“A giant actor, he invented things and we all laughed,” Milena Vukotic Ugo Tognazzi recalls. He tells stories on the set

This year marks the centenary of his birth ogo TognazziCremonese, the protagonist of countless successful films, some of which belong to the collective memory. But does actor Tognazzi look any different from a man? And what was it like to work with the artist, who died in 1990 at the age of 68? we asked Melina Fukotec, a film, theater and television actress whose artistic path has surpassed that of Ugo Tognatze several times. Who doesn’t remember her as Alice, the submissive wife of Count Raffaello “Lilo” Massetti from “Amechi Mai”?

Prior to Monicelli’s debut “Amici mie” in 1975, had you ever worked with Ugo Tognazzi?
Yes, we actually worked together on Come Get Coffee With Us, directed by Alberto Latuada in 1970 and based on the novel division by Piero Chiara. This is where we first met. This work seemed to be written especially for us, because it tells the story of a man who enters the life of three maidens. Neither I nor the other two translators for this film, Francesca Romana Colozzi and Angela Godwin, know Tognazzi. But despite this, we immediately entered a familiar dimension, because the film constantly led to situations associated with the house in which the Three Maidens lived.

How was your relationship with Ugo?
It was a fun encounter from the start. And it gradually developed into a very human and joyful relationship, until the end of the film industry.

Then?
Then we broke up and after a few years gave birth … a cinematic wedding on the set of Mario Monicelli “Amici mie”. I was the wife of Count Lilo Massetti in the first two films of the trilogy.

From Lattuada to Monicelli: I’ve always worked with great directors…
Oh yes. But the films were very different from each other as were the personal commitments. In “My Friends” I was the unhappy wife and we didn’t have a lot of scenes together. In “Come and have coffee with us” there was more possibility for dialogue, at joint events. In “My Friends” instead, our connection dropped because “My Friends” were.. “My Friends” and the family of the character who played Tognazzi were friends of him. However, there was always so much respect and affection between us, that when we finished shooting the movie I called him to ask him to help me with a business matter and he was very affectionate and very encouraging towards me.

Why what happened?
Sometimes it happens that sometimes you do not know what to do, that is, how to behave with show agents, so I called him for advice and he was very thoughtful, he tried to help me. But I can’t say I used it more often. While Paolo Villaggio was more than a friend we met often, the relationship with Tognazzi was very cordial, but not so much, because at work we had occasional meeting opportunities.

But do you have any personal memories of Tognazzi outside of the set?
The first thing that comes to mind refers to a chance meeting between us in Florence, several years after the second movie “My Friends”. We were in the same hotel, we crossed the aisles and there he said to me, ‘Ah, blessed are you who make movies’ because at that moment he was representing the stage and he wasn’t very happy. On that occasion we talked about different things. It has been many years since we last met, and it was clear from his speeches that he misses cinema very much.

Let’s go back to actor Tognazzi. Was he respecting the script or was he using it a lot?
He was fairly disciplined when it came to dialogue, but he would invent things every now and then, always in the name of comedy. I also remember the moments of general fun when we had to stop because we could no longer go on. We all laughed. And then he was very keen on gastronomy: at the end of the film he organized a very sophisticated dinner, which immediately showed that he cares very much. This was a bit of his habit. Then there will be other nice things …

Do you remember any of them?
While making the movie, I don’t remember which movie, we were shooting outdoor scenes. From the end of the street appeared Maria Sol, the daughter of Ugo, who at that time was 6-7 years old. At that moment his face lit up, even though the scene required a serious attitude. This situation remained with me. I also have another memory associated with “La Terrazza” by Ettore Scola.

Can you tell me?
In that film she played the wife of Jean-Louis Trentinant, and Ugo was the husband of Umbretta Cooley. On this porch where we were shooting, there were long pauses and I remember a terrible joke played by Tognazzi, as a really bad boy. Since we were all there waiting for our turn to film the scenes, he was holding a small plastic spray bottle with water in it. He walked behind an actress, who was ready to shoot, and while she was talking to someone, he walked toward her, gave her a fake sneeze and let the spray enter her neck. And that poor thing suddenly turned around and was behind… Here he was playing these bad boy jokes because he felt the need to release the tension.

But do you have good memories of Ugo Tognatze?
Yes a lot. Because it is associated with happy working moments. Then I have these little tidbits that you leave in my memory in a quiet way. Even if the tremendous skill of Ugo, a gigantic actor who was able to change himself in just a few moments, should be emphasized, because he had his own unique originality. He wasn’t just a comedian, he was a good actor.

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