Federico Zampaglione’s latest film, graphic supernatural horror, The Well, is to receive its World Premiere at Sitges Film Festival 2023. It will screen on Friday 6 October as part of the ‘Midnight X-treme’ strand. The Well stars Lauren LaVera, (Terrifier 2), as Lisa Gray, a budding art restorer, who travels to a small Italian village to bring a medieval painting back to its former glory. Little does she know she is placing her life in danger from an evil curse and a monster born of myth and brutal pain.
Starring alongside LaVera is Italian actress Claudia Gerini who is perhaps best known outside of Italy as playing Gianna D’Antonio in John Wick: Chapter 2. The Well marks her third collaboration with Zampaglione, their relationship having convinced her to take on the potentially dastardly role of Emma, the Duchess that hires Lisa. Gerini has also recently turned her hand to directing with her debut, Tapirulàn. Ahead of The Well’s premiere at Stiges, THN spoke with Gerini about the film, her time with John Wick, and stepping behind the camera.
How did you come to be an actor?
It started very early in my life, because I was just fifteen years old. I was attracted to music, dance, and acting since I was very, very young. It was also interesting and natural in a way because I was so young and yet, it was so clear to me what to do in life, I was very inspired. I wanted to be part of show business somehow. At the beginning I wanted to be a dancer.
I participated in beauty contests when I was very young. It was called Miss Teenager and I won. Part of the prize was to meet with an agency and so I started doing casting for commercials and for small parts. I remember some chocolate commercials, and then I started to have small roles in cinema projects. Then it started. That was my place. When I was on set I just felt that that was my world. It was very clear to me that that was my place. I auditioned during high school and then in the summer of 1987 I made my first feature film…then thirty years went by and I’m still here. My career went up and down, but I was always very focused. I’ve never felt… even in periods where I wasn’t working as much, I never had any doubt about what I was doing.
I had a big comedy hit when I was twenty-two / twenty-three, and from there I kept on doing comedies, paying attention to not repeat. In Italy they try to make you do the same role over and over again. I was cautious to not be the same character over and over.
I think the project that most people know you from is John Wick: Chapter 2. Your character Gianna D’Antonio, although only in a couple of scenes, makes a huge impression. She must have been great to play?
I really enjoyed being Gianna D’Antonio. It was such an amazing experience for me because the character was so strong. That her father would leave all the power in her instead of her brother. That was a very interesting shoot. We shot in Rome and I really like Chad, and of course Keanu Reeves. I took that role with an audition as a self tape and I was so proud of myself because when you do a self tape you never know how it’s going to be. And the director said, “oh my God, you really impressed me.”
I really like this character, this strong woman, yet fragile. You always have to play against the main characteristic of the role. Sometimes that’s what I do. I like to play, yes, a strong woman, but with the courage to take her own life. Go out on her terms. To not be killed by John Wick. I like the set up of the scene, that amazing bathtub. For me, I was so proud because I was in Rome and we were in some archaeological site. We shot in Caracalla. For me it’s not a normal setting, it’s in a historical archaeological site. It was so romantic for me, that was my house. That my character would throw this amazing event for my new role in the family and with three or four hundred guests. That was so big for me. It clicked very well with John Wick and Gianna. I like the scene. Even if it was just that sequence, not the entire movie, it was very intense and I’m very happy with what I’ve done.
And that bathroom is gorgeous…
We were in Horti Sallustiani, Lazio – that’s also a historical and archaeological site. I don’t know how the production – I mean I know how with just asking permission and paying a lot of money – but how they chose this amazing location. It gives some truth. I thought about this many many times because they could have just recreated this in a studio, but they didn’t. We just went and shot in the real ancient Rome and I think it gave something to look at the movie for sure.
You have a background in martial arts; was it frustrating being in a John Wick film and not getting to show your fight skills?
That would be so great. To have a fighting scene with John Wick, that’s my dream. I am a black belt in Taekwondo. I did an action role in a TV film. I fight in it and I love that. I’ve been doing dramas, thrillers, and comedies, but I really love action. Too bad I’m [Gianna] dead. We should do a prequel!
You were involved with The Well before you ended up being cast. What was it about Emma that made you agree to step in front of the camera?
This is the third film I’ve done with Federico. I like to be directed by him because he’s a very free person. Like, everything is possible on set with Federico because he has this vivid fantasy of what he writes. I really like Duchess Emma because she’s deep and romantic and fragile and ruthless at the same time. I played it as a drama, not as a horror movie. I have to say I’m not a horror fan, but I like this character. When Federico told me about the story I felt that I could play a good Duchess. I liked the cast too. I was involved with the story and I think that Lauren LaVera is a very good actress. I like to play this different layered role, of course they’re the most interesting ones. She’s evil, but she’s also a victim herself.
This is Federico’s fifth movie, three with me, and this time it’s with our daughter, Linda. She’s thirteen years old and she also loves acting and is very good. She did one short movie and a series, and she really liked to act. Apparently she took all of her mother’s genes and her father’s, because of course. So it was nice to play with her, and play mother and daughter. That was a very, very special experience, with her father directing her.
And you yourself have shifted into directing recently, what was that experience like? Would you do it again?
Certainly. I don’t know when though as I have to find a new story that I really, really like. To direct it takes a lot of commitment. It was such a different experience for me. It was a really creative journey and an amazing one. I wrote the script with the screenwriters and then prepared the movie, shot the movie, then editing, music. All of the process was really formative to me because I’ve never…of course I’ve done many movies, but I never followed the entire process until the very end. It took one year of my life, one year passed by. You need to have a lot of passion for what you are making because it’s going to be your bread for one year. I directed myself because I was also on screen all the time, because the main character was played by me.
It’s a one location movie. It’s about this therapist, she’s a runner, she has a treadmill and she lives a very particular life in her house in her apartment. She’s constantly connected with this amazing last generation treadmill, with an amazing computer with a video. She does counselling online…she does everything from home. She’s secluded in her house voluntarily, she does everything from home, which is all due to a trauma in her life. Now she has this perfect life by herself, in her house, working and running and escaping from something. It’s a very particular subject. I read it and it wasn’t meant to be me as a director. There was no director attached, but I wanted to play this role and I had a small part of the production. I produced it, and then the producer said, “why don’t you direct it?” I like to be challenged. So I said, “okay,” because it was me playing her, and so of course I had in mind the psychological journey of this character, so I knew really well how to play the character. Since I was the main character, there are other characters but they appear remotely, and I knew I would be able to direct myself. I’m sure I’m going to be a director again because it was so natural.
The Well will screen at Stiges on 6th October.