Exclusive interview with 'Corleone' star Salvatore Lazzaro

We had the pleasure of asking a couple of questions to Salvatore Lazzaro - the Italian actor that plays the role of ruthless Bernardo 'The Tractor' Provenzano in the exciting TV series 'Corleone' broadcasted on Sky Arts HD. Sicilian-born Lazzaro, 42 - who in the past has worked with actors of the caliber of Nicholas Cage on the sets of 'Capitan Corelli's Mandolin' - in 'Corleone' delivers an intense and convincing performance, which significantly contributes to the series' credibility as an accurate portrayal of possibly the most violent period in mafia history.


While we somehow have more information about godfather Totò Riina's life and demeanor - ranging from the video recordings of the trials he attended, to the details emerged through the accounts of the numerous mafia turncoats that helped putting together the pieces of the 23 years he had spent on the run - Provenzano has always been a more elusive person. We know little about his record 43 years as a fugitive, and the evidence gathered doesn't do much do dispel the mystery, such as the notorious 'pizzini', the coded messages sprinkled with biblical references used by the boss to communicate with other mafia-members. How did you prepare for such a challenging role?

SL: "In addition to my academic formation at Siracusa's Drama School - where Greek Tragedies are staged to this day - I have been a student of the acclaimed Susan Strasberg, who taught me how to embrace roles in a more playful and effective way. My personal experience played also a big part: as I was born in Sicily, all my life I've been watching big and small mafia bosses constantly racing to mark the territory, risking everything for a taste of power, even their own life. Sicilian rural tradition has been another important source of inspiration, with its 'nobilty', its code of behaviour, its typical physical postures and its hierarchical mechanisms."

We are under the impression that the arrest of Totò Riina, followed years later by Provenzano's, as well as the implementation of extremely tough laws against criminals affiliated with the mafia, have undermined the Sicilian Mob for good. The town of Corleone, for instance, has recently apologised for decades of murders with Mayor Lea Savona declaring that it no longer belongs to the mafia. In your opinion, can Sicily now be defined as mafia-free? Is the current economic crisis facilitating a return of this kind of organized crime?

SL: "Giovanni Falcone once said that the mafia is a human phenomenon and thus, like all human phenomena, it has had a beginning and an evolution, and will also have an end. However, I believe that every human process should be guided, supported, promoted through education and economic development. We need multiple and tangible examples of how 21th century's Sicily should, could and must be: the vibrant cultural heart of the Mediterranean."

How growing up in Sicily during the times of the mafia wars and witnessing the violence so close to home have affected your generation?

SL: "When Judge Borsellino was brutally murdered, I was on stage, at the theater. We decided to vote whether to carry on with the play, or to just call it a day. Everyone decided not to stop, to not give in, to fight against the atrocities by not allowing the mafiosi to change our everyday life."

Who are the people that have inspired you the most?

SL: "My father, a farmer, who allowed my childhood to be soaked in rural traditions and culture."

What are you currently working on and what are your plans for the future?

SL: "A businessman has just invested €3m Euros in the development of Viagrande Studios (www.viagrandestudios.com), a hub/ campus between Mount Etna and the city of Catania dedicated to the artistic formation of people who have chosen to pursue acting, directing, dancing or screenplay writing. Viagrande Studios provides all the logistical support and the human resources needed for a TV or cinema production and I am deeply involved in this project because I believe in a cultural and economic relaunch of this beautiful island, rich with incomparable landscapes and hard-working people. In this context, we are now developing a new cinematographic project, a fantasy/ thriller movie part of a trilogy co-produced with Brazil."


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