All About Italy (USA) - - Editorial - Elisa Rodi

When you ar­rive in Eng­land, only 20 years old and with­out too many pretenses, to try and find work, you don’t even think for a minute that shortly your path will cross that of one of the great­est movie direc­tors—one of those who fill up nu­mer­ous pages in cin­e­mato­graphic man­u­als and who is con­sid­ered one of the inimitable gi­ants.

But some­times it hap­pens that even with­out know­ing it, you be­come the trusted driver of Stan­ley Kubrick. And this is more or less how it hap­pened for Emilio D’alessan­dro, an Ital­ian who moved to Eng­land in 1960 in search of work. Among var­i­ous ef­forts, he found first a wife, then a job as a me­chanic in the Hatch Brands car rac­ing cir­cuit, where he ended up as a pi­lot for the “For­mula Ford” team. There was a lot of adren­a­line, but not so much money, and ba­sic ne­ces­sity pushed Emilio to work as a driver for a pri­vate taxi com­pany. One night, when the ice had cov­ered all the roads in town, they called— for an ur­gent, or at least very pe­cu­liar—trans­port. D’alessan­dro found him­self trans­port­ing a huge ce­ramic phal­lus, which he might not have found so bizarre if he had known that it was be­ing used in the film Clock­work Orange.

From that point on, Emilio d’alessan­dro was called sev­eral times to carry out other sim­i­lar types of trans­ports, but with­out hav­ing any clear idea who this cer­tain Stan­ley Kubrick re­ally was. “I didn’t go to the movies,” Emilio told us, “I didn’t even know who he was. Af­ter a few months, they called me to his villa in Ab­bots Mead: he wanted to meet me. When I got there, he was dressed very ca­su­ally, and I thought he might be a gar­dener. He gave me a big smile and in­tro­duced him­self. From that point on, I be­gan to work for him. We be­came friends; he asked me what I thought about cars, about the gar­den, even about ac­tors. Once he even used me as a trans­la­tor on the phone with Fellini. And he wanted me in a scene of Eyes Wide Shut. I’m the news­pa­per seller: two weeks of shoot­ing and some hun­dred takes for five sec­onds of film. . .”

It wasn’t just a sim­ple work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween Stan­ley and Emilio: there was friend­ship, af­fec­tion and trust, both on set and in pri­vate life. Be­cause of the sim­plic­ity with which it be­gan and the cal­iber of the per­son­al­ity in­volved, this hu­man-in­ter­est story be­guiled the gen­eral and movie press. The con­nec­tion be­tween the two was first re­counted in the book that Emilio D’alessan­dro wrote with Filippo Ulivieri, and then in the doc­u­men­tary film S is for Stan­ley di­rected by Alex In­fas­celli, which won the 2016 David of Donatello for best doc­u­men­tary. D’alessan­dro was at once friend, driver and as­sis­tant, the only one who could en­ter his stu­dio—with­out ever for­get­ting what was needed—and the one who took care of every­thing in the house as well as his an­i­mals. Their ad­ven­ture is full of anec­dotes, as when Kubrick spoke on the phone with Fed­erico Fellini and Emilio dab­bled as an in­ter­preter while the two direc­tors ex­changed ideas about their films; it’s a story of im­por­tant mem­o­ries and mu­tual recog­ni­tion, that in­spired Kubrick to name D’alessan­dro as pro­duc­tion as­sis­tant on the cred­its of his last three films: Shin­ing, Full Me­tal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut.

It was only in 1990, af­ter hav­ing passed al­most thirty years to­gether, that D’alessan­dro in­formed Kubrick of his in­ten­tion to leave Lon­don and re­turn defini­tively to Cassino in Italy. This was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion for the di­rec­tor—not well ac­cepted and post­poned sev­eral times—un­til in a mo­ment of emo­tional ag­i­ta­tion D’alessan­dro ex­pressed his de­sire to re­turn home. And so it hap­pened: Emilio re­turned to his old habits and to work­ing on his trac­tor. But good sto­ries al­ways have a se­quel and aren’t des­tined to end defini­tively. “In 1996, Janette and I went to Lon­don to see our chil­dren who had stayed be­hind to live there. Kubrick in­vited us to din­ner and told me that he needed my help for six weeks. He told me about Eyes Wide Shut: about the ac­tors, the plot. Just six weeks! I ac­cepted. . . and I stayed there an­other two years.” In fact he stayed there un­til March, 1999; one morn­ing Stan­ley phoned him to see if the next day—sun­day—he could come to his house. So that next day, he passed as agreed and left his usual mes­sage un­der the door, but in the af­ter­noon the phone rang again: on the other end of the line was Jan Har­lan, Kubrick’s pro­ducer and brother in law. He said lit­tle, mur­mur­ing only that Stan­ley was dead.

Per­haps it was in that mo­ment that the story be­tween the two of them ended, but the again, per­haps not, be­cause—it bears re­peat­ing—good sto­ries never end defini­tively, and per­haps it’s for that rea­son that, when the phone rings, Emilio still be­lieves he can hear the voice of Stan­ley Kubrick on the other end of the line.

Emilio D’alessan­dro was Kubrick’s driver, as­sis­tant and right-hand man. Orig­i­nally from Cassino, he spent a good part of his life at the di­rec­tor’s side, through movie mas­ter­pieces and pri­vate life.

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