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News > Club > 50th Anniversary of Oscar for Best Foreign Film

50th Anniversary of Oscar for Best Foreign Film

Bits and bobs about the making of "The Garden of the Finzi-Contini"
6 Sep 2022
Written by Eugene Pomeroy
Vittorio De Sica's "The Garden of the Finzi-Contini". I'm up against the wall.
Vittorio De Sica's "The Garden of the Finzi-Contini". I'm up against the wall.

I attended St. George's English School, as it then was, from 1963 to 1966. I was a hopeless student, but I rather enjoyed myself, even though I've lost touch with everyone. The school was housed at Villa Grazioli on the Via Salaria at the time. After a few years at school in England, from '66 to '68, I returned to Rome and, with no clear idea of what to do with my life, I began getting a few movie jobs as an extra. The Italian movie industry was pretty chaotic from an extra's point of view, with agents working out their homes and many of the productions paying in cash at the end of the day. There was a lot of work in Rome and I managed to get a part, an extra role, in De Sica's new movie. I was one of the tennis players and money I made allowed me to buy my first car, a 1963 Fiat 1100d. Una bestia. Looking back, six weeks work is hardly extra work, but I didn't know much about the business. Aside from Rome, where the tennis court was, and Monza, where the villa was, we also shot street scenes in Ferrara, including the funeral procession. The deportation scene took place in a school. It was depicted as winter, but took place in August. Boiling hot. The little old lady being clutched by Dominique Sanda was actually Russian and had fled the Bolshevik Revolution. People have asked me about De Sica's directing style. Well, he'd start out calm and explain what he wanted. Very elegantly, mind you, but by the third or fourth take, when the actors (most of us had never done this before) hadn't nailed it, he'd lose his temper and begin shouting. He once had Dominique Sanda in tears because she couldn't hit a tennis ball to save her life. Nor could Helmut Berger, for that matter. De Sica had a booming voice and would swear at us. My father played a family doctor, so he knew our surname and would yell "Pomeroy!! Che c- - - o fai!!" when we messed up. After a scene in which the bicycle riders, we young people who were no longer allowed to attend the tennis club because we were Jewish, had ridden down the road to the villa, De Sica, who had been looking over his cameraman's shoulder during the shot, asked him, "Come era?" The guy said, "Mah? Cosi." which seemed to satisfy the master. I played a lot of tennis that summer.

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