Dante Ferretti is an internationally acclaimed set designer who left his home in the Marche region of Italy to pursue a career that has spanned the globe. He's captivated audiences with his stupendous sets, reconstructions and the study of space. He's worked with many of the world's top film directors including Fellini, Zeffirelli and Scorsese and he's won three Oscars with The Aviator, Sweeney Todd and Hugo. Now his art direction has come to Expo Milano 2015 with a fascinating interpretation of the shapes and colours of food on the stalls of a classic Italian market.
Some of the Pavilions use high-impact images that shock, while others employ artworks to transmit the same message of the value of food. Which do you think is the best way of communicating emotion and which emotions do we need to trigger to get these messages across?
The Pavilions are highly emotional spaces in which visitors get the opportunity to understand how different countries interpret food. So far I've visited Pavilion Zero, the Italian Pavilion and the Brazilian Pavilion... it's quite a powerful experience.
You were born in Macerata and have travelled all over the world: what's your favourite dish...I mean the one with which you have the deepest emotional connection?
I'm a great lover of Italian cuisine so I'll say Vincisgrassi lasagne, which is an oven-baked pasta dish from Le Marche. I left Macerata when I was 16 to attend Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome where I studied set design and art direction, because when I was just 13 I had set my heart on becoming a production designer. I used to steal change from my father's coat pockets and then announce that I was going to friends' houses to study, but instead I would go to the cinema. I'd slip out of one theater as soon as the movie was over and go to see another one. It was Macerata sculptor Umberto Peschi who encouraged me to pursue my career. My first break came at the age of 17 when I worked on a movie as an assistant. I went on to work on films made by Antonio Pietrangeli, eight films with Pier Paolo Pasolini, and six with Federico Fellini. I've received 11 Oscar nominations and I've won five BAFTAs.
You've created a cornucopia of different views of Italy, but what has been the most inspiring meal in your travels across the world?
I was particularly impressed by the banquet offered by MOMA last year: we had a six-month exhibition there and went to eat at Eataly and were rewarded with a wonderful and absolutely exquisite meal. I remembered the occasion here at Expo Milano 2015 so I made sure to drop into the Eataly pavilion for a meal. Having worked on nine films with Martin Scorsese, over the years we had many excellent meals together on his birthdays. I'm also a big fan of Japanese cuisine, and one of my most memorable birthdays was spent in Kyoto where we had a wonderful meal. I also look back with pleasure at the many social occasions with Federico Fellini and Leonardo Di Caprio during his frequent visits to Rome, and also Martin Scorsese, when we were making the sets for Gangs of New York in Cinecittà. I actually convinced him to come to Rome for the sets by enticing him with the cuisine!