Vita Gazette

News from Italy

“Apollonia and I”

by Ayfer Selamoğlu

Paulo Coelho said, “There are two things in the adventure called life. Good coincidences and bad coincidences.” Meeting the love of our life or a long-term friend while sitting in a bar, changes in our lives as a result of a mistake or accident…

Meeting Mimma is one of the good coincidences in my life. I was in Taormina for the film festival. But I loved this cute town and its people so much that I extended my stay to 3 months. That extra time that came later won me Mimma Cacopardo.

She was my host. I loved her as soon as I saw her energy, sincere smile and her grace. Then we agreed to have coffee. It was festival time. Naturally, the subject opened from the movies. And again, naturally, we started talking about the movie “The Godfather”, some parts of which were shot in Savona Town, half an hour from Taormina. As always, I couldn’t get enough of talking about this masterpiece, which was in the first place for me with its script, shooting, editing and director. While I was talking excitedly, Mimma said, “I acted in that movie too”, I was surprised at first, then froze. One of the protagonists of the movie I had watched dozens of times was sitting across from me. And we were chatting to each other. Moreover, The Gotfather was constantly appearing in front of me at a time when I thought, “Films like this are no longer made”. It must have been a miracle. I said to her, “Tell me, how did it happen? who were you? What did you experience? What do you feel?” I listed my questions one after another. As Mimma talks, her eyes shine, and as I listen, I become a part of the movie “The Godfather”…

Sicily: 1970’s…

Michael Corleone, the youngest of the Corleone family, started the mafia war in America with the “reprisal operation” against the assassination attempt on his father, Don Vito Corleone. However, he was the little prince of his family. He was a patriot who left his legal education and participated in the Second World War. He would become a future senator, even president. So his father Vito Corleone and the whole family kept him away from the dirty work. After the exchange of gunfire, Michael had to hide for a while “until things calmed down”. His family sends him to the land of his roots.

Then we see Michael in an idyllic setting in Sicily, wearing a peasant shirt, waistcoat and cap. He is walking with his two bodyguards with rifles in an environment where sheep graze and the sound of bells can be heard. After a while, they meet the local people. The group consists of women, children, and a charming young girl whose name he “strangely” learns from her father.

Apollonia (Simonetta Stefanelli) rises like a goddess of incomparable beauty, purity and innocence out of nature surrounded by mountains, plants and flowers. It has a sudden and irresistible charm. Her beauty is captivating, her eyes are rich, her mysterious lips are soft and rosy. She wears an outfit that is in harmony with nature and her physique. The burgundy dress is knee-length and baggy. But according to her feminine lines, is generous and light enough to take the movement of the wind. Apollonia’s dress, with its airiness and earth tone, complements the browns and reds of the scorching Sicilian landscape.

Apollonia fascinates Michael with her clean face and jewel-like gaze as she leaves the dusty road. Michael stands still as soon as he sees her. From the very first moment, he begins to look at Apollonia with naivety and great love; in the words of his bodyguard, it would be as if he had been “slammed by lightning”.

This is how a pure and serene passionate love story begins. Because Apollonia represents the core values ​​of the Corleone family. Apollonia is Italy, love, passion, values ​​that put family and community before individuality. Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone is the fairy of love who plays a crucial role in Michael’s transformation, the innocent and delicate beauty that changed Michael’s lifeline but also changed her life. That moment is a very important coincidence that will change both of their lives forever…

At that moment when their eyes meet, there is a little girl Apollonia holds by the hand. She has long, brown hair like Apollonia. White clothes are the symbol of innocence, cleanliness and a new page. Her dress is fluffy enough to catch the wind… She is the little fairy girl who symbolizes the innocence and cleanliness of Apollonia. She is little Apollonia… This little girl, who also appears in the later parts of the movie, was Mimma sitting across from me… Her life had changed by a coincidence… It was the most perfect coincidence she carried with pride throughout her life…

This year is the 50th Anniversary of one of the timeless movies, “The Godfather.” And that’s why Paramount has released a restored 50th Anniversary version. Taormina Film Festival opens this year with legendary director Francis Ford Coppola and the revised “Godfather” movie. I take this opportunity to take Mimma back in time to make each of you a part of “The Godfather” movie. To join the celebrations together…

-Mimma, how did you join the cast of the movie “The Godfather”? Can you tell us a little about those days?

