Interview mit Italo-Exploitation-Ikone Giovanni Lambardo Radice aka John Morghen

Wer meinen Blog schon etwas länger und aufmerksam gelesen hat, der wird wissen, dass mein Herz lange Zeit für den (vor allem europäischen) Exploitationfilm geschlagen hat. Tatsächlich denke ich, wenn ich so zurückblicke, dass ich die kompletten 90er damit zugebracht habe, obskure Raritäten aus der bunten, und oftmals recht schmierigen, Welt des Bahnhofkinos nachzujagen. Das war damals weitaus schwerer als heute, wo selbst die verwegensten, merkwürdigsten und verrücktesten Filme problemlos auf DVD zu haben sind. Damals musste man sich noch VHS-Kopien (!) aus allen Herren Ländern zusammentauschen. Das war zwar ausgesprochen mühsam, hat aber auch einen Heiden Spaß gemacht 🙂 Allein dieses Gefühl, wenn DHL einem mal wieder ein Paket mit unbeschrifteten Videokassetten aus z.B. Norwegen in die Hand drückte, und man dann fiebernd vor dem Fernseher saß, die Videokassetten in den Rekorder steckte und gespannt darauf war, welche Kleinode der Exploitation-Niederungen man jetzt wieder gefunden hatte. Und vor allem: In welcher Qualität? Denn da kam es schon mal vor, dass man eine 5. Generations-Kopie der griechischen Videokassette von Umberto Lenzis „Il coltello di ghiaccio“ bekommen hatte. Ein Film von dem man schon mal irgendwo etwas gelesen hatte und seit Jahren hoffte, ihn auch irgendwann einmal sehen zu können. Zwar im falschen Bildformat, unscharf bis zum geht nicht mehr und die Farben wechselten gerne mal ins schwarz-weiß… aber man hatte ihn! Man war glücklich und guckte sich den Film trotz Augenkrebsgefahr mit höchstem Genuss an. Und heute? Da stöbert man in diversen nationalen oder internationalen Internet-Shops, sucht sich in Ruhe aus, was man haben möchte und ein paar Tage später hat man den Film mit gestochen scharfen Bild, in Widescreen und Dolby Ton bei sich Zuhause. Das ist super – aber die „Romantik“ von früher ist dabei auf der Strecke geblieben.

Nach dieser (zugeben sehr langen) Vorrede, komme ich endlich zum Thema. Zwar ist meine Liebe zu dem Genre in den Jahren etwas zurückgegangen, aber noch lange nicht erkaltet! Deshalb treibe ich mich auch im Deliria-Italiano-Forum herum und musste vor Kurzem feststellen, dass ich den Admin Santini noch aus den alten Zeiten kenne, als ich in den 90ern bereits schon einmal in Sachen Film im Internet recht aktiv war und dort die Mailingliste „Obskure Filme“ ins Leben gerufen hatte.

Santini hat vor einigen Tagen ein Online-Interview mit der Italo-Exploitation-Ikone Giovanni Lombardo Radice, besser bekannt als John Morghen, geführt und mir die Erlaubnis erteilt, dieses Interview im Filmforum Bremen komplett zu veröffentlichen. Dafür mein herzlicher Dank an ihn und gleichzeitig auch noch die ausdrückliche Empfehlung für alle Interessierte, sich das Deliria Italiano-Forum einmal näher anzusehen. Es lohnt sich!

Das Interview ist in englischer Sprache. Ich hoffe, das stellt für die meisten Leser kein Problem dar.

Giovanni Lombardo Radice

Actor / Director / Writer – to some better known as John Morghen.

In fact, most people call him Johnny – and that’s what he likes best. 😉

Johnny was born on 23 September 1954 in Rome.

15 years old, he made his first appearance in front of the camera as an extra in „Non ho tempo“ from director Ansano Giannarelli.

Playing his first “real role” in a movie, after some years of stagework, Johnny was 25 years old in Ruggero Deodato’s “House at the edge of the park” (dt. „Der Schlitzer“) – together with David Hess, Lorraine De Selle and Annie Belle.

As Johnny says, he owes a lot to David Hess, who supported him on the set.

In the same year Fulci’s “City of the living dead” (dt. „Ein Zombie hing am Glockenseil) brought Johnny to the USA for the first time ever, exactly to Savannah, Georgia.

Followed from “Cannibal Apocalypse” (dt. „Asphalt Kannibalen“) with cult-director Antonio Margheriti, Johnny plays Charlie Bukowski, a POW, discharged from Mental Hospital with a hunger for human flesh.

In 1981 the notorious Cannibal Ferox (Make them die slowly) (dt. „Die Rache der Kannibalen“) directed from Umberto Lenzi followed.

Within the next years Johnny continued to work with european cult-directors like Sergio Martino, Michele Soavi, Ruggero Deodato and Lamberto Bava.

In 2006 Johnny had a small, but significant part in the remake from “The Omen” and again he proved his skills as an actor.

You won’t forget his part in “The Omen” after the movie.

