Michele Soavi

Director, Actor, Screenwriter
This handsome, blue-eyed, blond actor-turned-filmmaker first ventured behind the camera under the bloodshot eye of celebrated Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. Soavi began acting in 1976 but his classic good looks ... Read more »
Born: 11/29/1956 in Italy

Filmography

Director (7)

Sangue del Vinti 2009 (Movie)

(Director)

Francesco 2005 (Movie)

(Director)

Cemetery Man 1996 (Movie)

(Director)

The Sect 1991 (Movie)

(Director)

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen 1989 (Movie)

2nd unit director (Director)

The Church 1989 (Movie)

(Director)

Bloody Bird 1986 (Movie)

(Director)
Writer (4)

The Sect 1991 (Movie)

(From Story)

The Sect 1991 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

Voglia di Rock 1990 (Movie)

(From Story)

The Church 1989 (Movie)

(From Story)
Actor (3)

Demoni 1986 (Movie)

(Actor)

Creepers 1985 (Movie)

(Actor)

A Blade in the Dark 1982 (Movie)

(Actor)
Production Management (3)

Demoni 1986 (Movie)

(Assistant Director)

Creepers 1985 (Movie)

(Assistant Director)

Sotto gli occhi dell'Assassino 1981 (Movie)

(Assistant Director)
Producer (1)

Cemetery Man 1996 (Movie)

(Producer)

Biography

This handsome, blue-eyed, blond actor-turned-filmmaker first ventured behind the camera under the bloodshot eye of celebrated Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. Soavi began acting in 1976 but his classic good looks consigned him to playing Americans in cheap Italian knockoffs of Hollywood genre movies, notably in the absurdly gory work of Lucio Fulci. His fortunes changed upon meeting Argento who was then casting for "Inferno" (1980). Soavi lost the part but gained a mentor when hired as an assistant director on Argento's "Tenebrae/Unsane" (1982). Horror proved both hospitable and inspirational for Soavi, even inflecting his atmospheric direction of the music video for Bill Wyman's "Valley", from the soundtrack of Argento's first English-language feature, "Phenomena/Creepers" (1985), on which he also served as assistant director. Soavi performed similar chores on Argento's "Opera" (1987) and several horror outings by director Lamberto Bava.

Soavi paid homage to his teacher with his deft helming of the nonfiction portrait "Dario Argento's World of Horror". Moreover, his 1987 feature directorial bow, "Bloody Bird" (a.k.a. "Deliria", "Stagefright", and "Aquarius"), revealed the influence of "The Visconti of Violence" with its penchant for baroquely lit bloodletting. However, the story, with a crazed actor in an owl mask dispatching a theatrical troupe, was less than inspired. Nonetheless, the effort won the Fear Prize at the 1987 Avoriaz Festival.

Intriguingly rather than immediately proceeding to directing another feature of his own, Soavi next took a job as a 2nd unit director on a lavish international co-production--"The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" (1988). Helmed by the visionary Terry Gilliam, this troubled and ultimately financially disastrous production was shot in Spain, West Germany and the Cinecitta Studios in Rome, Italy. Though, at first, Gilliam would seem to be a wildly different mentor from Argento, Italian horror specialist Maitland McDonagh observed "Soavi found himself working with one of the few major English-language directors whose flaws are the same as Argento's: love of spectacle at the expense of narrative and clarity, and set design to the detriment of characters." Reviewers would later voice similar qualms about films that Soavi would direct.

Argento produced Soavi's next two dark fantasies, "The Church" (1988) and "The Sect" (1991; released on video in the US in 1992 as "The Devil's Daughter"). The first was a stylish outing in which demons infest a church in Budapest while the latter concerned a villa overrun by a Satanic cult. The latter was distinctive for its surreal imagery, both beautiful and disturbing. Soavi's eccentric follow-up, "Dellamorte Dellamore/Cemetery Man" (1994; released theatrically in the US in 1996), displayed similar qualities as well as a strong central performance by Rupert Everett as a brooding cemetery worker who must routinely dispatch the newly risen dead back to the grave. Based on a novel by Tiziano Sclavi derived from a popular series of comic books featuring "Dylan Dog", the film generally baffled US reviewers who perceived it as failed satire.

Milestones

1996

"Cemetery Man/Dellamorte Dellamore" became his first film to receive a US theatrical release

1991

Feature screenwriting debut (with Argento and Giovanni Romoli), "The Sect/The Devil's Daughter" (also co-wrote story with Argento and Romoli and directed)

1988

Worked as a second unit director on Terry Gilliam's lavish fantasy "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen"

1988

First feature story credit, co-wrote (with Argento and Franco Ferrini) "The Church" (also directed)

1986

Feature directing debut, "Bloody Bird/Deliria/Stagefright/Aquarius"

1985

Directed the music video for Bill Wyman's song "Valley" from the soundtrack of Argento's "Creepers" (in which he worked as an actor and assistant director)

1982

Served as assistant director on Argento's "Tenebrae/Unsane"

1980

Met Dario Argento while auditioning for a role in the director's "Inferno" (the part went to Gabriele Lavia)

1976

Began film acting career

Directed the documentary "Dario Argento's World of Horror"

Bonus Trivia

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"Whereas "The Church" is ultimately polished folderol about a demon-infested cathedral, "The Sect" is something else altogether, a magical mystery tour full to bursting with beautiful and disturbing images: a tree hung with glittering, tinkling and vaguely sinister charms; a woman's face slowly peeled off with silver hooks; a pickpocket robbing a man on the subway, only to find he's stolen a bloody human heart; a cloth taking on the contours of a man's face and a peculiar deadly life of its own; a beetle crawling up a sleeper's nose and causing hallucinations; an ordinary street, the air alive with drifting, shimmering dandelion fluff. The prevailing tone is dark but enchanted, a grim, twisted fairy tale. . . . It all sounds to silly to be believed, but unfolds with a compelling conviction." -- From "Soavi" by Maitland McDonagh, FILM COMMENT, March - April, 1996.

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"Says director Soavi, 'I am 35 years old and so far have made three horror/fantasy films. After spending over ten years working with my mentors, Dario Argento and Terry Gilliam, I still hadn't had the chance to make a really personal film--one that would allow me to deal with subjects closer to the way my imagination works. The horror genre has been for me an original way of taking an explicit visual and visionary approach to directing. I love the type of movies that start off in the real world, which the imagination then transforms and twists as it pleases. "Cemetery Man" allowed me to create a fascinating visual climate in which two worlds are totally opposed--the world of the dead and the world of the living." -- From the press kit for "Cemetery Man" (1996).

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