He talks softly and smiles. Only the intensity of his regard might hint that he’s the Italian master of horror; king of fear and thrills, the man behind internationally loved cult horror films.
Dario Argento is currently appearing at the Immaginario Festival in Perugia. He’s had long-standing ties to the city since childhood, but is here following the release of his autobigraphy ‘Paura’ and to promote a crowd-funding campaign to finance his new film, ‘The Sandman’.
by Sofia Coletti / ph: immaginario festival
Why did you decide to write your autobigraphy?
Dario Argento: «Rather like Ingmar Bergman I decided to tell the story ‘warts and all’, including the most embarrassing, painful and difficult times. It was a torturous process and took me two years».
Dario Argento: «The suicide attempt when I was filming ‘Suspiria’. I was living in a hotel, and often thought of throwing myself out the window into the void. I also talk about drugs, my strange loves, and the time I ended up in prison».
Your autobiography is called ‘Fear’, but when did this fascination begin?
Dario Argento: «I was four and my parents took me to see Hamlet at the theatre. I had a very strong emotional reaction, and my journey into the unconscious started then. As a child I was sick for months and I took the opportunity to raid the family library. I read Shakespeare, Arabian Nights and Poe. There I discovered my gift».
Dario Argento: «The ability to converse with my dark side, to investigate my unconscious. I opened the door to a world of ghosts, monsters and livid visions that, to me, are beautiful».
What was your childhood like?
Dario Argento: «I was an isolated, different child. My mother was a famous Brazilian photographer, who specialized in female portraits and nudes. After school I would stop off at her studio and there would be all these beautiful actresses, all made-up and naked. I still remember the powerful scent of greasepaint and lipstick. This is why 80% of my films’ main characters are women. I like featuring them».
[quote]«I left home at 15; with my father’s blessing. I lived in Paris doing really menial jobs but while I was there I discovered the National Film Archive, which showed old movies at all hours».[/quote]
Is it true you have ties to Umbria, Perugia in particular?
Dario Argento: «Yes. My grandmother and her family were from these parts, and I was always here as a kid. The city was different then; there were no buildings on the outskirts, just open countryside. My grandparents had a house on the way to the cemetery. I have memories of great wine harvests. I took part in a Peace March here. I often come to Perugia».
What about your love of cinema. Where did that come from?
Dario Argento: «I left home at 15; with my father’s blessing. I lived in Paris doing really menial jobs but while I was there I discovered the National Film Archive, which showed old movies at all hours».
What happened next?
Dario Argento: «I came back to Rome and started working for a newspaper as a film critic. I remember extraordinary, fantastic meetings with John Houston and Fritz Lang, who drank and told stories about their freewheeling lives».
So how did you end up on set?
«As a screenwriter, I worked with Sergio Leone on ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’. I began to realize that films weren’t about words or dialogue, but were all about the camera, which frames and conveys the emotions».
Where does the inspiration for your films come from?
«Never from reality! I’m not interested in this as far as my creations go. For me, writing is a long and troubled process. I delve into my unconscious, recovering my deepest fears and shames from my childhood, where I’m petrified of corridors, windows and stairs».
What’s your next film about?
Dario Argento: «It will be called ‘The Sandman’, and stars Iggy Pop. The screenplay was written for me as a tribute to my career. The story begins on Christmas Day when a child witnesses his mother murdered by a serial killer. I’m tired of the usual goody-goody Christmas films. I’d like one full of force, and violence and horror».
Is it true you’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign?
«Yes, with so many ways to get involved, but in reality we already have the funds. I’m doing it for my fans who love and trust me. I want them to actively participate in the film and I’m here for them».