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Marc’Aurelio Acting Award to Tomas Milian

The Rome Film Festival will award the Marc’Aurelio Acting Award to Tomas Milian. The prize will be conferred by Sergio Castellitto (who chose Tomas Milian as the star of his new film). The Cuban-born actor will meet the public during a Masterclass moderated by Giona Nazzaro and Manlio Gomarasca, members of the Festival’s selection committee (Manlio Gomarasca is also the author of a biography of Milian, soon to be published by Rizzoli).

 

“Backwards, Roma spells Amor”

Tomas Milian

The decision to confer the Marc’Aurelio Acting Award to Tomas Milian is based first and foremost on the consideration that over the years, this actor has become one of the very symbols of Roman-ness in cinema, alongside figures of the caliber of Alberto Sordi and Carlo Verdone.

The boundless affection felt by the people and the entire city of Rome are the irrefutable proof.

The point is not just to celebrate the vibrant and enduring bond between an artist and his adopted city, but above all, to pay tribute to an incomparable talent in twentieth-century cinema.

Born in 1933, Tomas Milian is both an American and an Italian citizen (he was granted Italian citizenship in the late 1970s). His film career is exemplary. From his native Cuba, he moved to New York where he joined the prestigious Actors’ Studio founded by Lee Strasberg, a wellspring of talent that produced actors such as Marlon Brando, James Dean, Dennis Hopper and Robert De Niro. He came to Italy to star in Jean Cocteau’s pantomime The Poet and the Muse at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, directed by Franco Zeffirelli.

Milian’s success was instant, and he was soon noticed by the Italian film world, which in those years was undergoing a deep and fertile political, aesthetic and formal renaissance.

During the 60s, he worked with the finest directors such as Mauro Bolognini (The Big Night, Madamigella di Maupin, Bell’Antonio), Francesco “Citto” Maselli (Silver Spoon Set, Time of Indifference, A Fine Pair), Luchino Visconti (Il lavoro, asegment of the classicBoccaccio ’70), Pier Paolo Pasolini (Ro.Go.Pa.G. the segment La ricotta), Valerio Zurlini (Lesoldatesse), Carlo Lizzani (The Violent Four), Florestano Vancini (La banda Casaroli), Franco Brusati (Disorder), Nanny Loy (A Day for Lionhearts), Renato Castellani (Crazy Sea), Alberto Lattuada (Unexpected).

His remarkable talent made him one of the most sought-after actors in Italian cinema in the 1960s, but not only there. In 1965, Milian starred in Carol Reed’s The Agony and the Ecstasy, with Rex Harrison and Charlton Heston.

In the early ’70s his restless artistic nature drove him to the anti-Hollywood that was revolutionizing American cinema. In fact Dennis Hopper, the director of Easy Rider, chose him to star in his most controversial film The Last Movie, with legendary actors Peter Fonda, Kris Kristofferson, Samuel Fuller and John Phillip Law. At the same time, Tomas was one of the key figures in the extraordinary season of the Spaghetti Westerns, starring in masterpieces by Sergio Sollima (Face to Face, Run Man Run), Sergio Corbucci (Compañeros), Giulio Petroni (Tepepa, alongside Orson Welles), Giulio Questi (Django Kill…If you Live Shoot), films that have been brought out of the oblivion to which they were fated despite the admiration of experts and film lovers, thanks to Quentin Tarantino, who celebrated the genre in his film Django Unchained. Milian’s picaresque anti-hero interpretation gave the Italian western political overtones that made the films of those years resonate with the impelling urgency of the third-world anti-imperialist struggles. A remarkably flexible actor who was at ease in both popular films and the challenge of acting in the most demanding auteur films, in 1970 Milian starred in L’amore coniugale, the only fiction feature film directed by writer Dacia Maraini. In 1970 he also starred in Liliana Cavani’s The Year of the Cannibals, a film that anticipated the great period of social and student unrest.

When the era of the western film declined, Milian became the absolute star of the great season of Italian detective films, in which he always represented a popular working-class hero that would lead him, in the end, to create the last great character in the Italian comedy of manners, Nico Giraldi, the undisputed box-office champion of the Seventies and Eighties.

Worlds apart from the figure of the lone avenger that was so popular in American films of the same period, Milian brought to his paladins of justice (and con men) an instinctive understanding and genuine feeling for the torments and problems of the weak. This also put him on a wavelength with the extraordinary era of student protest.

Despite the box-office success of all his films, Milian did not eschew auteur films, working with masters of the caliber of Michelangelo Antonioni, starring in Identification of a Woman, and Bernardo Bertolucci (Luna).

He returned to the United States in the late 1980s, working within the Hollywood star system again for internationally renowned directors such as Steven Spielberg (Amistad), Oliver Stone (JFK), Steven Soderbergh (the Oscar®-winning film Traffic), Robert Redford (Havana), Abel Ferrara (Cat Chaser) and James Gray (The Yards), who was president of the Jury of the eighth edition of the Rome Film Festival. He also participated in the most important television series such as Miami Vice produced by Michael Mann, Law & Order, U.C. Undercover and Oz, produced by HBO.

 

WHY THE AWARD TO MILIAN IN THE CITY OF ROME

Tomas Milian and Rome are synonyms of each other. In Rome, Milian built the greatest, most lasting success of his career around a figure that embodied the popular Roman culture which had not yet been completely absorbed by the consumer society, of which Pier Paolo Pasolini’s poetry offers one of the highest accolades, and Luigi Magni is the most reliable historiographer, and which allowed Milian to achieve the stature of an authentic icon of our collective imagery.

Milian has offered a unique portrayal of a city and its inhabitants on the verge of a complex and painful process of social and economic transformation which official culture proved unable to describe, at least not in real time, in forms that were as effective and were equally mass distributed.

The humanity celebrated by Gianfranco Rosi in Sacro GRA was already present in the films of the series centred on the figure of Nico Giraldi, an inimitable case of a policeman who is always on the side of the weak and humble, battling against the powerful and the corrupt, the bureaucrats and the white-collar workers, who speaks to his superiors and colleagues in the frank and scathing tones of Rome at its very essence, where the tones of the vernacular are those of the most irreverent public lampoons, celebrated in the finest tradition of the Roman poet Belli. Milian, a multi-ethnic Cuban, American and especially Italian body, has said: “Rome is the city where I feel most at home. The city that adopted me as a son and that taught me the lessons of life. If there is one place where I want to spend the last years of my existence it is Rome, Roma, which backwards spells Amor (i.e. love)”.

In the spirit of the great popular feasts which the Rome Film Festival has represented since its very inception, a recognition of the figure of Tomas Milian is a well-deserved tribute to express the undying affection that the Capital city (and Italy in its entirety) has never ceased to feel for him.

We are convinced that Tomas Milian’s presence at the Rome Film Festival is both highly qualifying and popular at the same time. A real, frank, genuine celebration. Milian is the connecting point between two worlds and two conceptions of cinema that are miraculously united in his person. We are convinced that the actor’s fans have been ardently awaiting this event. This is demonstrated by the consistently strong sales of Milian’s films in DVD and Blu-Ray, despite the crisis of electronic publishing, the endless reruns of his films on television, the many forums and fan-clubs dedicated to him on the Internet.

By conferring this award to Milian, Rome pays tribute to the last champion of the city, a unique, incomparable artist, who has touched the hearts of millions of Romans and Italians all over the world.

Giona Nazzaro

 

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