FLORENCE - He might look arrogant and detached from mere mortals, especially if they belong to the unfortunate category of journalists. But observing him in one of his characteristic flowered jackets, patiently answering all the journalists questions, speaking slowly, one word at the time, and sometimes almost puzzling his interlocutor with his long pauses, John Malkovich is exactly as he appears to be on the big screen.
He comes across as equal parts ambiguous loony, Mephistophelian charmer, lonely provocateur.
Last Sunday, he performed with his music group The Technobohemians at the Tuscan Sun Festival, in Florence. It was a sophisticated experiment, which mixed music, sounds, conversations, theatre and video art. They began with Wichita Vortex Sutra by Philip Glass, followed by Alberto Iglesias' Factory of Silence, performed by Malkovich.
LA STAMPA: What is the origin of this project?
JOHN MALKOVICH: Iglesias and I have been thinking about doing something together for a long time, a movie soundtrack where I would read the lyrics. Originally, we were thinking of performing it live at the Tate Modern in London. Then, this opportunity arrived.
What is your relationship with silence, given all the noise that usually comes with the life of a celebrity?
I love silence. I hate noise. I dont pay attention to the noise you're talking about.
And what do you like about music?
I spent many years collaborating with a baroque orchestra. Music can tell our story without the support of other arts. Nonetheless, when it is mixed with other arts, it becomes even more interesting.
Would you betray cinema for music?
No, absolutely no. Cinema is still very much a big part of my life. I took part in Jason Reitmans last movie, Labor Day, with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. I will be in the sequel of Red with Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren, and Ive recently finished shooting Educazione siberiana with Italian director Gabriele Salvatores.
In a time of financial crisis, you are actively involved in a design company, Technobohemian by John Malkovich here in Italy, close to Florence. Is it a sign of courage?
Economy is like a voodoo rite to me. I dont give much importance to these kinds of things. I work here in Italy because I like the people and I think they have talent. If I end up losing money --as it might happen-- its ok.
Despite your many excellent performances, you have never won an Oscar. Do you mind?
The second time I was a nominee, I didnt even attend the ceremony. Ive never liked the idea of competition, and all this money spent in promoting films. None of this stuff concerns me.
Dont you care about winning?
Ill give you an example. I read a lot, at least 15 or 20 books a year. But I never compare them. What would be the point? If I started to think about it, I could tell you which one I like best, but its useless. I won many prizes, and I lost many others. But I dont care.
Are you into sports? Did you watch the Italy team playing the European Soccer Championship?
My wife is from the Italian region of Piemonte, so Juventus is the only team Im allowed to support.
You have worked with the Italian directors Bernardo Bertolucci and Gabriele Salvatores. Are there any other Italian directors you would like to work with?
I dont watch enough Italian movies to be able to give you an answer. I saw Gomorra, which I thought was excellent, but still not as good as the book, which was truly amazing.
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Photo - Petr Novák/B.H.