Actor John Turturro recently returned to his Italian origins while playing the innkeeper in Italian Folktales, a show dedicated to one of Italy’s most ancient traditions: storytelling.
Inspired by Italo Calvino’s popular compilation of folktales and by two 16th-century artists, Giambattista Basile and Giuseppe Pitre, the production concluded a successful tour of Turin, Naples and Milan in early 2010. The idea for the show originated when Turturro received a copy of Calvino’s legendary work from his wife Katherine, almost 30 years ago.
This show is just one of the many accomplishments in Italy for the actor. His first was the 1986 film The Sicilian, after studying Italian for only three months. “I was completely lost,” he admits about his first time in Sicily. Since then he has completed others, like when he was cast as the lead in Francesco Rosi’s La Trecia (The Truce, 1997). Also, in 2005 he presented a translated version of De Filippo’s comedy Questi Fantasmi (Souls of Naples) to New York and Naples.
The off-Broadway veteran says he hopes to bring his latest Italian production to a New York theater and “to present this aspect of Italy that isn’t seen very often.” The actor has been spending so much time in Italy lately that he might as well be Italian. Soon, it could very well be the case: “Next time I could come back to Italy as a real Italian, since I am about to obtain my dual citizenship from the Italian Consulate in New York.”
Turturro has had a very notable and rich career. He made his first film debut playing a “man at a table” in Martin Scorsese’s The Raging Bull (1980) at the age of 23. Since then he has marked himself as one of the most talented and versatile actors of today, proving it over and over with performances such as Do the Right Thing (1989), Barton Fink (1991), The Big Lebowski (1998) and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). He more recently displayed his broad range of performance by earning a nomination for The Bronx is Burning (2007) for outstanding performance by a male actor in a miniseries or television movie as well as pursuing his passion as director in Romance and Cigarettes (2006).
About Italy, Turturro says: “Artistically I’m proud of it all. I love the music, the neo-realistic cinema, art, literature.”
And Italy for sure can be proud of John Turturro.