Italian entertainment: Gigi Proietti
- WTI Magazine #134 Dec 17, 2020
Gigi Proietti had always joked about the date of his birth: he was born the Day of the Dead, November the 2nd 1940. It seems so strange to say, in some way tragicomic, that November the 2nd was also the date of his death (2020).
Gigi was indeed one of the most acclaimed Italian actors and comedians, plus he was an incredible voice actor, director, musician, singer and television presenter. With his background in theatre, he was considered one of the best representatives of the history of the Italian theatre. Proietti started his incredible career in the ‘60s, when he joined the “Gruppo Sperimentale”, a theatrical group directed by the famous Antonio Calenda. He was able to perform well-known plays, among them “The Merchant of Venice” by Shakespeare and “Le Misanthrope” by Molière, but he soon decided to present himself on the stage as a solo.
The great success came in 1976 when he wrote and supervised the exhibition “A me gli occhi, please”, which was brought back on the stage in 1993, 1996 and 2000. During the performance, Gigi introduced different characters, not particular stereotypes, but the aspects that associated these persons and surely amazed the public were his funny facial expressions and an ever-present Roman spirit.
In the ‘70s, he started to be the protagonist of several movies (“Gli ordini sono ordini”, “Meo Patacca”, “Conviene far bene l'amore”, “Languidi baci”, “Perfide carezze”) and he participated in movies of note, such as “La proprietà non è più un furto”, “L'eredità Ferramonti” and “Casotto”, with the collaboration of a young Jodie Foster. Furthermore, Proietti took part in American productions which involved prestigious directors, among them Sidney Lumet, Robert Altman e Ted Kotcheff. But the real cinematographic approval arrived in 1976 with the comedy “Febbre da cavallo”, interpreting the unfortunate Bruno Fioretti, called Mandrake, who invented any stratagem in order to play horses accompanied by some of his friends, and regularly losing.
During these years, Gigi never abandoned his predilection for the theatre: in 1978 he assumed the artistic direction of the Brancaccio Theatre in Rome, one of the most known, and created a Scenic Exercises Laboratory which constituted the debut of some nowadays famous Italian actors, presenters and comedians such as Giorgio Tirabassi, Flavio Insinna, Chiara Noschese, Enrico Brignano, Nadia Rinaldi, Gabriele Cirilli and Edoardo Leo. Many years later, his love for this genre gave rise to the “Globe Theatre Silvano Toti”, an open-air theatre in the middle of the renowned Villa Borghese in Rome; he was the director and often masterfully performed many Shakespearean pieces, the most reminded probably was “Edmund Kean”.
An activity that Proietti always continued from the beginning until the last years of his life was the dubbing. He indeed lent his voice to Sylvester the Cat (Warner Bros.), the Genie of the Lamp (Walt Disney), Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Dustin Hoffman, Charlton Heston and Marlon Brando. He also perfectly interpreted with his voice the character of Gandalf in the most recent “The Hobbit”.
In the ‘90s and 2000s, Gigi predilected the small screen, realizing different TV series. The most appreciated was “Il Maresciallo Rocca”, in which he interpreted the role of the Chief Marshal of the Carabinieri station in Viterbo, widower with three children who, between one case and another, falls in love with a delightful pharmacist, played by Stefania Sandrelli.
Italy mourns the death of Gigi Proietti, the day of his 80th birthday. No one will ever forget his smile, passion and cheerfulness, that brought joy and laughs into the Italian houses, especially the Roman ones. Indeed, some street artists have recently realized enormous murals in the neighborhood where he lived when he was a teenager, on the North-Eastern outskirts of Rome, “Tufello”, representing the great actor in the role of “Mandrake” (taken from the movie “Febbre da cavallo”) or smiling portraits. Gigi kept us company during Christmas Festivities with his hilarious Christmas movies, during everyday evenings with his pleasant TV series, but mostly during the coffee time with the commercial of a famous coffee brand, showing off all his Roman spirit: “A me me piace!”.