Profile: Gianni Di Gregorio
Name Gianni Di Gregorio
Born 1949, Rome
Having grown up in the Trastevere district of Rome, di Gregorio studied acting and directing in the Italian capital, before becoming a screenwriter. From 1996 he began collaborating with the director Matteo Garrone on films Roman Summer, The Embalmer and First Love. Di Gregorio was one of the writers on Garrone’s acclaimed portrait of the Neapolitan Mafia Gomorrah.
What’s he up to now?
Di Gregorio makes his directorial debut with the semi-autobiographical Mid-August Lunch, in which he plays a middle-aged bachelor looking after four spirited elderly women, including his mother, over a sweltering holiday weekend in Rome. Impressively acted by its mainly non-professional cast, this charming and humane tale won the prize for best first feature at Venice in 2008 and the Satyajit Ray award at that autumn’s London Film Festival.
‘It’s taken me ten years to get Mid August Lunch made, because I couldn’t find anybody who was willing to finance it. People kept telling me – “A movie about four old ladies, nobody will like that.” Deep inside me, though, I knew there was something universal in the story.’
On directing non-professionals
‘After the first few days me and the crew realised that it was impossible to try and direct these ladies. I realised I would have to throw a lot of the script away and let them do their own thing. I gave them a general framework, and the words and the movements were their own.”
‘It’s in my nature to make people laugh. Even when I write a serious script, I always try and slip in something amusing. I think this comes from being an only child. I was brought up in a very austere and strict atmosphere. In Mid-August Lunch I had the opportunity to set some of these demons free and to do whatever I liked.’
Seeing Mean Streets on the big screen in the 1970s made him want to devote his creative life to cinema.