Roberto Benito explains the love behind his Oscar winning film Wasn't World War II Fun?
"Is a very powerful love story. There is man. There is woman. Man falls over. Woman falls in love. Man wears funny hat. Oh no! Is woman dying of disease? Yes. Then man fall over some more. She get better. They get married. The end."
Roberto Benitio is best know as the Italian comedian and film maker who directed ‘Wasn’t World War Two Fun?’ which swept the board at the Oscars two years ago. He charmed the American public with his exhuberance during numerous television interviews and with his hilarious antics during the ceremony itself. Who can forget the sight of him mooning Jack Nicholson? Or pushing a custard pie into Steven Spielberg’s face? In another instalment from the vault, and newly illustrated by Eric Dubois, Dr Andrew went to talk to him.
Roberto, it's nearly two years since you won the Oscar for Best Actor and Best Foreign Film. Has the excitement worn off yet?
Thank you! (long pause)
Er, how did it feel to win?
Oscar! Yes! It felt like I'm about to explode. But not explode with gunpowder! Explode with love! Boom! A big love explosion. Boom! You see? Boom! Love everywhere. Like a big landmine filled with love. You see, I love everybody! At the Oscars, I love everybody in the room - even the cameramen! Even the ugly ones! I said when I made my speech, "I want to make love to you all!". You see?
Yeeeesssss. Erm, the film was very well received in America. The publicity campaign was huge, which inevitably meant you had to do numerous interviews. Did you enjoy that experience?
Publicity. Yes! I love it! Give me more! I am on everything, all the time! The chatshows! Letterman! Crazy guy! They ask question. I answer. One, two, three - interview! It's crazy. Like a train with no brakes. Or a horse with no head! Bonkers! That is what they say in the English, no? Bloody crazy!
But Jay Leno did tell you to shut up so he could actually get to ask a question....
Jay! Yes! Crazy man! He love to joke with me. He kid around all the time! So many laughs!
He did actually gaffer tape your mouth shut at one point though.
Not so funny. Actually hurt quite a lot.
Most people remember your hilarious antics during your acceptance speech when you won Best Actor. Did you plan that or was it spontanious?
I never plan it, no. I just go mad! They call out my name and BANG! Off I go! I run down the ailse and then back-flip back down again. I jump on the back of Steven Spielberg's chair and push a custard pie into his face! Squash! He love it! Then I moonwalk back up and show my bottom to Jack Nicholson. He love it! Next, I crowd-surf around the room. They love it! Yes! The crowd, she go wild! Then next, I squeeze Annette Benning's boobies!
That didn't go down so well.
No. They would have laughed in Italy.
Your film, ‘Wasn't World War Two Fun?' also attracted some controversy because it was accused of making light of the Holocaust. How do you react to that criticism?
For me, it is no problem. I say only this. If you are not laughing then you crying. Is that simple.
That's hardly an answer.
Car crashes are not funny. But Cronenberg makes Crash - is hilarious!
Er, Crash isn't actually meant to be funny. It's actually a psycho-sexual thriller exploring the dark side of human sexuality and fetishistic desire.
Is not comedy? You sure?
Well it make me laugh! Holly Hunter! She's crazy!
It's often said that the secret of comedy is timing. Is that something that you would agree with?
For me everything is comedy. The birds, the sky, the grass. All of it. But funny only really happens when I fall over. Then people laugh. For variety, I wear a hat. Or a scarf. You see? Then is different so people laugh again. Also dropping things is funny. Eggs. Or my hat. You see? Is easy.
Not everybody finds it so funny though do they? Derek Malcolm of ‘The Guardian' said in his review, "this film is about as funny as an outbreak of cholera. Roberto Benito is under the misguided impression that he is a comic genius. I have to tell him that there's a lot more to being funny then falling over in every single scene and wearing a variety of silly hats."
He is really kicking me in the ass! Well, comedy is a box of chocolates. Sometimes it's a toffee, sometimes it's a soft-centre. Sometimes they put they wrapper on the wrong ones. You see? "Ambassador, with this Ferrero Rocher you spoil us!" Boom! Like I say. Yes. - And no.
What can we expect to see you in next?
My new movie! Yes! Roberto, he is back! This time it's personal!
And what is it?
Is about ninety minutes. Yes! Quite short.
No, what's it about?
Ah! Excuse! Is a very powerful love story. There is man. There is woman. Man falls over. Woman falls in love. Man wears funny hat. Oh no! Is woman dying of disease? Yes. Then man fall over some more. She get better. They get married. The end.
That's unlikely to please the critics who've accused you in the past of making films that are a bit simplistic though, is it?
Is not simplistic. Is very complicated. The camera has many moving parts. So very tiny. The lenses, the lights. Microphones. Is not as simple as people think.
I actually meant that they thought the plots of the films were a bit simplistic....
No! Is very complicated. So much falling over. So many hats. The woman - she wear so many dresses. Is very deep film. I base it on my own life. Am I simple?
Er, I think we'll leave it there. Roberto Benito, thank you.
Is pleasure for you all. I give so much love you you! Yes! I love you all!
Yes, we've actually finished now, Roberto
I know, but I have so much more to give! Yes! I wear my hat for you? You like to see me fall over?
Oh god. Can somebody call me a taxi please?
You are a taxi. Yes!
I never did think I'd see a day when I agreed with Derek Malcolm.....
Roberto Benito's new film, Falling Over in a Hat is Beautiful starts filming this August.