Right from the beginning in his career Johnny proved, that he is not only fantastic in creating “creepy characters”, but that he has a lot more to offer as an actor.

deliria-italiano.de is very happy and grateful, that we had the option to conduct an (online) interview with the one and only:

Giovanni Lombardo Radice aka John Morghen

deliria-italiano.de: Dear Johnny, first of all: How are things going and where are you presently?

Johnny: I am presently in Rome and things are fine, thank you. I am rehearsing for a reading of “Off” by Michael Kearns which I also translated into Italian and that will be staged in 2011. I finished translating Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” and started translating an English stage adaptation of Pedro Almodovar “All About My Mother”.

deliria-italiano.de: How did you get your stage name John Morghen and why? There are rumors that your family was not pleased with your appearance in some horror-films and the gruesome death scenes. Can you tell more about this?

Johnny: At the beginning of my movie career, when I was hired for Deodato „House at the edge of the park“ I was asked to take a name that sounded American. Being imitations of American box office hits, all B Italian horror and thrillers of that period tried to pretend to be American. I didn’t like the idea of using a completely fake name, so I translated Giovanni into John and added my grandmother’s family name Morghen, which made very unhappy my grandmother’s brother, an old gentleman who was very proud of the aristocratic family traditions. The Morghen were a German family of engravers that moved to Florence in the eighteen centuries and mixed with the noble family of counts Gherardini (The family of the Monna Lisa!!!). Raffaello Morghen, my most famous ancestor, is buried in Santa Croce along with many others celebrities of all times. So you can understand that cannibals, zombies and punks didn’t match the picture….

deliria-italiano.de: So how did you step into the movie-business and how did you get your first engagement?

Johnny: I always wanted to be in the show business, since my early childhood. I was always playing with little theatres, organising shows with my school friends and so on. I started with professional theatre at the age of nineteen, and then I started directing and acting at the same time. The movies arrived quite casually, in a moment when I was having great money problems, and the first movie was Deodato’s „House At The Edge“. I was contacted by his mother in law, who was a movie agent, and asked if I was interested to be in the movies. With the lack of money I was suffering I said “Yes of course” and in less than two weeks I was introduced to Deodato and casted as Ricky, a role originally thought for Michele Soavi.

deliria-italiano.de: How was situation to record the audio commentary track for the “Cannibal Ferox”-DVD together with Umberto Lenzi?

Johnny: We didn’t record at the same time, God forbid! I was alone with Sage Stallone and his business partner and totally unaware of what Lenzi had said.

deliria-italiano.de: Have you ever been verbally or physically attacked or harmed because of your violent movie scenes, e.g. after your role as a mentally deranged madman in “Cannibal Ferox”?

Johnny: Not really, but once I went to a theatre to see “Dead Impact”, a movie I had made in Arizona, directed by Fabrizio De Angelis and in the row in front of me there was a clearly deranged guy who, each time I was on screen as the bad guy, was muttering “Motherfucker…I’ll kill ya…I hate you…” and so on. So I tried to hide under my seat and hoped for the best….Fortunately he didn’t recognise me.

deliria-italiano.de: When looking back, which one is your favourite movie you played in and who is your favourite director you worked with?

Johnny: Same for movie and director. “Cannibal Apocalypse” and Antonio Margheriti. As I said many times I adored Margheriti. With more money he would surely have done better (who wouldn’t?), but I think he was too full of sense of humour to take anything too seriously and that’s what you need to get real success. I’m just the same and maybe that’s the reason I went along so well with him. And, beyond the limits of the movie, I was quite pleased with my performance. The character was interesting and I think the character Margheriti liked more. He gave me space and care.

deliria-italiano.de: Do you like attending conventions? Can you share some funny anecdotes?

Johnny: Yes I do like conventions. They are fun. What I do not like are the smoking restrictions in USA. I am a heavy smoker and get nervous if I am not allowed to. And I do not like these huge hotels where conventions are generally hold, far from any downtown, in the midst of nowhere….but meeting the people is fun and it’s very warming to see that there are so many people loving me. Any funny anedocte, sorry. People are always very polite and shy. No crazy fan until now….

deliria-italiano.de: How are your memories about Lucio Fulci?

Johnny: To me he was always very kind. He liked my acting and respected me. The atmosphere on set was edgy, because he was always shouting (at the production mainly) and work was quite hard. But all the same I have good memories. Lucio surely had a bad temper and frequently mistreated people. He was very unhappy both for tragedies that had happened in his family and because he was unsatisfied about his career. Once I invited him to a party in my house. He went to the toilet and found out that whilst theatre posters were displayed in the living room, the horror movie posters were decorating the bathroom. He came back yelling „Hey, people, I’m in the loo!“ Anyhow, he was a cultivated man and respected me for my family background and for my theatre credits. He was always very polite and friendly with me.

deliria-italiano.de: Have there been shootings which were especially hard and challenging?

