‘Hollywood North’ is young film mogul’s perch
A new movie mogul has taken up residence in Toronto.
He speaks Italian more easily than English and he is only 28 years old.
“I try to look older,” Andrea Iervolino told me over drinks at Soho House while gearing up for the Toronto International Film Festival. “In Italy in this business, they say you are young if you are 45.”
It’s almost unbelievable that anyone could have built a production/ distribution film empire at 28. In Hollywood, he was happy to find, there is no such thing as being too young. That was clear when Iervolino was named one of the top dealmakers of 2015 by Variety, the industry trade paper.
At TIFF this year, Iervolino’s company AMBI is represented by two movies: In Dubious Battle and The Bleeder.
But the movie he seems most excited about is To the Bone, which was recently shot in L.A. and won’t be released until early 2017.
Iervolino grew up in Italy but has roots in Canada because his mother was born here.
She was adopted by a young Italian couple who had moved here. They went back to Italy and settled in Cassino (between Rome and Naples), largely because they worried that if they stayed in Canada their adopted baby’s birth parents might try to reclaim her.
“When your parents are very young, it makes it difficult to grow up in a normal way,” Iervolino says.
As a young boy, Andrea felt insecure. His family — including his brother, his sister and his grandmother — was living close to the poverty line. Indeed, Iervolino’s early years were so stressful that by the age of 5 or 6 he had a serious stutter.
At 15, he left home to work in a town near Venice.
He wrote a story for a movie he wanted to make. He managed to coax various small investors into backing The Cavalier in Love (2003). The movie was about the impossible love of a cavalier and a princess. The budding mogul wrote the script, produced and directed the film and cleaned the set.
Then, when it came time to pay back investors, he solved the problem by inventing a new model of film financing. He rented a cinema for morning screenings (when it would otherwise be closed) and worked through local schools to fill the seats with customers paying five euros each.
Several small films followed. Through one of the actors, he met the powerful Italian producer Luciano Martino, who was regarded as the Harvey Weinstein of Italy. When Iervolino went to Martino’s office, he saw the posters of many famous movies Martino had made and realized the man was a legend.
Martino, then 70, offered his young visitor a job. Iervolino turned down the job but suggested they become business partners.
Martino proved to be a fatherly mentor and Iervolino proved to be good at substantially cutting the cost of making a movie.
After Martino died, one of his wealthiest investors, Monika Bacardi (of the Bacardi liquor clan), became Iervolino’s new business partner. They set up the AMBI Group (a name they made up by using their own initials) with the goal of pro- ducing 12 movies and four TV shows a year.
Today, AMBI has offices in London and L.A. as well as China and Italy. And it owns the rights to a library of 400 movies.
Toronto has become the ideal perch for the young mogul, because he identifies it as Hollywood North, and it’s midway between L.A. and Rome. AMBI’s tent includes an animation studio in Toronto near Queen and Logan.
Among the movies Iervolino is most proud of is The Humbling. After buying rights to the book by Philip Roth, AMBI co-produced the movie, which earned a special prize at the Venice Film Festival for Iervolino along with its star, Al Pacino, and its director, Barry Levinson.
This month during TIFF, Iervolino will have a packed schedule of backto-back meetings about potential deals.
The Bleeder, a U.S. boxing movie co-produced by AMBI, will have its North American premiere on Sept. 10. Directed by Philippe Falardeau, it’s the story of the boxer who inspired the movie Rocky. Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts and Elizabeth Moss are the stars.
Then, on Sept. 14, TIFF will have the North American premiere of In Dubious Battle, based on John Steinbeck’s 1936 novel about fruit pickers fighting to improve working conditions. James Franco is both its director, one of its producers and its star (playing the orchard worker trying to start a union). Not only is this an AMBI Group production, but Iervolino and Bacardi head the list of seven producers.
Coming soon: To the Bone, an AMBI production shot in L.A. about a woman battling anorexia, with Lily Collins in the leading role and Keanu Reeves as the doctor.
What are the secrets of Iervolino’s success? He sleeps only five hours a night, does not drink liquor or take drugs.
“And I eat pasta with tomato sauce every day. If I don’t have it, I feel sick and have no energy.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Iervolino has built a production/distribution film empire at just 28.