CNN’s Anthony Bourdain is as passionate for film as he is for food. So, naturally, the “Parts Unknown” host is avoiding anything that looks familiar — including Rome’s iconic Colosseum.
“We wanted to make this the most beautiful thing we’d ever shot,” Bourdain told TheWrap. “We set out ahead of time looking to do something really, really special.”
“Parts Unknown” is nominated for five Emmys, including Outstanding Informational Series, Outstanding Cinematography, writing, Outstanding Sound Mixing and Outstanding Sound Editing. One of Bourdain’s proudest achievements is the Rome episode, which is nominated for cinematography and sound awards award — but don’t expect to see many familiar sites.
Bourdain and his crew wanted to film the “widescreen, letter box” episode to make the journey through Rome appear like a film. They took inspiration from a variety of films, including the 1970 Italian classic “The Conformist.”
“The challenge that we also set for ourselves was to not shoot classical Rome at all,” Bourdain said. “No shots of the Colosseum, nothing from the Roman empire… we very much wanted to talk about everyday, quotidian, post-World War 2 Rome… the Rome that most Romans actually live in.”
The episode features a variety of “film people” with Italian roots, such as famed director Abel Ferrara and “xXx” actress Asia Argento.
“We talk a lot about Pasolini… who set so many of his films in that Rome,” Bourdain said.
The Emmy nominated Rome episode included the largest crew and most equipment ever for an episode of “Parts Unknown,” which typically changes up the style that each episode is shot, giving the show an artistic feel that differs on a weekly basis. He said part of the reason for the challenge and said finding unique ways to shoot a specific city is “fun” for his crew.
“Usually we’re much more of a run-and-gun operation,” said Bourdain. “This was very consciously shot like a film because we wanted it to look like a film and sound like a film… It’s what we love about being able to do this show.”
Bourdain picked Rome for the episode designed to look like a film because Argento, who was born in the Italian city, motivated him.
“She was very much into this idea of non-classical Rome… the Rome she sees everyday and takes her kids to school in, and works in, is very different,” he said. “The whole look of the show and the themes of the show sort of grew out of my initial conversations with her.”
Bourdain said winning the Emmy would be “enormously gratifying” because “talking about the possibility of a particular look and feel” and actually achieving it, for a particular episode, is the fun part of his job. Also, he simply wants his crew to be recognized.
“These guys have never worked so hard. I asked of them to make the greatest looking show we’d ever done and they went out, and with extreme difficulty, and a lot of work… did just that,” Bourdain said. “I’d really love to see these guys acknowledged.”