As of this week, there are three different versions of the classic fairy tale “Pinocchio” in development. No lie.
First there’s Disney’s live-action remake of their 1940 animated classic. And between juggling directors and screenwriters over the years, let’s just say it’s got a lot of strings attached. The second project, just announced on Monday, is a passion project from Guillermo del Toro that he’s had on the shelf since 2012 at least, an animated, stop-motion musical that is now being set up at Netflix.
So that leaves Matteo Garrone, the director of the gritty mob drama “Gomorrah,” the surreal fairy tale “Tale of Tales,” and Italy’s Foreign Language Oscar submission for 2019, “Dogman.” We asked him how his version of “Pinocchio,” just announced Friday, is different enough to be taken seriously as a real boy, and what he thinks of all the other versions of the wooden puppet fable out there.
“It’s a trend. I know that Guillermo was working on ‘Pinocchio’ for a long time, like me. And there is also the Disney ‘Pinocchio,’ so there will be three Pinocchios. Of course, theirs will be much much bigger than mine,” Garrone told TheWrap’s Steve Pond. “I will try to make my ‘Pinocchio’ in a way that will be personal and faithful to the original book.”
One thing that sets Garrone’s apart is that for his film he’s recruited legendary Italian actor Roberto Benigni, making his return to film since last starring in Woody Allen’s 2012 film “To Rome With Love.” Benigni of course starred as Pinocchio in his own “Pinocchio” from 2002, but he’ll be playing Geppetto in Garrone’s film.
But there’s another reason Garrone feels so close to the story.
“I’m Italian, so I grew up with the story,” Garrone said. “I think I made my first storyboards for ‘Pinocchio’ when I was 6 six years old.”
In his statement announcing the film, Garrone said, “Filming ‘Pinocchio’ and directing Roberto Benigni are two dreams come true in one film.”
“Collodi’s puppet and I have been chasing each other since I was a child, drawing my first storyboards. As years passed, I have always felt something familiar in the story, as if Pinocchio had penetrated my imagination to such an extent that many have found traces of his adventures in my previous films. Also with Roberto it’s a chase that started many years ago: I met him as a child, thanks to my father (theatre critic Nico Garrone, one of the first to write about Benigni at the start of his career). It’s an ex- traordinary chance for me to have the opportunity of finally working together with Rob- erto. Pinocchio will be a film for families, big and small, and there’s no one like Roberto, who has amused and moved millions of spectators across the world, and is able to touch an audience of all ages. I want to thank him for the trust that he has shown accepting to share with me this new and daring adventure.”
Pinocchio character first appeared in the children’s novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio” from 1883 by Italian writer Carlo Collodi. The story has been adapted into film, TV and theater dozens of times, and that’s not including projects that have come and gone, like the Paul Thomas Anderson adaptation that would have starred Robert Downey Jr. as both Geppetto and Pinocchio.
Garrone’s “Pinocchio” starts shooting in the first quarter of 2019, entirely on location in Italy across Lazio, Tuscany and Puglia.