From the Skies to the Screen:
Actor Luca Zizzari
I love Luca Zizzari. I know that is a rather bold admission to start a profile with (I probably should be more impartial) but I am telling you, this guy is good and I expect great things to come from him.
Before I saw him in the BBC hit series’ Peaky Blinders, I saw Luca in a music video called Days Like These a rather poignant unassuming video that in its subtlety speaks volumes. There, amidst a hauntingly lovely song, Luca’s character goes about his day. He has no lines, no spoken words, but actors who can truly act do not always need to speak. In the first minute, so much about his character is revealed by the simple actions he conducts: he wakes up, kisses his girlfriend, pets the cat, looks at himself and just within that short period of time, you can tell exactly who this character is, his past, his wants, his struggles.
In many ways, Luca was born to be an actor-he just didn’t know it. There were of course clues along the way. A teacher who told him he should go into acting after hearing the young Luca recite Shakespeare, a childhood wish to be Michael Jackson. But it took watching acting legends Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro that triggered Luca Zizzari’s AHA moment.
Until then, his life was far far away from lights, camera and action. Born in Milan, Italy, Zizzari was a student studying mechanical engineering and English in London when he got a chance to watch some monologues from movies like “Raging Bull.” Quite an extraordinary story. As is his rise. From being a student to working on different acting projects to his role as Matteo in the hit series Peaky Blinders-his career continues to soar.
When talking about his craft, Luca often refers to the word passion. Passione in italian. Perhaps that one word may be the reason for his success. He is passionate about acting, and probably about life in general too.
I recently caught up with the actor as we spoke about the importance of meditation and manifesting (agree!), how at one time, he could have ended up being your steward on your next flight, and how his father, suo Padre, back in Italy still thinks his dear son should go out and get a job.
Gaya Lynn: Luca, a pleasure and honor having you with us at Internationally Known. Let’s start at the beginning.. -Tell me about your childhood in Milano, your family and most importantly, were there signs
growing up that you were destined to become an actor.
Luca Zizzari: When I was a kid all I wanted to do was to be like Michael Jackson!! I watched his videos and concert footage in slow-motion for hours, so I could learn his dance routines!!
Growing up in Italy when I was a kid was hard, I come from a working class background so my parents and relatives never really believed I could make money out of show-business, especially when you come from a small town on the outskirt of Milan. Also, emotionally I never had the support from siblings either as I am an only child, so I learnt to take stuff on the chin and move forward doing my own things.
I also watched a lot of movies and one particularly grabbed my attention, ‘On the waterfront’ by Elia Kazan starring Marlon Brando. I loved that film so much I kept on re-watching it over and over! What an amazing film and what a performance! I always tried to be involved in some kind of entertainment, at one point I had a band with some of my school-friends doing covers from Guns and Roses and Skid Row….sadly I was the only one who really believed we could make it.
GL: You were on your way to become a mechanical engineer, no easy feat by the way, following the footsteps of
your father. Then fate intervened and you saw the movie “Raging Bull” with De Niro. Apparently, you were enthralled, kind of love at first sight perhaps? And from that moment, you understood your fate… Explain to us that critical moment in your life.
LZ: Yes, after completing my diploma, I wasn’t sure of what to do with my life either than coming to London and learn English. When I arrived in England I couldn’t speak English so I had to study it initially for a year to learn it well colloquially so I could then enroll into University. However after a year I wasn’t happy with my quality of speech so I then decided to study English and literature at Westminster whilst still deciding if Mechanical Engineering was the right option for me…..Needless to say, that I never looked back! After almost 5 years of studying I then decided to go travelling but I was a broke and needed a job so I figured, I get a job as a cabin crew…
I went on to work as a flying steward for 4 and a half years working for BA, Lufthansa and BMI. I loved it at the time but as time passed my acting bug was ignited again. I remember well one night, when I came home from a trip, there was Raging Bull on the telly, and for whatever reason I was hooked by it, almost hypnotised – at one point in the film, Jake LaMotta, has a monologue in front of the mirror which was taken from On the Waterfront!! I figured, that’s a sign!! Deniro’s performance was so captivating I didn’t even eat or shower till the film was finished! It was a great epiphany for me and one that I’m very proud I had.
-I’m also interested….a lot of people get signs like that (Raging Bull Moment) of what we should be doing but choose to ignore them due to insecurity and instead go the “safer” more traditional ‘behind the desk’ route….what was it within you that had the confidence and courage to defy that safety net and go into such unchartered territories.
I can’t put it into words but it felt like something has taken over my body, I felt I have found myself, I understood something about myself that was more important than anything I have ever done or will ever do, it was a sensorial experience perceived through my six senses, the sixth being intuition. It wasn’t an outer body experience on the contrary, I was inspired by someone’s work, I saw them doing something that had a profound affectation in me and as a result of that I had to listen to what touched me. I found my real passion and with passion comes blood and sacrifice and so it begun. I am not saying it was easy, as I ended up doing all sort of jobs, from working as a waiter to selling clothes in couture boutiques around London, but that didn’t matter to me because I knew who I was.
GL: This was a significant change. How did your Papa take it?
LZ: My dad and my mother still don’t understand how I get paid through my work as they don’t think I am actually doing anything. You see for them work is hard and only through elbow grease you gain something you can then put aside. They don’t have the same concept I have of what a personal investment is, in other words, what’s going to bring me something in return…
For me life is not black and white, the rainbow has many colours and we can always perceive light as white but to get that purity you must be colourful not one or the other….do you know what I mean? So to answer your question, he’s still hoping I get a permanent job and buy him a BMW.
