I read this piece by Ed Vulliamy earlier in the year and stumbled across it again just now: “Aniello Arena was convicted of gunning down three rival Naples thugs in 1991. In jail he found a new life through acting – and earned rave reviews at Cannes starring in a comedy about reality TV.”
The article doesn’t disappoint. Here’s a brief extract:
Arena was granted leave by the parole board and prison authorities to pursue his enthusiasm, at certain hours of the day, crossing the road from the fortress to rehearse in a former public hall in a late Renaissance building. In 2006, Garrone visited and was enthralled. He was at the time casting Gomorrah, based on the terrifying depiction of the Camorra in a book by a journalist who had grown up among them, Roberto Saviano. Garrone’s first notion was to cast Arena as – effectively – his real self, a killer. But for the parole board, the proximity between reality and the proposed role was too much; Garrone’s request was refused.
So Arena continued to perform and tour. And surreally so: “When we got to a town to play, those in the company who were not prisoners would find a hotel, and the prisoners would have to register at the local jail,” says Punzo. “If it was Rome, it’d be Rebbibia, one of the worst.” How did his co-inmates react? “You know who you are in a jail, and in the end, I’m still one of them. I think they’re happy for me.”