A Conversation with Jacopo Cullin for The Referee at Cinema Made in Italy | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

A Conversation with Jacopo Cullin for The Referee at Cinema Made in Italy

The Fan Carpet Chats To...
27 March 2014

Cinema Made in Italy, held every year at Ciné Lumière, South Kensington, is an excellent opportunity to check out some of the latest cutting edge Italian film productions at their premier in the UK. The festival, at its fourth edition, is organised by Istituto Luce Cinecittà/Filmitalia in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute in London and the Institut Français du Royaume-Uni.

This year’s programme featured 10 brand new films, eight selected by famed Italian film critic Titta Fiore plus two proposed with special participation by Adrian Wootton, CEO of Film London and expert of Italian cinema. Each screening was followed by a Q&A with directors and actors, including established filmmakers and actors such as Daniele Lucchetti, Giovanni Veronesi, and Giuseppe Battiston, plus a wealth of new talent.

Highlights included Roberto Ando’s Viva La Libertà, starring Toni Servillo (who played Jep Gambardella in the Oscar-winner The Great Beauty), How Strange To Be Named Federico!, Ettore Scola’s documentary on his friend, the great Federico Fellini, and Bruno Oliviero’s The Human Factor. But the real revelation was Paolo Zucca’s The Referee, a black-and-white grotesque tale of corruption in sports and football fanatism, replete with religious metaphors.

The Fan Carpet‘s Luigi Frassetto caught up for an interview with the leading star of The Referee, actor Jacopo Cullin, who plays the Italo-Hispanic football player Matzutzi, an iconic exaggeration of vintage South-American footballers and the key to the film’s instant appeal…

(Special thanks to Clare Leach and Fabrice Oukanine at Premier PR for their precious help)




Hello Jacopo, congratulations for your amazing performance. You know, I went to see The Referee thinking the protagonist was (famed Italian actor) Stefano Accorsi, but actually, in a hypothetical Oscar run, it’d be you who would get the nomination for best actor in a leading role! One might think “what a fluke for an unknown”, but they never know what an artist went through before his big break. Let’s start then with a brief summary of your career up to now and, if you wish, with a reflection on the effort/luck rate.

I’ve been in theatre from the age of 16. Then when I turned 18 I started working as an entertainer in touristic resorts in summer, which I did for four years, while I still kept acting in theatres during the winter. This means I was on some performing stage pretty much all the time.

I had the first taste of success when I starred in a comedy show on a Sardinian TV channel. The show was very popular in my region, but I decided to step away from it and stick to theatre for fear of an early categorisation which I didn’t want. So I moved to Rome to study theatre there, and after a while I started landing roles in several TV series.

In the end I think that a train arrives for everyone, you just need to have your suitcase ready when it comes to your station. In this case the suitcase is your studies, your reads, the films you watched, the seminars you attended etc.



So, by that metaphor, your train was the audition for the role of Matzutzi in The Referee.

I didn’t audition actually, Paolo Zucca didn’t even consider me to play Matzutzi in the beginning! We’d met before and he thought I’d be good for a small role as one of the players in the Pabarile team. But then I read the script and decided to do something that’s not really like me: I called Paolo back and told him “I am Matzutzi!” I felt bound to do it as I recognised the similarities between me and the character, and the opportunity of an important role that I could play well. Initially he said “no way”, suggesting he already had a “name actor” for the role, but I kept showing him my ideas for the character regardless, and I managed to convince him eventually.



As a fellow Sardinian I thought that only someone who comes from the island can fully understand all the references, and the sociological and psychological subtleties in the film, which made me somehow slightly worried for the other spectators last night.

You needn’t have been. I’ve been around promoting the film for quite a while now and I can honestly affirm that audiences outside Sardinia understand it better than the ones at home. We are too involved in it to achieve a real critical view. We focus on the references and other small details that are not that important, while it’s easier for other people to see the big picture and to better judge the spirit of the film, as I learned once more from the comments I heard yesterday after the screening.


You’re not just an actor but also a budding director: congratulations for your short film Buio, which scored many awards at festivals all over Italy. Have you got any other projects as a director/writer at the moment?

Thank you! You know, I actually was competing against Paolo Zucca at the Visioni Italiane festival in Bologna. We both had short films running and mine won, he arrived second! (Laughs). Now I just finished a new short film which will premiere at the Skepto International Film Festival in Cagliari next month. My style as a director is very different from The Referee. I like to paint things as close as possible to reality, especially my reality, the things I’ve been through in my life, people I’ve met, and what it means to be a 30-year-old man today.My new short film, Grazie A Te, has a little less laugh moments than Buio, as it tells the story of a guy who experiences panic attacks after the end of an important relationship. But right when he understands that he’ll never win his ex-girlfriend back, that’s when his life has a turn for the better and he’s able to start over. Sometimes it’s better when a door shuts in your face, as you’re bound to find new ways to get by, you might discover you’re more capable and resilient than you thought.



Now that you had your breakthrough as an actor with The Referee I imagine you would have received other offers to act in feature films.

Yes, I just finished working in two films: one is Alessandro Colizzi’s first feature, a very funny and “politically incorrect” comedy, the other is Daniele Ciprì’s second film as sole director, which comes after the great success of It Was the Son. On the latter I had the chance to work with an important cast including Sergio Castellitto, Rocco Papaleo, and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.

I can’t wait to see both! Congratulations for your success, see you at Skepto!

Thank you, see you there!