GL: Having known the acting community, there are so many working actors who just dream of landing a role especially in a successful series…You seem to have gotten work very quickly and your resume is so impressive, filled with acting jobs both on screen and on the stage. Do you feel it is luck, hard work, determination, talent, a guardian angel…or all of the above that helped you along the way.
LZ: I believe only one thing can make anyone successful, that is passion. Without it no-one will be anywhere they want. It’s the only thing I saw kept on coming back every time I read biographies or self-help books. It’s the drive we all have or need to ignite to get from A to B and is the only fire that can burn inside our hearts. It’s the fuel to love and spark of genius. Obviously one needs to be inspired to find what they want but my guess is most people know exactly what they want however they decide to play it safe for their own reasons because they’re afraid of hurting someone – the truth is the only person they’re hurting is themselves, that little child who had dreams and aspirations when they were young and knew nothing about external givens but was always present in the moment. You see today most of us live our lives either in the past or in the future, being constantly in a state of anxiety and we are never present….
Take a mobile phone, we’re all addicts to it but it brings us nothing back than a bill! If we instead spent 5 mins of our lives reminding ourselves of all the positive things we have and believing we all have already what we don’t yet physically or tangibly have, things will start to shift. Take it from the old saying, like attracts like….in other words if you believe truly you have something, eventually you will manifest that. That’s what I do and continually do alongside meditating and keeping my mind as clear as I can.
GL: You seem to appreciate the importance of being classically trained as an actor, and I found it interesting how you prepared with such vigor for the role of Matteo (il braccio destro of actor Adrian Brody) in the series, Peaky Blinders….….where does that discipline come from ? And why do you feel actors should study and not just “wing it.”
LZ: I feel strongly about what I call life-training. An actor is constantly evolving as we age and mature therefore we need to adapt to our circumstances and society. We should all have an acting coach, a dialect coach and movement coach and train as much as we can whenever we can so we can keep our instrument sharp or tuned in like any musical instrument. You’ll never find a dancer who stops practicing, or a musician or even a good carpenter! Art is defined by the eyes of the beholder, we artists are just the vessels for people to see. I don’t like moaners, if I moan I tell my friend or my wife to tell me to stop because then you start focusing on the negative stuff and what you don’t have rather than what you want. Also I believe as actors we should be fit for the role, so being physically ready, therefore keeping fit and doing as much voice work as one can do, will only keep us in the business. There are some one hit wonders, but those guys have a shorter life if you see what I’m saying
GL: Tell us about your current work in Peaky Blinders which surely must be a game changer for your career…
LZ: It surely is, it’s one of the best TV series ever made and sold worldwide and having had the privilege to work with such talents as Brody, Hardy, McRory and Murphy all at once, it’s an honour! I have been seen for other roles and I’m currently waiting to hear back from some other projects but you know, as we say in acting, you reap what you sow. So for anything to blossom it takes time and so long I have breath I have time!
GL: You have tremendous presence on screen while you seem to have a great deal of energy…. I see you run, cook, I think you do hip hop and work at several projects, how do you maintain your level of energy and stay so fit?
LZ: I do Calisthenics and I eat healthily. I follow a plant based diet so my recovery time is much shorter than it would normally be which mean I spend the least amount of energy to digest my food and have more energy when I work out. Adopting this kind of diet requires you too cook or prepare your food so I do tend to cook regularly and I love it! I also attend acting classes as much as I can and if I can’t I see my acting coach when preparing for a role especially.
GL: I see you are interested in going behind the camera as well as in front. If you were to direct a film who would you want in your film. What kind of film do you want to create?
LZ: I would like to direct a play but I’m not sure about directing a film however producing I do enjoy a lot. I’m currently working on a few projects that I’m helping developing from scratch…
I like being in control and being part of the creative team behind the scenes, and help making it happen, as well as in the scenes and shaping it. It gives me the full experience in a way. I call myself a ‘prodactor’ whereby I produce and act in my own films
GL: Luca, future projects and do you dream of winning an Oscar? is that important to you?
LZ: I’ve been working on the second series of the Medici alongside Sean Beam, Daniel Sharman, Julian Sands and many other great talents also I have a comedy-feature coming out called Swimming With Men, directed by Olive Parker.
I have to say, I don’t pick up a role and think of an Oscar or a Bafta or whatever, I mean don’t get me wrong it’s great to be acknowledged and appreciated by people, I’d be lying if I said no, however I’m more interested in the process of developing the character and immersing myself into his world – that to me is the pay-off and why I do what I do. I just love it, then I let it go and let people judge it for themselves….
GL: Thanks Luca. PS… Don’t be surprised if one day you will be working with DeNiro and maybe even an Oscar.
LZ: Thank you!! Working with Deniro, Pesci and Scorsese would be a dream come true!!
Much thanks to Press Agent Katya Marletta.
For more on Luca, please go to https://www.facebook.com/luca.zizzari.7
With an MFA in writing, Gaya Lynn has been writing professionally for 20+ years both in the states and in Italy. After working as a media representative for Dick Marconi, one of the original founders of Herbalife, she is the Creator Director of www.endlessfrisch.com , the Co-founder of a new lifestyle brand www.teresaknows.com and the Communications Director for wwww.wfn1.com
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