International Spotlight: Italian-born Actor
It must have been one heck of a calling to have a young Italian named Alex Marchi pack up his bags, move to London, and leave behind all that was familiar. By all accounts, saying “arrivederci” to the beautiful surroundings of his home town in Bolzano, and his mother’s homemade cooking was not an easy one especially since he was somewhat unsure about his calling in life-that of being a pharmacist. But Alex, who always felt that the world was much bigger than the town he grew up in, took a leap of faith and dove into life head first.
Once in England, Marchi accomplished all that he set out to do, and soon began his career as a pharmacist. And while for most, the tale of his life would have climaxed here, interestingly enough for Alex, it had only just begun. Though his job paid the bills, and looked good on paper, Alex wasn’t happy, and it was then in 2002 that fate, that wonder of wonders, stepped in.
While a student in Padova, Marchi got discovered by someone, similarly to how legendary Lana Turner was spotted in a soda shop by the publisher of The Hollywood Reporter. That someone turned out to be a casting director from a production company called Fandango who wanted Marchi to audition for an acting job. Though Marchi would eventually not get the role, that door to a completely different world had been opened and once opened, became very hard to shut.
Fast forward a few years later, Alex went back to his quiet life as a pharmacist in Exeter and it was then that Alex thought about acting. Though leaving behind a stable job seemed foolish to some, for Alex, it made perfect sense, and soon, he found himself living the life as a thespian in the country that has gifted us with Shakespeare, Sir Alec Guiness, and Laurence Olivier.
Alex then spent a year at the Bristol Acting Academy before training intensively for two years at Drama Studio London. Since then, Alex’s star continues to rise. He has appeared in Ridley Scott’s movie “All The Money In The World” and “Caravaggio: Between The Darkness.” Fluent in three languages (English, German and Italian), Alex is also classically trained with a focus on improvisation and Lee Strasberg’s method.
If you watch you Marchi on screen, his talent becomes quite apparent. Even before he utters a word, he is already immersed in his character while his chamealon-like talent takes hold. His baby light-blue eyes speaks volumes while his voice and physical presence can portray an incredible breadth of emotions from neurotic to sadness to glee depending upon the role.
I recently sat down with Alex as he spoke about his Italian roots, and his latest roles: a remarkable theatre piece about Primo Levi, an Italian Jewish Holocaust survivor, and another role about a homeless gentleman in an independent short movie. From pharmacist to bringing to life dramatic roles that are full of depth and meaning is almost like a film itself; and while the world may have lost a pharmacist, albeit an unsatisfied one, look at all we and audiences all over the world have gained.
Gaya Lynn: Thank you Alex. So tell me. I understand you are from Italy? Can you please talk a little bit about your Italian roots?
Alex Marchi: Yes, I am Northern Italian from a small city called Bolzano, near the border with Austria. It’s a beautiful city surrounded by the mountains, you can really see their colours changing with the seasons. A little paradise for those who like hiking, lakes and skiing.
Italy obtained the region of Tyrol from Austria after WWII and renamed it Alto Adige. During Mussolini and the Fascism, many Italians had already colonised it. As you can imagine, political tensions between the Italian and the German-speaking population were there from the start. The region is now very rich and the two parts cooperate together. But still remaining, in fact, separate.
My grandparents moved up there from Veneto, the region of Venice. I like to think I inherited my “immigrant” blood from them. They were simple people, hard workers, very Catholic and with a strong sense of family, just like my parents.
I had a happy childhood. I grew up fed with genuine, delicious homemade food by my grandmas, aunties and my mother. Of course, I fell in love with it.
I was a good student but didn’t really know what to do with myself after high school. I knew that I always felt “out of place” in my home town. I didn’t have a real sense of belonging. Bolzano was too small and narrow-minded for me. I wanted to get out of there, to experience something else. I was very curious, so I ended up studying pharmacy in Padova. Chemistry was fascinating and so was the medical science.
After graduation I went back home to be a pharmacist. An awful year, for various reasons. So, in 2011, I made my decision: I said goodbye to my country and flew to England.
GL: When and why did you decide to go into acting?
AM: Coming from a very “pragmatic” family, I never thought of acting as a possible career. I had to find a job, I wanted to pay my parents back and be independent.
I was at university, in Padova, 2007: I was having lunch in the canteen. A guy noticed me and approached me. I thought he was asking for money. He was a casting director from Fandango, the production company. He invited me to the casting for the new movie of a well known Italian director. I passed to the second round and tried a few scenes with him. I didn’t get the role but the experience changed me.