Johnny: “Cannibal Ferox” for sure. The film was shot in the Amazonas. We were staying in Laeticia and went around shooting in the jungle. The only scene I shot in Rome was the sex scene with Zora Kerova. And when the Almighty created Amazonas he must have been very upset: terrible heat, mosquitoes, snakes, crocodiles, piranhas…. And Laeticia people were not exactly little angels. The city is in the middle of the cocaine „golden triangle“ and gangster’s gangs were always openly at war, shooting each other on the street. We were filming in the jungle at some two or three hours by motorboat. Quite frequently, apparently from nowhere, an aeroplane appeared in the sky and if you asked what it was to the sailor driving the boat, he would answer quite casually: „Oh, that’s an aeroplane full of coca leaves on it’s way to Bogota“…

deliria-italiano.de: In your opinion, what have been the reasons for the downfall of the Italian cinema in the middle of the eighties?

Johnny: Since than filmmaking has been strongly tied to television and networks money. We don’t really have a strong pay per view TV or thematic channels rich enough to produce. And big networks put money in prime time family stuff. So horror is definitely out. And not only horror. Producers do not risk their money anymore and so everything is connected with Tv. And Tv in Italy means politics… Not a good scene for free artistic expression.

deliria-italiano.de: Did you do other jobs beside acting?

Johnny: I am a theatre director, I translate plays and poetry, I wrote a book and many screenplays for Tv series and from time to time I still use my old diploma as a physiotherapist, something I learned doing when very young.

deliria-italiano.de: How did you get your role in the remake of „The Omen“?

Johnny: Most simply a casting lady was meeting people in Rome and I auditioned for her. Probably when John Moore saw the filmed audition he recognised me (he is a great horror fan) and so he asked for another audition with some directions from his part and then offered me the role. He was incredibly kind during the shooting and very complimentary. Nice man.

deliria-italiano.de: Is it true that you staged an opera and if yes, where?

Johnny: I staged more than one. My first was Luciano Berio’s “Opera” at the Florentine May Festival in 1977, then I staged Rossini “Cinderella” at a Festival in Montepulciano (at the beginning of the Eighties) and later on a little comic opera by Pasquale Anfossi with some Mozart arias in it.

deliria-italiano.de: Did you make “good money” as an actor?

Johnny: Difficult question….Some movies were very well paid, some less, some others almost for free (because I believed in the project)…All in all I always survived, considering my other works. Translating plays and writing for TV (which I did for many years) can be very financially rewarding.

deliria-italiano.de: What do you think about the censorship and concealment of movies in general and especially of your movies?

Johnny: I think that an adult should watch what he likes and that censorship for things such as animal or minors abuse should be activated before and not after. Thus said I strongly believe that children or early teenagers shouldn’t be watching violence, raping, murders and so on. But considering the DVDS the Internet and whatever else technology will invent in next future I do realise it’s probably a war lost before fighting.

deliria-italiano.de: If you could do it all again, from the beginning – what would you avoid?

Johnny: “Cannibal Ferox”

deliria-italiano.de: If your children would like to work as actors / in the movie-business – what would you advise them?

Johnny: To always believe in what they do and put their heart into it, even if they are doing it just for money (as it may happen)

deliria-italiano.de: Have there been offers for jobs in familiar italian films (especially from the horror genre) that you refused to do or that then have been casted with other actors finally? If so which are those films?

Johnny: As far as I remember I didn’t say no to anything. I always needed the money badly.

deliria-italiano.de: Which (active) Italian director do you presently like best?

Johnny: Matteo Garrone, Nanni Moretti, Michele Soavi, Marco Tullio Giordana.

deliria-italiano.de: Do you have some special memories about Zora Kerova? And did you meet her recently?

Johnny: She was nice, friendly, but very in love with Danilo Mattei whilst we were shooting. So I didn’t spend much time with her. I haven’t seen her since, but spoke with her quite recently by the phone. A journalist that was interviewing me had her number and I made her a surprise. I called and whispered in a frightening voice :”I am Mike Logan, I am back from hell…” We laughed and had a good chat.

deliria-italiano.de: In which projects are you actually engaged?

Johnny: The translations I mentioned above. The second season of the Neil Simon play I directed last winter. Some other theatre plans.

deliria-italiano.de: Please give us some info about the movie “The Beautiful Outsiders” (2010). You were working again together with your old friend David Hess?!

Johnny: The Beautiful Outsiders is like a vision in the desert, it keeps appearing and disappearing….there were a lot of production problems, changes in the cast…I don’t know if or when it will be done, but the idea of being with David again is appealing. We recently met in Scotland and it was as if these thirty years hadn’t passed. We had a great time. I love David a lot.

deliria-italiano.de: If you had free choice to realize one project – what would be your favourite project?

Johnny: Directing and acting in some major Shakespeare. The Merchant Of Venice, or Othello (as Iago) or Richard the Third….there are so many…..

This interview was conducted 03 June 2010.

deliria-italiano.de likes to thank Johnny for granting us this interview.

Additional we like to thank Johnny for all of his many years of professional work on the stage and in the movies.

The best wishes, health and always good luck for you and your family, Johnny!

(Santini for deliria-italiano.de, 04 June 2010)

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