The performance of Marcello Fonte in ‘Dogman’, the latest movie by Italian Director Matteo Garrone has been recognized by the Cannes Film Festival’s Jury as outstanding, and he received the Best Actor award.

Garrone’s  – previous work included the Golden Globe-nominated ‘Gomorrah’- said that Fonte “is the modern-day Buster Keaton, almost a silent movie actor”.

For this role Fonte spent three months in a dog parlor to learn how to groom pit-bulls and chihuahuas. Indeed, Marcello – the name of both the actor and the character – in ‘Dogman’ is a small and gentle dog groomer, who finds himself involved in a dangerous relationship of intimidation with Simone, a violent former boxer who bullies the entire suburban neighborhood – a story loosely based on a gruesome true story that took place near Rome in the late 1980s. About his performance Fonte said: “My character never becomes violent. He is like a flower on a dung heap that remains white, or at least gray, which is never completely sullied.”

Garrone’s casting director met Fonte by accident at a social center for former prisoners, “Marcello was the caretaker, he was sleeping in the center. – said the director – He was listening in on the auditions, and when one day when one of the ex-prisoners fell ill and suddenly died, and he took his place.” Before being cast by Garrone the actor from Southern Italy had played only minor parts: he played a small role in Alice Rohrwacher’s 2011 “Corpo Celeste” and before that he was an extra in Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” (2002) – part that he obtained sneaking on set and telling the wardrobe people “the director sent me” even if he had never heard of him.

Receiving the award, Fonte, who had a hard start in life and did a thousand jobs, said: “When I lived in a shack and I felt the rain falling over the metal sheets, I imagined I was hearing an applause. Now that applause is true, it’s yours. And I feel the warmth of a family. I feel at home, my family is the cinema.

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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