Nadir Caselli will remember 2014 very fondly. Already a beloved TV actress, the 26 year-old Tuscan native has chosen her big screen roles with wisdom and purpose. She debuted in a crucial support part in Matteo Rovere’s Bad Girls (2008), followed by Gabrielle Muccino’s critical and commercial hit, Kiss Me Again (2010). Over the last 12 months, she has featured in two domestic blockbusters – Federico Mocia’s millennials rom-com, University: More Than Friends; and, Sydney Sibilia’s raucous drug-culture romp, I Can Quit Whenever I Want. Accompanying both films as part of the 2014 Lavazza Italian Film Festival, the slightly jetlagged but flawlessly charming actress sat with SCREEN-SPACE to discuss, in fluent English that she needlessly apologises for over and over, her career to date…
Nadir Caselli’s upbringing in the township of Cascina was worlds away from Rome, long the production hub of the Italian film industry. With no connection to the sector (her mother is an office worker; her father, owner/operator of a self-defence academy), she recalls embracing the ‘dream factory’ quality of cinema, like most kids. “When I was a child, I was inspired by colour and images,” she recalls. “Cartoons in general and the great films from Disney of course, are some of my earliest memories. I remember the magic, the sense of wonder, when something makes you go ‘wow!’ That is what I remember most about films as a child and that is what I look for every time I go to the movies, even now that I am 26.”
Intelligence and ambition led her to the nation’s capital, where she graduated from the esteemed Università degli Studi Roma Tre. Her years of studying were supported by a modelling career that saw her become one of Europe’s leading teen models. She still occasionally accepts photographic assignments, but Caselli admits that those heady days were, in hindsight, a means to an end. “I was not really happy in the role of model,” she confides. “It is a very hard job, don’t get me wrong, but it is not very artistic and ultimately was not very satisfying.”
What did satisfy were the small acting parts that she sought out. As ‘Alice’ in fellow debutant Matteo Rovere’s Bad Girls (pictured, above; Caselli, far left), she experienced first-hand the frenzied nature of the business when the sexually frank, female-centric narrative caused a censorship stir. Steady TV work followed, until Gabrielle Muccino, one of Italian cinema’s most highly-regarded filmmakers (The Last Kiss, 2001; Remember Me My Love, 2003; The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006; Seven Pounds, 2008), cast Caselli in her most high-profile hit, 2010’s Kiss Me Again.
The work afforded the actress many hours on set, watching and learning from such respected stars as Filippo Nigro and Stefano Accorsi (pictured, left; with Caselli in Kiss Me Again). That said, Caselli’s preferred method is to draw from emotionally impactful moments rather than the acting style of any particular role model. “I don’t have specific actors who inspire me. I see moments of magic on the screen and I try to grab them,” she says. “I memorise them and think ‘that is what I want to achieve someday’ or ‘I want to be able to use that’.”
Despite her tender years, Caselli has amassed many hours of television and accumulated seven features to her credit. It put her in the unique position of being the most seasoned performer amongst the six principal cast members of University: More Than Friends. “I’d never thought of that but, yes, I suppose I was,” she admits, allowing her a big, broad grin at the very notion. “Only myself and Primo Reggiani were experienced on the set so I guess I was a mentor to the other actors, at least to some degree.”
Under the guiding hand of veteran director Federico Moccia, a master of the broad romantic-comedy having helmed Sorry If I Love You (2008) and Amore 14 (2009), the core group quickly established the chemistry so crucial to such sweet natured melodrama. In describing the cast dynamic, Caselli’s English trips her up for the only time during the interview, when she enthusiastically recalled, “We had long rehearsal periods that would end with all of us sleeping together. I mean, in the hallway, y’know…not…you know what I mean!”
Her small but pivotal role in Sydney Sibilia’s I Can Quit Whenever I Want was a favour for the first-time director; she had starred in his 2010 short, Oggi gira cosi (see the full film here), and was happy to step into any part the director asked of her. The film is a ‘Breaking Bad’-esque black comedy about a group of retrenched academics who turn to narcotics production as a late-in-life career change. She had no reservations about working with untested talent, she says. “I had worked with a first-time director on Bad Girls. Each bring a fresh new vision to material.” Her faith in Sibilia has paid off, with the film a box office smash taking close to US$5.5million.
When the discussion turns to the line-up on offer at the Italian Film Festival, it is noted that many of the films are very contemporary stories, embracing a positive perspective on Italian society and culture. Nadir Caselli agrees, clearly proud of the passion for life that is synonymous with her homeland. “Italian cinema is very optimistic at the moment,” she states, any indication that the side effects of international travel may be taxing her now entirely gone. “Italian people like to look beyond the hardships of the moment, and there have been some very hard realities in Italy over the last few years. Our cinema reflects the healthier, happier aspects of life. It can be very critical of our society, but it is most often done as a celebration of some sort, from a hopeful outlook that celebrates what we can do and who we can be.”
For all session and ticket information visit the official website of the 2014 Lavazza Italian Film Festival.