Francesco Di Leva talks about his Naples and why he never abandoned it

«There is the urgency and then there are the important things, my Don Luigi Rega, in Nostalgia by Mario Martone, he is in a hurry, he senses first, he has no time to waste in that very difficult parish of the Sanità district, he looks after the essence like the visionary parish priest Father Antonio Loffredo who inspired him and who, in reality, brought back to life the ward. Over time I realized that the urgency is the desire to express everything you have inside, and for me it is never enough, but in the end you have to look at what is really important. In my case it is taking care of my family, my wife Carmela, my children Morena and Mario because there are the roots ».

Francesco Di Leva with Antonio Folletto in a scene from the film Like beforein cinemas from June 16.

Anna Camerlingo

Francesco Di Leva, 43, is an actor and a man of impetus, snap and social anger transformed into pure positive energy, an activist who is a true son of San Giovanni a Teduccio, eastern district of Naples, torn between the nineties and the 2000s by baby gangs commanded by the camorra. In this context, Francesco and others have created a unique space, the Nesta theatrical and socio-cultural place that has attracted experimentation and great authors, from Toni Servillo to Mimmo Palladino and Mario Martone, who with Francesco staged a powerful version of The mayor of Rione Sanitto later became a film, the spark that definitively launched Di Leva in the foreground. The Nest was born in a former gym, “because it’s better to punch a lot than people on the street,” says the actor, who in the new film Like before by Tommy Weber (in the room from June 16) is in fact a boxer abandoned by life, Fabio. We are in the 1950s between Dieppe and Procida: André, a kind Antonio Folletto, finds in France his boxer brother reduced to fighting in the very poor ring, he had gone as a teenager from Italy in a fez and black shirt repudiated by his anti-fascist father and, for he, the war and the Fascio are never over. A black eye from too many blows, a haircut from a comrade from yesteryear, wadding in the mouth like Marlon Brando, every detail is fine-tuned with ringworm by Di Leva himself, who works miracles in the role.

While filming Nostalgia, one evening I had a panic attack and after 20 days as a priest I started praying

What story does Fabio’s parable tell us today?

Many speak of fascism and do not even know what it is. The spark for the character started when I saw one of my boys walking around the Nest with a tattooed Che Guevara. I asked him: “Do you know who he is? What did he do? “. “No”, he replied, “but Maradona had it on his arm”. That’s Fabio, no one picked him up and listened to him, certainly not his father, he is alone like his foundling dog who is missing a leg. He is also a victim, in the neighborhood I saw fear on people’s faces, I know what he is. For the film I found some photos of my grandfather, he was a boxer and fought without gloves at the port for a tin of American tuna. The grimace under the opponent’s blows I stole from him.

Are the faults of the fathers?

Fatherhood is a crucial issue for me, in life I am a father also in a broad sense, I go fishing for children on the street, I fight political struggles to keep them from paying for theater workshops, I look for funding and the possibility of allocating a part of them to associations on the territory. Hard? No, it is the great pleasure of giving as much as possible to the neighborhood where I trained, free to grow with my passions. But how many disasters can an absent, violent or even just distracted father cause? No child should be left alone in his own pain. And in this territory it is worth more than ever.

Have you never been tempted to leave?

The sirens of Rome, the capital of cinema, made themselves heard, of course, but I will never go away. I have wondered about this for a long time, when you are younger and are starting a family you ask yourself where to raise your children. With Carmela we are a supportive team, we fell in love when I was 15 and she was 12 and a half, here we have all our life and roots. We said to ourselves: let’s stay, let’s try to make our contribution to this city. One thing between us, however, was clear, we no longer wanted to “survive” in San Giovanni a Teduccio, we wanted to “live”. Our strength is that of having built together, we have clear ideas. For Cannes, Carmela could have asked for an evening dress from some famous brand, instead we asked Giovanna, a girl who has a tailor shop nearby: “It’s a great opportunity”, I explained, “one of your dresses on most famous red carpet in the world “. And she sewed it, beautiful. That dress is the soul of San Giovanni a Teduccio on the Cannes red carpet.

A good sign, it is not by chance that he graduated three years ago in marketing and communication.

And in the evenings, all in secret! One day my son, tired of me stressing him: “study, study” he asked me: “What did you do?”. Nothing, I only had middle school. So without saying anything I signed up and one evening I took my backpack to go out. “Where do you go?”. “At school”. Amazement in the family, four months at school, fatigue, lots of selfies before and after classes. But I had to do it to teach responsibility. I was a baker in a family shop from 17 to 24, even if I was already acting. And I still know how to do it, when I have time and there is some defection they call me, I go, I mix, I bake.

He said thanks to Nostalgia he learned to pray.

Like everyone I am baptized, never been a practitioner, in Father Loffredo I have always seen a man who fights for social justice, not the priest. But it’s true, I started praying. It happened during the very demanding set of Nostalgia, always in the midst of people, changing into the house of strangers, lost in the labyrinth of Health. One night, in bed, I had a panic attack. I did everything that is recommended in these cases, I looked in the mirror to check that I was not pale, I stroked my dog ​​because it is good for me, in the end, after twenty days in the role of a priest, it came natural to recite the Our Father and so I calmed down. I believe that this is prayer, carving out a moment of reflection for oneself, out of the chaos, to understand which concern is important and which will disappear tomorrow.

With Favino you are now a true couple. What about the new film together, The Last Night of Love?

I can tell you the most important thing: if Pierfrancesco and I in Martone’s film were Don Rega and Felice Lasco, this time we are friends, very friends. In life, not just in a movie.

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Francesco Di Leva talks about his Naples and why he never abandoned it