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Dito Montiel

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

movie posterJimmy Milanese (JM): We are a web magazine, quite popular in northern Italy, and we are covering the festival, in particular the Settimana Internazionale della Critica. Thank you for accepting the invitation. Your first movie is really a touching about a boy trying to escape from his family, friends and?

Dito Montiel (DM): Where is he trying to escape? Yes, I made this movie, but I love the place where I’m from. Indeed, when I was kid I taught “Oh yes, I got to get out from this place”. I was thinking be’ind me, but there was a nice idea to go back home, at a certain time in my life. I’m sorry, maybe I didn’t understand the question.

JM: You tried to explain how it is possible to escape from a particular place or environment, at a specific time in your life. Could you elaborate on this point.

DM: When you are a kid you want to get out. I tried to make this movie almost from a reversed perspective. If you see the film, you understand that I was focused on Antonio’s and Monty’s perspective. The idea was to show that “what you want is here, why you want to leave?”. The character, Michael Shake, comes in and he is almost like cracked coming into his neighbourhood, he says that everything is perfect here. I tried to make the movie from Monty’s and Antonio’s perspective, explaining that Monty shouldn’t have leaved. I wasn’t trying to paint a picture of a terrible place, I was trying to paint a picture of a place where everybody was nice and sleeping and where nobody was really messing everything up.

Dito MontielJM: This film has been produced by Sting. How comes that you got in contact with him?

DM: Robert Downey was there from the beginning and he asked me “why don’t we make a movie out from your book?”. I said ok, why not. Than, he brought in Trudy Styler and his husband Sting, both of them. Three days later we were preparing the movie. They stayed all long the way with us. I’m sure they could have found more experienced directors and it could have been easier for them. Luckily, they wanted to go for the trip. We had the privilege to stand by the two guys that nobody really has had.
They also believed in the movie They didn’t sell me out and they are still here with me. Indeed, we fought a lot but I’m glad that we are here together.

JM: About the fight between producers and directors. Did they give you some kind of direction on how to direct the movie?

DM: It was helpful, as the book I have written is really over the place and to decide how to make the movie was really tough. We picked out a specific moment out from the book and we built the entire story from this specific plot. We got back and forth with everything, starting from cast. For example, I didn’t want actors in my film; I wanted only kids picked from the street, because I thought that actors could have messed up my book. I found and thought that, she was perfect for Lory and they said, we have Rosario Dawson, but than we had to find a guy acting as the young Rosario Dawson, and you cannot imagine how it is difficult as everybody is looking for teenagers. Luckily they lend me to Melanie Diaz. When Robert Downey JR. first cam and said “you should direct the movie”, I said him to speak with Sting and Trudy Styler (ndr. His wife) and ask them if they say yes. They said that I should have directed a short movie with Robert Downey JR. in it and in case they had liked it I could have directed a real movie. It was a kind of test for me. I got to Robert and say we had to start immediately, but I really didn’t know what to do. Therefore, I meet him, we made a little cut, prepared the short movie, we went to Trudy and Sting and they simply said that we could shot the whole film. It was a good test for me. There was a lot of fighting, but I always felt that it was for the better of the film. In this work, you always have to fight to have a good product. It was not a military fight, but we fought over the name of an actor for example. They pushed me when I didn’t want to rewrite something. Than, I got back and was glad to them. All of them were for sure positive fights.

movie's scene

JM: It seems to me Dito that you have somehow experienced what you have described in the movie isn’t it or the movie is simply totally invented?

DM: No, the book I wrote was about other people, people I knew but not about me or my past. To make this movie we simply took a moment in the book and built around that, than, we took other stories and we mixed them up. Like in the movie, Giuseppe jumps out from a train and die. I do have a friend called Billy who really fell from the train and died. Giuseppe is still alive and lives in Milano and he is coming here right now and I’m gonna meet him in an hour. Antonio was in jail but for more vicious crimes. The real Antonio and Giuseppe’s brother Angelo got killed the way Michael Shay died in the movie, but Michael shay is alive and lives in England. We mixed up stories but the emotions were still there. For me it was a story of kids, any kids but borrowed from different point of view through which you explain feelings.

JM: Your coming of age story is a brilliant story interpreted by a brilliant cast as Robert Downey JR. or Rosario Dawson o Channing Tatum. How is to work with this kind of actors. Did you have to keep them into control as these actors put all their hearths in the movie?

DM: It’s a combination of both. Its easier to say, ok, let them getting crazy. They are really talented. There is a particular scene in the bathroom between the soon and the father. They really got heavy and I was afraid of them screaming too much. Sometimes I really liked that, but I asked them to be more quite and relaxed. Indeed, they wanted to get crazy. I said, ok; do once the craziest version, but we will do it in the other way. Indeed, we used the plot where they really got crazy. Something it is ok to go further, other times is better to pull back. Indeed, they really went further and consider they were in a very small room. In fact, pushed by my direction (I said kill him, kill him), at a certain point one of the actor grab the other and smashed him on the wall. I thought it was great, but as I said they are talented actors. Kids of the street were talented too. I just mixed everything up. According to me, you cannot control everything when you make such kind of movie and you have a little fun. To mark is really boring.

Robert Downey JR.

JM: The next question is only for those professional who at direct a movie based on a novel they have written. What is the difference between the novel, what you have written, and what you have realized in the movie, the final cut?

DM: In some way very similar in other way is very different. When you write, disregarding what you write, whether a screenplay thinking of Sofia Loren or whoever, the second you write the story or the character you hand it of and he/she doesn’t exist anymore. And it is quite tough when you feel close to some people you have heard about or those you have simple invented in your novel. For example, the character Antonio at the age of five or seven year, should be a guy from Napoli; a kind of mangle-looking guy, indeed, the guy who interpreted Antonio, Channing Tatum, who is trying to show himself up, is from Alabama and he looks very muddle. I thought this is gonna be wrong and I was constantly trying to understand how it could have worked out such kind of experiment. Of course, this changed a lot the way this character appears, maybe smarter and more reflexive than a real guy from Napoli. When you write you really feel up your write at the exclamation point; you are worried because you want people feel what is important for you. When you get at the set you have to look into people’s ayes, therefore, you just direct the camera towards actors for a couple of second and try to imagine what will be the reaction of the viewers. You may also realize that you don’t need the entire screenplay as you simply discover something new you couldn’t have thought before. This is the magician in making movies.

Dito Montiel

JM: About distribution. Do you think your movie will be distributed in the USA or in Europe’ Do you have any particular expectation?

DM: Yes, as far as I know, it opened in the USA ton September 29th, and It was sold in Italy today, and in UK. I don’t know. I’m really excited. When I first wrote this I meet Carlos Squaron who wrote something good according to me, and he read it and told me that he met Giuseppe as he grew up with him in Mexico City. This made me really happy as I could careless that this takes place in New York. I love New York. I understand Brokeback Mountain, tough I’m not a gay cowboy. Thi story is a story of kids that could take place everywhere, for example in Yugoslavia. Everywhere someone could say “I know Antonio”. This make me feel good, as this is the point of making movie. Who cares about your personal point of view?

movie posterJM: Ok Dito, last but not least question: about your future plans.

DM: I have a book coming out in February called The Clapper. It’s a story about a guy who claps. In America there are TV shows that are so bad that nobody would go, therefore, there are people who are paid $ 40 to clap in the audience, to pretend they are enjoying the film.

JM: Ok Dito, thank you for the movie.


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