Can you schedule for sometime next week? Review embargo ends at 1pm PST today so I’ll have that done tomorrow am, movie is out on the 13th.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino might not be a well-known name quite yet, but he’s been a regular collaborator of Luca Guadagnino on several projects, which includes serving as second unit director on Best Picture nominee Call Me By Your Name. The 34 year-old Italian filmmaker only has one feature under his belt so far, but his English-language debut Beckett is coming to Netflix on August 13th.
The old school thriller follows John David Washington’s title character, who finds himself on the run from the authorities and caught up in a conspiracy he doesn’t understand after an accident during a vacation brings tragic and unforeseen circumstances, where he’s forced to evade the authorities, crooked cops and even a political uprising.
As well as Tenet and BlackKlansman star Washington, Beckett also features Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander, Logan and The Predator‘s Boyd Holbrook, and Phantom Thread‘s Vicky Krieps. Beckett is the sort of intense, lo fi chase film that audiences don’t really see often enough anymore, and Filomarino recently had an exclusive chat with We Got This Covered about the movie, which you can check out below.
It must be exciting for Beckett to be so close to release, especially when you shot the movie back in 2019 and it’s instantly going to be available to over 200 million subscribers?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: It is exciting, it is exciting, very much so. You know, the film started as an independent project and it’s just my second feature, and it’s an amazing but very wide release, and it’s a great chance for me.
What made you settle on Beckett as your first English-language feature, when it’s so different genre-wise to the other projects that you’ve worked on during your career?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: Well, you know, I love many types of cinema, and this genre is definitely something I’ve always been drawn to and always thought about making, and it’s a genre that’s mostly explored in the English language. And the idea was to establish a context that could be somewhat playing with the paradigm of the genre. So, you know, an American character in a foreign land, sure, and then find from that premise an angle. ‘What is specific about this?’, you know? And we worked on the character, and making him an unusual character for this kind of film. And I guess that’s why, in English it has to do both with working on the paradigm of the manhunt/thriller type movie, and also having actors do an amazing performance.
Beckett is the sort of movie you could imagine Clint Eastwood or Robert Redford starring in back in the 1970s, was that old school vibe something you were always aiming for?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: Well, I do think the difference between the type of characters that both of them have played, is that it always felt like one way or the other the Clint Eastwood characters of the Robert Redford characters would figure it out, because they’re just so cool and just so smart. They’re gonna figure it out, and not to say that Beckett isn’t cool or smart, but the point to me was to make him a bit more real, a bit more relatable, you know? Everything about him that was surprised and clueless about the situation was more interesting to me than see him perfectly nailing everything. That was why I was more interested in finding the performance, in relating to the experience of this crazy adventure.
John David is a star and an action hero, but in Beckett he’s an out of his depth everyman that spends the whole movie getting his ass kicked. Was it fun to break him down as both an actor and a character to subvert the audience’s expectations?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: Yeah of course, absolutely. That angle he responded to when he first read it, and then we had a wonderful conversation fleshing it out. That is very much the personality of this film, and so it was fun, because where like some of the characters you might reference decide to get out of the situation, they jump through that door or they pull that brake lever and then they get up, you know? And Beckett, perhaps he can’t reach it or something is in the way, just because he’s more real and relatable. And that, I certainly found more interesting to experience as a filmmaker and a spectator. And I also think with John David there’s more, because the character while also going on his adventure, he’s going through so much of his own personal crisis. There’s just so much more to it.
It’s a thriller with action, but it’s not an action thriller in the sense of the genre, did you ever have to pull yourself back from focusing on spectacle over story and character during the writing process?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: I agree with you that the film is not an action film, I think the film is a thriller with a dramatic character at its core. So on the basis of this premise, all of the ingredients from different genres could come in and contribute, but it was always those two elements. A dramatic character and a thriller were always up front.
