parasites. The different editions are similar in structure and content, with one exception: in all there is the character of a lesbian agent who, however, in South Korea, has become heterosexual.
Call my agent – Italyon debut January 20 on Sky Serie and streaming on Now, ranks what Hollywood would call the “A List” of Italian entertainment. In the first episode we have Paula Cortellesi that she would be cast as a queen of antiquity, sort of Game of Thrones Etruscan version. Is she the nerd of Italian cinema, everyone knows, what will it be like to study ancient Etruscan? Alberto Angela helps her, the real one.
In the third episode, here Pierfrancesco Favino remained trapped inside the role of Che Guevara at the end of a phantom series. He speaks only Spanish, smokes a cigar, listens tirelessly Hasta siempre Commander. The wife Anna Ferzetti knows well the quick-change syndrome, rolls her eyes and finally calls her husband’s agent to help, to free him from the spell. They are just two of the borderline cases, invented, but inspired by the real personalities of actors who have lent themselves to parody themselves and, indirectly, to make us think about fame and the star-system. In addition to Cortellesi and Favino, the series hosts Stefano Accorsi, Matilda DeAngelis And Conrad Guzzanti. There is even Paolo Sorrentino, who, quoting Alberto Arbasino’s joke about the three phases of success, “brilliant promise, usual asshole, revered master”, thus recounts his experience: “Not being able to be a young promise anymore due to having reached the age limit , attend Call my agent it gave me the opportunity to be an asshole usually, but above all not to take myself seriously. Thanks to Luca Ribuoli (director of the series, ed) I did it in the best conditions, and watching him on set was a pleasure. I am grateful to him. And I’m grateful to all the actors who welcomed a rookie like me. And surely it is also thanks to them that I liked it when I saw myself again. I might even think about an acting career. I’d like to play the Pope, but you’ll understand this after watching the series.”
In the fixed cast, in the role of one of the agents there is Marzia Ubaldiactress who had time to audition more than once with Federico Fellini: “It was for The city of women, he called me on the phone with his voice and his accent saying “Ciao Ubaldina!”. At one point I discovered that I had reached the final against Glenda Jackson, one of the best known and most active actresses at the time. In the end, Fellini didn’t choose me or her but Anna Prucnal”.
Elvira, the character Marzia plays in Call my agent – Italy, is the perfect link between the past and present of our star-system. In his studio stands a poster of the Sweet life and his little dog can only be called Marcello. The industry has changed a lot since then, of course, but it’s also changed a lot since the French Fanny Herrero wrote the first subject of Dix pour cent. The original French series was born before #MeToo, before the pandemic, before the platform boom. In adapting it to Italy, the screenwriter Lisa Nur Sultan (Sulla mia pelle, Studio Battaglia) took great account of new themes and new sensitivities but also of the new problems that, for example, social networks present with respect to the image of actors. “It took Fanny eight years to get the first season produced”, says Lisa Nur Sultan, “today it is easy to say that it was a brilliant idea and, in a certain sense, easy to replicate but then everyone maintained that it could have of interest only to insiders. They were wrong. After all, perhaps most of us knew how an emergency room works before we saw E.R? Also, I believe that we have become a society much closer to the media and, in general, to the entertainment system than we were twenty years ago. Certain dynamics are very clear even to those who are not in the trade“.
However, even among those in the trade, at least in Italy there were many doubts about the possibility of making the series, with the motivation “we don’t have the star system”, says the director Luca Ribuoli: “In my opinion we have it, and how. But perhaps, because of that Italian character devoted to self-flagellation, we don’t realize it. And yet we are full of directors who play very well at big festivals and excellent actors who move internationally“.
The market has expanded, driven by platforms hungry for content and never before has having a good agent been so important. The work is there but you have to know how to choose. In the series there is even a joke that underlines it: “Nowadays in Italy, there are more productions than actors”.
“The first contract they signed with my agency was to Fast as the wind, my first film. They (Volver agency, ed) were just born,” he says Matilda DeAngelis. “They believed in me, when I didn’t believe them, they looked far, right from the start, preparing me to work abroad or in foreign productions filmed here”.
In Call my agent – Italy Maurice Lastrico plays Gabriele, the kindest, sweetest, most ethical of the agents: “Beautiful character but I would never want to have an agent like him because I’d end up doing telesales of mattresses (laughs, ed). An agent must have clear ideas, even clearer than yours, especially in a lively moment like this”.
by Elisa Manisco
With so many series and films filmed in Italy at full speed, perhaps we are living in a Hollywood on the Tiber 2.0? Actually, as he says Field beanthrowing water on the fire, “foreign productions arrive here especially interested in 40 percent of our tax credit. Furthermore, they often have American actors interpret Italian characters, see House of Gucci. In short, the game is not always fair. The French are doing well, and it is no coincidence that they invented Call my agent, to defend their cinema to the hilt. There are laws, quotas, forms of reinvestment that protect the industry and therefore also the players”.
by Lorenzo Ormando
Tells Stephen Accorsi: “One of the producers of the Dix pour cent original, Dominique Besnehard, was one of the most important agents of French cinema. He also represented me in the nine years I lived in France. I went there to find clarity in a difficult moment. That period was fundamental for understanding which direction I wanted to take, while my agent in Rome, the wonderful Graziella Bonacchi, was desperate because I refused Italian films“.
Bonacchi, who died prematurely in 2015, was also Pierfrancesco Favino’s agent: “She accompanied us on our journey, she knew what strange animals we actors are and just this morning I exchanged a message with Valerio Mastandrea commenting how happy she would be with the success in the United States of Sabrina Impacciatore, another of her clients. They are professional but also human relationships,” says Favino. “The I’m not one of those actors who call the agent because they can’t tie their shoes but I recognize that sometimes we need their psychological support because in our work fragility and neurosis are always on edge. In the national vulgate I know I am the one of total metamorphoses, that’s why we joke about it in the series, it’s good for me too”.
“While Pierfrancesco was shooting Nostalgia he spoke Arabic at home”, adds his wife Anna Ferzetti, laughing. “And I too tend to always identify myself a little too much, to take the character off the set, to walk and talk like her. It happens”.
It happens, in the episode with Paola Cortellesi, that the actress gets excited at the idea of a project and talks about it too soon in an interview. “I enjoyed being unruly and snappingjust the opposite of who I am,” she says. “I’m always very controlled in interviews and my press office knows she can sleep peacefully.”
An unwanted leak is also the focus of the episode with Conrad Guzzanti, even if the real theme is his laziness. Practically, Guzzanti plays Guzzanti who does not want to participate in a series. Which is what was really happening with Call my agent – Italy. “As usual, I had a million doubts”, he admits, “I’m incapable of saying a clear no, right away. But also of saying yes because then my perfectionism takes over. I’ve seen several Italian remakes with lackluster results therefore, since as a spectator I loved the Call my agent French, I was undecided. Then, just because it was about Call my agentI couldn’t let it get away.”
Only one actress, apparently, refused. Only one director, it seems, has denied the use of her film posters. The producers are ready to receive them with open arms if they change their mind, perhaps for the second season, which is already being written.