Interview: Gianni Di Gregorio, Star Of 'The Salt Of Life', Follow-Up To Award-Winning 'Mid-August Lunch' (VIDEO)

'Salt Of Life' Star Gianni Di Gregorio: 'I'm Happy For My Characters, Not For Me'

If ever a man was qualified to document the stirrings that grip men in middle life, it is Gianni Di Gregorio. This charming 58-year-old Italian surprised everyone at 2008's London Film Festival by walking off with... a lifetime achievement gong?

No, in fact it was for the Best First Film Award - for his document of domestic family life, Mid-August Lunch, with an equally unlikely starring cast of four Italian doyennes, the youngest 84 years old.

Due to the success of Lunch, Di Gregorio was persuaded by his producer and friends to see if he could roll another six. And he's managed it, with a follow-up of sorts, The Salt of Life, a tale of where men go in their heads when they have to deal with the personal crisis of... as I suggested, realising they are no longer James Dean. So how autobiographical is the film?

"Highly," explains Di Gregorio in London. "The characters you see are completely real, the daughter and the little black dog are both mine in real life and the mother figure has replaced my own, who is no longer with us.

"Unfortunately, the parts of the film that are fictitious are when the ladies get involved - these come from the imagination."

So did he feel vulnerable exposing a certain section of Italian men, those clinging to a last vestige of machismo, as their bodies become out of sync with their desires, a group to which he openly belongs, or is he mocking them for their lack of self-awareness?

He laughs. "It started out as an observation of what is happening to me and people around me. I also wanted to lightly mock the behaviour of men of a certain age, going around strutting, comparing conquests. They need to be taken down a peg or two, and shown up for what they are."

It becomes clear he includes himself in this self-denying group, as he adds: "I'm very happy about the characters in the film, and very happy about the film. I'm somewhat less happy about my own life."

It seems clear from Di Gregorio's words, and from the film itself, that women completely rule Italian life, domestically at least, which means there are constant battles to be waged between mothers and wives. He acknowledges this too:

"A battle was definitely waged for about 20 years between my mother and my wife, and only once my mother was no longer there, my wife took centre stage - but in general my mother was the one who leaves the strongest mark.

"In Mediterranean countries, mothers definitely affect the emotional and sexual lives of their sons a great deal. I think that an Italian man can occasionally say no to his wife, but he can never say no to his mother."

The Salt of Life is on release from today in selected cinemas:


What's Hot