(Originally appeared in The Film Stage on Sep. 12 , 2015)
Did you have to learn to play rugby for this part? What else did you have to do for research?
Lanzani: I love rugby, I started playing rugby when I was four years old. My father played rugby all his life. He’d played against my character Alex actually. My father was a friend of the second guy they kidnapped in 1983. So he could really tell me about a lot of things. He told me that Alex was an introvert, a sad guy who didn’t speak much with anyone. I also met with some of Alex’s friends who told me other things from which I could build this character. It’s a very difficult role to play. Alex has an inner duality. On the one hand, he knew what he was doing was wrong. On the other hand, he loved money and he couldn’t betray his family.
Many actors say playing the villain is more fun. Can playing someone like Arquímedes Puccio be fun?
Francella: It wasn’t fun at all. It was very stressful emotionally. The content of the film is difficult to digest. But as an actor I can say that it was a positive experience in the sense that I had to work a lot to get it right.
Was the Argentinian audience taken aback to see you, the biggest comedian, in this role?
Francella: The director and I worked a lot to make this character very different from what I am, so people don’t even recognize me on screen. And I didn’t mean just the physical transformation, but also how I changed my behavior completely to play the part. When I saw my eyes in the mirror, even I couldn’t recognize myself.
Johnny Depp wore special lenses to play the part of Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, which also premiered here in Venice. But yours are your own natural eyes, right?
Francella: Yes, I didn’t wear lenses. I had to practice not blinking though, and also this icy stare. It was the thing that we worked on the most actually.
Can you talk about how the experience was like working with a newcomer / veteran actor?
Francella: For me it was a great experience working with Peter. He’s an excellent actor and person. He’s still very young (25 years old) but he has respect for the profession.
Lanzani: I grew up with his work so I was a little intimidated. But he’s such a good person, it was nothing but a pleasure to work with him. Day by day I also learned a lot from him. He taught me to be a good man and a good actor. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
Did you stay in character during the shoot?
Lanzani: Well it depends on the situation. If it’s just a three-minute break, then it’s better to stay in character to be prepared for the scene. But we don’t do that all day long, because that’d be a little crazy.
Can you talk about shooting that final scene?
Lanzani: We’re not going to tell you how we did it! But yeah, it was a fun scene to shoot. Really difficult too, because it’s one long sequence with the same camera the whole time, during which my character goes through very different emotions. At first he’s sad and a bit lost, and then he was surprised to see his father, then came that smile on his face before he made the leap. It was a crazy scene. That scene and the scene in the jail are the most powerful scenes in the movie for me.
What has the success of the movie brought you personally?
Francella: Just the satisfaction of having made a good film that the people in Argentina like.
Lanzani: It’s a really nice thing. We spent like two months making this film and it was really tough for us. It’s like getting a hug when people like it and say nice things about it. In terms of my career, I don’t think it will change things too much, because this success is only temporary. Although It is good for people to know me from something other than TV.
Did you know about the story before the shoot?
Lanzani: Yes, people in Argentina know about the story. Guillermo used to be practically neighbors with the Puccios too.
Francella: Yes, I used to walk past their house. I just never thought crimes were being committed inside.
How has the political context of that time affected you personally?
Francella: The time of the dictatorhip certainly affected us all a lot. But in the 70’s I was rather young, so I didn’t understand exactly what was going on. I just saw my parents carry on with their lives, go to work, and we never spoke about politics at home. At that time there was very little information available too.