But it was only in England, in 2012, when I made my decision. I was working as a pharmacist in Exeter, deeply unsatisfied. I didn’t want to waste my life, I wanted something else for myself. I wanted to do something that came from me, to be myself. I wanted to reconnect to myself as a child so I decided to try acting. It was 2012: I did a summer school of acting at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, where Daniel Day Lewis graduated from. It was liberating, I felt like never before. So much fun, I was a child again! Suddenly, it was clear: I would have been an actor.
GL: Did you dream you would ever become an actor as a child? Or is this all a surprise?
AM: It is not. I’ve always been inclined to acting and performing as a child, even though I was shy. I was really passionate about stories. I was reading hundreds of comics and listening to audio stories all day. I still remember my first time on stage: I was 6, a play devised by us children. I made all parents laugh. And when I was 10, I hosted a magic show at this children event in front of 200 people. I was terrified backstage, but since the moment I was on I loved it. Despite the fact that I failed most of the tricks. That was my place, it took me a while to realise it.
GL: While looking at your work, I saw that you are not only a wonderful dramatic actor but also are a natural when it comes to comedy. I think having wit and innate comedic timing like Toto, Benigni, Woody Allen is not easy….. Am I correct in saying that being a dramatic actor where you can move people is difficult but making people laugh is even more challenging?
AM: You must be joking comparing me to those geniuses! As one of my drama teachers used to say: ”When you fail drama you have comedy. When you fail comedy, you have nothing.”
I think comedy skills are a gift, a talent. Some are born to make people laugh. But you can learn it. You’ve got to know people, to be a good observer: everything is already there. I love making people laugh, it’s the opposite for me: real drama comes more difficult. That’s why I’m doing a Strasberg training. I’m getting to know myself more and trying to unlock things that might limit me in my career.
GL: Tell us about your most recent work, All the Money in the World. Working with such a stellar cast, it must have been incredible. What was that experience like?
AM: It was surreal. I was in Rome, sitting in this meeting room with Ridley Scott, Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams! The set was extremely detailed, over 50 extras around: it was like being in a newspaper headquarter in the 70s. Sir Ridley was a proper gentleman, he quickly made me feel at ease. He has a clear idea of what the shot should look like and lets the actors do their job. There was a collaborative atmosphere on set. As photo editor of the newspaper I had to inform Ms Getty (Michelle Williams) we would have published the picture of her son’s ear, cut off by his kidnappers. She was prepared, very professional and gave me a lot to act against, even when the cameras were on me. I was tense at first, but there was no space for hesitation. That was my moment and I earned it. The filming of my scene lasted about 2 hours but I had to spend all day on set, trying to learn as much as I could from that experience.
It had a special meaning in my personal journey: all the choices and the sacrifices I made were right: I was there! An incomparable satisfaction.
GL: I had the pleasure of interviewing a few other young talented Italian actors such as Luca Zizzari who have also moved to London. Do you all hang out together and is this a growing trend where more and more Italian actors are coming to London and if so why.
AM: I haven’t met Luca yet but I’m very proud of him for his role in Peaky Blinders: well done, Luca!
Being an actor is difficult, being a foreign actor in the UK industry even more. That’s why some of us gathered together and founded Native Italian Actors in London: a directory for casting directors and production companies who are looking for trained and reliable bilingual actors who speak Italian at a native level and are fluent in English. But most of all, we help each other. We meet regularly to share ideas, organise workshops and start collaborations. It’s an exciting environment, I see a bright future for us.
It’s true, there’s loads of us now. I think Italian actors come to London to find more opportunities and an industry that values talent. There’s a theatre in every corner. A great musical theatre tradition, which we don’t have in Italy. Independent film productions with ideas and experienced crews. Commercials from all over the world, videogames, and so on. It’s the place to be.
Thank you Alex. Do you have any future projects coming up and where can people find you (Social media? )
I’m filming this month the role of a homeless guy in an independent short movie about the loss of motherly love. Some stories I’ve read researching for the character were incredible. I’m also working on a new, powerful theatre piece about Primo Levi, the Italian Jew who survived the Holocaust. I play multiple characters, it’s very challenging and fun.
For more on Alex, please go to http://www.alexmarchiactor.com
Many thanks to Press Agent Katya Marletta.
Having written professionally for over twenty years for such sites as www.wfn1.com and http://www.italoamericano.org and having lived in Italy and Hawaii, Gaya currently represents the artist FRISCH and works for financial and social media expert Mr. Todd Sonoga.
This year, Gaya plans to take a break from journalism, and dedicate more time on spreading awareness of mental illness in memory of her sister while writing about her spiritual journey in her blog: http://www.talktothesoul.com