Director Sergio Castellitto Talks TWICE BORN at TIFF; Reveals First Cut was 4 and a Half Hours

     September 17, 2012


Premiering at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was director Sergio Castellitto‘s Twice BornBased on the novel of the same name by Margaret Mazzantini, the film stars Penelope Cruz as a single mother who returns with her teen son to present-day Sarajevo where her son’s father (Emile Hirsch) died during the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s.  As she tries to repair the relationship with her son, new revelations force her to rethink everything.  The film also stars Mira Fulran and Jane Birkin and you can watch the first trailer here.

Before the world premiere, I landed an extended video interview with Castellitto.  We talked about premiering at TIFF, the challenges of making Twice Born, the use of melodrama and how he approaches film as an actor even when he’s directing, why he shot on the ARRI ALEXA, the rehearsal process, and a lot more.  In addition, Castellitto revealed his first cut was four and a half hours (the final release is a little over two hours), and how he hopes to eventually show his longer version.  Hit the jump to watch.

Sergio CastellittoSergio Castellitto Time Index:

  • Castellitto calls it a privilege to present his movie for the first time to the world at TIFF, with an open audience.
  • 1:00 – He showed Twice Born to a few friends in Italy to a positive reaction.  But he thinks the reaction of a new audience of strangers is more revealing.
  • 2:00 – Talks about the use of melodrama and how he approaches film as an actor even when he is directing.
  • 3:20 –Twice Born was shot in digital using the ARRI ALEXA.  He prefers to use new technology, including new lenses.  They considered using different formats for different time periods (16mm for the past), but ultimately decided against it.
  • 5:10 – It was a big challenge to get financing.  It has a high budget for an Italian movie.  It took two years to build the project and 15 weeks of shooting in multiple locations.
  • 6:30 – Says it is important to spend a lot of time on the script so most of the work is already done by the time you get to the set.
  • 8:00 – Still, some things change.  Quotes Picasso: “I don’t seek, I find.”  You have to be adaptable and open to collaboration.
  • twice-born-emile-hirsch-penelope-cruz9:00 – The first cut of the movie is 4.5 hours, so there is a lot on the cutting room floor.  Castellitto would like to release an extended director’s cut eventually.
  • 10:40 – Editing is difficult for him because he has to choose between elements that he loves.
  • 12:00 – All the characters are in the two-hour version, so nobody got cut out entirely.
  • 13:00 – Explains why he cast himself in a small role in the movie.
  • 13:40 – Prefers to do few takes.  Says he never did more than seven or eight, but only because of a technical problem.  The actors give better performances at the beginning but start to sound too automatic with more takes.
  • 15:00 – He did no rehearsal for Twice Born.  He told all his actors to read the book to answer their questions and talked a lot with them about their characters before shooting.
  • 16:00 – Wants to show the extended version theatrically in part because the home video market in Italy is “not so strong.”  Lots of piracy.
  • 17:30 – Talks about where his head is at during this late stage in his career.


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