Greece isn’t a country we see too often in thrillers, but it makes complete sense in the context of the story, so was that both a narrative and visual decision?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: Yeah, of course. One thing I thought about these films is that they take you places you didn’t go before, and I was interested thinking of Greece, both because of what we needed for the story; the political background of a country that’s going through a difficult time, but also a land that has lots to offer in terms of variety of landscape and lots of interesting locations, while also like you were saying, being kind of new. At least for international cinema, so you know all these things came together in Greece.
This sort of stripped down, manhunt chase film is something we don’t really see often any more, and Beckett fills that gap nicely. Was that part of your inspiration?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: Well, that was kind of the reason I made the film to begin with. I’m a European filmmaker, I’m Italian, but I love that genre nonetheless, even though it’s mostly explored in American cinema. I grew up with American cinema, just like I grew up with other cinema, but I love it, and I love the idea of finding my own way to play with it. I collaborated with an American screenwriter [Kevin A.Rice] who brought his baggage, I brought mine. There’s American actors, and it was an interesting international influence, the collaboration, in finding a very specific kind of character and movie within this genre.
The cast and crew give Beckett an international flavor [seventeen different nationalities], was that by design when you were in the process of putting the project together, or did it happen naturally in post-production?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: I have to say that happens naturally to me. I mean, I don’t go on and sort of think ‘this has to have lots of different nationalities’. I just go in terms of the actors and the collaborators. One tries to think, ‘Who is the best person for this?’, and I like to imagine that we all belong to the same nation of cinema. And just like my first feature, I worked with a Thai DP [Sayombhu Mukdeeprom] and we became amazing friends, and I always want to collaborate with him. We made this movie together as well, and he just happens to be Thai. And I fell in love with the Thai film he shot, so why not take him to Italy and then Greece to shoot my films, you know? So it just happened naturally. I like all cinema from all over the world. I like all quality cinema, and I like to collaborate with everyone that I find ideal, no matter where they’re from.
It definitely suits the tone and style of Beckett, because even though there’s an American star and some big names, it feels more like a European film than a Hollywood one.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: Sure. I mean, technically it is a European film distributed by an American studio, so I guess both things could be true.
In terms of the stunts, there’s a lot of them in Beckett, but they’re not showy. The fights look like they really hurt, the car chases are really intense. Was it difficult to keep the focus on realism to make sure it suits the character, because he’s not the sort of hero that just beats up all the bad guys?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: Like you said earlier, that’s what was interesting to me, is ‘how did this character with his set of skills deal with this situation when something doesn’t go according to his plan?’. What does he do next? What happens emotionally? So those things, even in the action scenes that involve fights or car crashes, again the priority was ‘what does this mean for Beckett and how is he going to react to it?’. So of course we play a little bit with spectacle and things that have to do with action, but always keeping most importantly in mind, ‘How does this work or not work for him?’. So that of course informed the tone, of how to make the film and the style of it all, and all of those things had to be somewhat real and relatable.
You’ve got big stars and great actors like John David, Alicia Vikander, Boyd Holbrook and Vicky Krieps in almost every role, was there a lot of collaboration on the performance side of things and did that make it easier for you as a director and writer to know your dialogue was in such good hands?
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: Absolutely, I collaborated with Kevin Rice who is an American writer, and that was definitely one of the things that was important to me is to find a way to find very natural dialogue, which Kevin is amazing at writing. So yeah, the best is to collaborate with the best people that can do whatever one needs in the best possible way.
Would you ever consider a sequel? Beckett still has enemies, so the potential is definitely there.
Ferdinando Cito Filomarino: I think the ending to this is somewhat… It’s interesting in what it evokes, emotionally. So probably to continue the story would be betraying the ending of the film. However, it’s probably funny to think about it. It would probably be a very different film in fact, because of what you bring up, but it’s not really about that. The ending is something more emotional and personal to me, so I think that’s a good note to end on.
That concludes our interview with Ferdinando Cito Filomarino. Beckett is available to stream on Netflix from Friday, August 13th.