Rome Film Festival Chief Antonio Monda on Luring Quentin Tarantino and Frank Miller

For the Rome Film Festival’s 16th edition — which opens Thursday — Artistic Director Antonio Monda has secured high caliber guests such as Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton, who are being fêted. Also attending are “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuaron and influential comics writer, artist and director Frank Miller, creator of the “Dark Knight” Batman comics series as well as “Sin City” and “300,” who is coming for the world premiere of celebratory doc “Frank Miller — American Genius” by Silenn Thomas.

The Eternal City’s Festa del Cinema, as the event is known locally, will close with Chloé Zhao’s “Eternals,” which marks “the first time a Marvel movie goes to a festival,” Monda boasts. Angelina Jolie is expected by the Italian press to hit the red carpet, although Monda won’t confirm.

Jessica Chastain and Vincent D’Onofrio are instead confirmed for Rome’s opening film, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” by Michael Showalter. And, unlike Venice, Rome’s red carpet will be viewable by the audience, albeit at a distance.

Monda spoke to Variety about how he pulled off the feat of attracting so many big names. 

Antonio, you always get great guests. But Tarantino is a really top catch. Is he coming to promote his book?

No. The book has nothing to do with it. In January 2020, prior to COVID, I met him at a Golden Globes party in L.A. and I asked him to come to last year’s edition of the fest. He promised me he would. Then the pandemic exploded, which posed a problem. But last year in November I wrote him and said: ‘Do you remember your promise?’ He said: ‘I gave you my word, and I will come!’

The guests you get are amazing. I think the onstage conversations in Rome are really the festival’s distinctive trait. Do you agree?

It’s really my signature [as artistic director]. It’s not that other festivals don’t do them. But we do 15 [of them,] and the other festival do three or four; that’s the difference. And directors come even if they are not promoting a film. On top of that, they are long encounters, often on a specific theme that is often Italian cinema, but not just that. This year, Luca Guadagnino will talk about the formative films of his life and [director] Marco Bellocchio will give us a sneak preview of roughly 10 minutes of his new TV series on the [former Italian Prime Minister] Aldo Moro kidnapping, “Buongiorno Notte.”

The lineup as usual is a mix of high quality crowdpleasers and potential awards contenders. With Cannes and Venice so close to each other was it tougher to get films this year?

No, it wasn’t. We have 35 world premiers and most of the films are coming with talent, starting with Jessica Chastain and Vincent D’Onofrio for the opener “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Our closer [“Eternals”] marks the first time a Marvel movie goes to a film festival. Then there are three or four films that I think are going to go far during awards season: Rebecca Halls’ “Passing”; Mike Mills’ “C’mon C’mon”; “Belfast” by Kenneth Branagh and Ken Burns’ wonderful doc [series] “Muhammad Ali,” which is my personal favorite.

How is the Rome red carpet going to work?

The audience will be able to gather in the Cavea [the large outdoor venue that is situated directly above the catwalk] but not along the sides. That’s how we are handling the social distancing.

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