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Rising Star Giovanni Morassutti: “Never take it personally; It is part of the business”

The acting profession is brutal. As an actor you are rejected most of the time. It is part of the business. My suggestion is never to take it personally and to take the profession more like a lifestyle than a real job. You might make a couple of films per year and sometimes the money […]

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The acting profession is brutal. As an actor you are rejected most of the time. It is part of the business. My suggestion is never to take it personally and to take the profession more like a lifestyle than a real job. You might make a couple of films per year and sometimes the money is not that good. This uncertainty makes you very fragile. I’ve suffered from depression and gone to therapy. You have to work on yourself in order to do what you love. Along with therapy, yoga and sports are good ways to release tension and relieve suffering.

As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Italian actor, director and cultural entrepreneur Giovanni Morassutti. Morassutti began his acting and directing studies when he was a teenager. At the age of 18, he moved to New York City to become a professional actor. Since then, he has appeared in more than twenty films. Giovanni is also the founder and artistic director of the international artist residency Art Aia — Creatives / In / Residence. In 2016, he wrote the preface for the Italian translation of John Strasberg´s book Accidentally on Purpose. Morassutti has also directed plays that have been presented in theaters around the world. He also founded Art Aia — La Dolce Berlin, a project space that hosts artists from all over the world and give them an opportunity to showcase their work.


Thank you so much for joining us, Giovanni! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I began acting in my early childhood, but it wasn’t until high school that my experiences onstage made me understand that being an actor was what I really wanted to do. For my 16th birthday a friend gave me as a birthday present a book called Rebel, a biography of James Dean. That book made me dream about being at the Actors Studio and living in New York. The film that has influenced me the most is probably Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, with whom I had the chance to work while in the US. Seeing that movie during a time of my life in which I was exploring my sexuality and looking at the work of River Phoenix made me dream about acting in a film.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

That would be the time Van Sant cast me in Last Days. I was in New York, walking down the street in SoHo when I noticed a girl on the sidewalk holding some head shots of actors. I’ve always been a bit shy in real life but asked her what was happening and she said it was a casting. I asked if I could go up and she said yes. Once in the room I saw a woman, Mali Finn’s assistant, holding a Polaroid and taking shots of young actors. I stayed in the line, wrote down my name and phone number and did the casting. At that time I was working in a production directed by Ellen Stewart at La Mama. A few days later, I got a phone call from the casting director saying that I’d been chosen to play a small role and Gus was the director. I could not believe it was true. I remember talking to Ellen and she said go, do it! It’s a good opportunity and we’ll replace you for a day or two. Being in that film really was a dream come true.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

While in New York I worked at the Actors Studio as an intern. During that time the members were working on a play based on the life of Italian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. One day Gerry, the administrator of the Actors Studio, said that they were looking for someone who could help them with the parts of the play written in Italian, which of course I was able to do. On Monday morning I showed up ten minutes late so they asked someone else. New York is obsessed with time, since time is money, and I have learned never to be late.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am working on a very cool theater production at the moment. It’s a play written and directed by Bryan Reynolds with an international cast. I will play the lead and we are going to tour Europe. I’m also developing several projects with my production company Art Aia — La Dolce Berlin. And I recently signed with a very good English agent who is providing me opportunities in the UK film market. I am very excited about that.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Ellen Stewart has been a very important figure in my life. She had so much to say about art and theater but most of all she showed me that love is the most powerful tool in life. I remember at her artist retreat in Umbria sitting next to her and listening to amazing stories about Tadeus Kantor, Peter Brook, Sam Shepard. She loved drinking Sprite and she also spoke a little Italian. Another interesting person I have met is Giancarlo Giannini, who was my teacher at the National Film School in Rome. I also worked with him on a TV series in which I was playing the same character as he was, only younger. He had his own personal hair dresser and talked about sports while getting ready to shoot.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The acting profession is brutal. As an actor you are rejected most of the time. It is part of the business. My suggestion is never to take it personally and to take the profession more like a lifestyle than a real job. You might make a couple of films per year and sometimes the money is not that good. This uncertainty makes you very fragile. I’ve suffered from depression and gone to therapy. You have to work on yourself in order to do what you love. Along with therapy, yoga and sports are good ways to release tension and relieve suffering.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

During a broadcast interview few years ago I used this metaphor to describe my philosophy of life: “A great many drops of water will create a creek,” by which I mean that we must collaborate to make change. In my realm, I’m trying to use art practices to promote sustainability. My art residency in Italy is developing programs in order to raise audience consciousness about topics like global warming and climate change. Also, as an actor, director and teacher but mostly as a human being I am very committed to honesty and truthful communication and helping others to do what they really want to do in their life. I believe that if everyone would follow what they want it would be a very different world.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1-Don´t judge. One day I was working with an actor and he was a bit slow in understanding stage directions. I was kind of making fun of him then I learned he’d been in a coma for a year when he was a child. You never know what people are dealing with.

2-Protect yourself. Sometimes I have been too nice and put myself at the disposal of people who took advantage of me.

3-Don’t fear your fears. Fear is a normal emotion that we all have and it can save us from danger, but it is important that it doesn´t block us from doing what we really want to do. Most of the time I didn’t follow through with what I wanted, I was fearing my own fears.

4-Be in the moment. We are often thinking about the future and that’s when anxiety comes in. Also being in the past, especially if it is painful, creates depression and a huge amount of sadness. It can prevent us to be who we really are in the here and now. The best thing in my opinion is to be in the present, which is the only reality we can rely on.

5-Follow your instincts. As a teenager I had insights that came from my instincts and my spontaneous thoughts, and made the mistake of listening to older people who said I was wrong. Instincts are very important, like listening to your body, which most of the time knows where to go and what to do. The mind can play tricks on us.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When we grow old, there can only be one regret — not to have given enough of ourselves.” It was said by Eleonora Duse, one of my favorite actress. It always encouraged me to be my real self and to be open to share with others.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would say my mentor John Strasberg. He helped me to discover myself and what I want to do. He also gave me a kind of love and appreciation that I have never received from my father.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this.

Daniel Day Lewis. I’ve heard that people say they have never meet him since his personality is always changing according to the character he is playing. I would love to have a tea or a beer with him. He is my favorite actor.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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