Italian cinema icon Anna Magnani to be focus of new film

Guerritore to direct and star in Magnani biopic.

Italian actress Monica Guerritore is to direct and star in a new film about Anna Magnani, the Oscar-winning cinema icon who died in Rome 50 years ago this month.

Guerritore, 65, announced the news on Tuesday at the 80th Venice Film Festival where she received a Women in Cinema award.

The biopic will be titled Nannarella, as Magnani was referred to affectionately by Romans, and it will mark Guerriere’s debut as a director.

Filming is to get underway next spring in Rome, Circeo, France and Switzerland, with the support of Italy’s culture ministry and RAI Cinema.

The story of the film begins on 21 March 1956, on the eve of Magnani winning an Oscar for her English-speaking role as a widowed mother in Daniel Mann’s 1955 film The Rose Tattoo.

Guerritore stressed that certain roles “must be played by Italians”, echoing the view of actor Pierfrancesco Favino who sparked a debate in Venice last week about “cultural appropriation” in relation to foreign actors playing the roles of Italians in movies.

Favino was referring in particular to Michael Mann’s casting of Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari in the biopic Ferrari, but he also took a swipe at the American actors in House of Gucci, quipping that “the Guccis spoke with New Jersey accents, didn’t you know?”

Guerritore said it would be inconceivable for Magnani to be played by “someone from Ohio” but held out the hope that “great American actors” could be cast “in the roles of Tennessee Williams, Hal Wallis, Ingrid Bergman who were part of Anna Magnani’s life.”

Who was Anna Magnani?

Born in 1908, Magnani was an iconic Italian actress and one of the leading figures of 20th-century Roman cinema alongside Alberto Sordi and Aldo Fabrizi.

She was propelled into the international spotlight in 1945 for her role in Roberto Rossellini’s neorealist masterpiece Roma, città Aperta, in which she played Pina, killed by the occupying Nazi forces as she fought to protect her husband.

In 1950 Life magazine hailed Magnani as “one of the most impressive actresses since Garbo.”

Known for her fiery personality and love of cats, she was also recognised for her powerful portrayals in movies such as Bellissima (1951) and Mamma Roma (1962).

Magnani died in Rome on 26 September 1973 at the age of 65 and is buried in San Felice Circeo, south of the Italian capital.