by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
It is a long journey from Nazi-occupied Rome to the sunshine glitz of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.....but this is the journey that cinematographer Mario Tosi has taken to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in Cinematography at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival on Wednesday evening prior to the screening of ITALIANS by writer/director Giovanni Veronesi.
Mr. Tosi has shot over 35 films including such Hollywood projects as HEARTS OF THE WEST (Jeff Bridges, Blythe Danner, Andy Griffith), CARRIE (Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, Piper Laurie), MACARTHUR (Gregory Peck), THE BETSY (Laurence Olivier, Robert Duvall, Katharine Ross, Tommy Lee Jones), THE MAIN EVENT (Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal), THE STUNT MAN (Peter O'Toole), RESURECTION (Ellen Burstyn), WHOSE LIFE IS IT ANYWAY (Richard Dreyfus, John Cassavettes), SYBIL (Sally Field), among others. Over the past month and a half, FLIFF has paid homage to Mr. Tosi with a retrospective.
In a mini-memoir published in the Festival catalogue, Mario Tosi reflected on his journey from Rome to Hollywood to Fort Lauderdale:
"I was born in Rome in the middle of WWII --not an easy time! My parents had no connection with films or show business. My father worked for the government and my mother raised three kids.
However on my street just outside the Roman wall, they were many friends trying to succeed in the film industry as technicians, directors, actors -- some became very successful--like Michele Lupo, Marcello Mastroianni and Gina Lollobrigida - and even when they became famous they always came back, time to time in our caffe' to tell stories and from those my interest grew.
I started working with a Director of Photography learning the basics and went on location in South Africa to work in two productions. My big break came in Johannesburg replacing an injured second cameramen, working with a famous director of photography from Sweden that filmed many Ingmar Bergman movies. The film TEAR ON JOHANNESBURG was banned in that country because it was against the apartheid.
Soon my desire was to come to America-- Hollywood--and see were the big movies were made! A cinematographer from the American Society of Cinematographer wrote back to my enquiry with advice. And there I was in Hollywood. However, big movies were made with union members…very difficult to join, so I began helping in lowest budget film imaginable and doing intense testing on my own and learning new equipment - films stock, camera, lighting. Finally I did find an independent producer-director who gave me the opportunity to shoot a love story in black and white.
The final cut turned out more beautiful than I expected and that was the break. From then on was one project after another -with director Daniel Petri I did BUSTER AND BILLY and four others with him. Jim Harris director hired me to shoot SOME CALL IT LOVING, and THE GLORY STOMPER with Dennis Hopper. I have special memories of working with Richard Rush director of THE STUNT MAN. It was the most interesting and rewarding work of my career."