It was the summer of 1971. School had just finished and I was preparing for a beautiful and peaceful summer with my childish spirit. My only thought was to go to the beach and play with my dolls. In those days it became known that Francis Ford Coppola had come to Sicily with his crew to shoot his film. I was a child and I was not aware of anything then …

-What made the difference?

My aunt. It opened one of the doors that would be the turning point of my life to me. I never forget. It was a very hot Sicilian day. It was afternoon. My aunt came to visit us. It’s pure coincidence. His friends from the hotel told him that an American film crew had arrived. And they informed my aunt that they were looking for a little girl with long brown hair. Just like me! I remember feeling sad when my aunt said that I could act in this movie…

-Why? Shouldn’t you be happy?

No. This request worried me instead of making me happy. Because it seemed like a request from beyond light years to me. It was something I hadn’t even dreamed of, thought of, or even thought of. It was so foreign to me. I was little and the thought of going to another place without my mother made me sad…

-How did they convince you?

My mother would come too. Then my cousins ​​would also participate in the casting. We were going to go like we were going for a picnic. It turned into a game for me.

-Did they put you directly on stage?

-On what criteria did they choose you?

They were looking for adults and children who were compatible and capable of doing as they were told. My role was also supposed to be a cute kid with long hair like Apollonia. Casting took place at the Jolly Diodoro hotel (near the public garden). I won because I had the features they were looking for.

-When and where was the filming done?

Between the end of July and the beginning of August 1971, the Sicilian divisions were completed. Filming ended on August 6, 1971. Filming was not done in Corleone. Apollonia and Michae Motta met in the countryside of Camastra. The meeting and wedding between Michael and Apollonia’s father took place in Savoca. Today Bar Vitello is still open. The engagement ceremony, which my mother also attended, took place at Palazzo degli Schiavi in ​​Fiumicino.

– What do you remember from shooting today?

I was 7 years old. It has nothing to do with today’s girls. I was very shy. I certainly wasn’t dreaming of having cinematic experiences. I suddenly found myself in a positive experience that I didn’t even know what it was. But Apollonia was looking so kindly that I was not afraid at all. There were many new faces. They were using a foreign language for me, namely English. I was like in another world.

– Did you have trouble shooting?

No. Everything passed so quickly. There was no interruption between shots. They gave us light-colored dresses. Motta Camastra (the town representing Corleone) was very hot. As in the scene, there were a few trees and many oleanders. Scenes of crossings between Apollonia and Michael Corleone, local bodyguards, forming other girls were created. Apollonia and I moved forward holding hands. We repeated the scene several times.

– How was Apollonia?

Apollonia aka Simonetta Stefanelli was really beautiful. She was very kind to me and to everyone. She looked very kind. Maybe she saw that “little girl” in me who was only 16 years old.

-What about Coppola?

Francis Ford Coppola and Al Pacino (who we didn’t know) interacted very little with us. Apollonia didn’t know Al Capino either. He was also quickly involved in the elections. Al Pacino didn’t get much attention. Because it was unknown. Makeup was done. He had bruises on his face.

– Did they pay you fees?

Yes, they paid us 15 Euros per day.

– What did you do to keep that money?

No, but I bought a baby toy. I still keep it as my most precious possession.

– What is one of your unforgettable moments from those days?

– All. But part of the group was a Roman gentleman. He told me with his beautiful voice, “but how beautiful is this baby, we will take her to Rome !!!!” I remember. I was child. I was shy. Maybe I was scared, I don’t know. Another thought-provoking location is the Castle of Slaves in Fiumefreddo, a gorgeous baroque gem where I took part in filming the engagement scenes of Michael and Apollonia. From that scene, I managed to find a frame on Instagram that shows me looking at the photographer or the director while my hand is on my mother’s hand, who is holding me close to her. Other people with characteristic faces surrounded the betrothed. It was like a real, local ceremony…

– How do you feel on the 50th anniversary of The Godfather?

Every time I realize its importance, its value increases even more. In this 50th anniversary year, my emotion has been even greater and stronger. Because I attended the screening of the restored version of “The Godfather” with my family and children. An opportunity to see me again as I was a while ago! And those days..

Thank you Mimma for sharing your feelings and memories with us and making those days live for us … Thanks to everyone for this masterpiece and to all those who contributed …

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