It moves through the halls of the Cinema Palace and the red carpet stars with the confidence of a real host, dispensing smiles and jokes. And in fact he really is the landlord: Roberto Saoner has been the caretaker of the house for over 40 years Venice International Film Festival, in these days in the middle of the 78th edition. A commitment to which he dedicates himself with passion for several months a year, together with his children and collaborators. From the delivery of the keys in the early morning to the coordination of night surveillance shifts. Up to the care of the buildings (not only the Palazzo del Cinema, also that of the Casino a few steps away, where you no longer play but conferences are held even during the winter). An all-rounder that has seen several generations of citizens of Lido and Venetians grow together with the Mostra del Cinema.
Sixty-two years old, bright eyes, sporty physique (he still travels around Europe playing with his teammates from Old Basket Venice and animates the Basketball Sestieri Tournament), Saoner – called Sao – lives right in the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido of Venice, of which it is now the historical memory. “Our house stairs coincide with the backstage of the Great Hall, so going home we meet actors awarded the Golden Lion”, he tells ilfattoquotidiano.it from the terrace of the Palazzo on the Lido seafront. “And when the films are on stage, all the furniture in the apartment vibrates”.
Son of art – his father Gildo was the historical keeper from 1951 to 1980 – Saoner keeps the secrets of one of the most prestigious festivals in the world. And memories related to the stars of the big screen he has to sell. Like that time he approached Michael Fassbender – who was celebrating the victory of the Volpi Cup with a beer in solitude – and ended up drinking with the Irish actor right from the cup while the drivers searched desperately for him. Or like when he had to entertain Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese for a delay in the screening of Goodfellas. Succeeding great with a bottle of prosecco.
Gives Federico Fellini a Paolo Sorrentino, anyone who has passed through the Lido of Venice has had to do with Saoner’s sympathy. Married, with two children, Saoner grew up with cinema in his veins. Father Gildo was a charismatic figure who could afford to anticipate news about the Festival awards to journalist friends by throwing the press releases printed with a balled up mimeograph from the window (“They locked us up in a room during the verdicts, for years they couldn’t figure out who he was. to reveal them to the press before they became official “).
The first job as a kid? Raise the flags on the terrace of the Palazzo del Cinema. “They weren’t in silk but in wool. And my mother sewed some of them with the Singer, ”says Saoner. It was another exhibition, when we didn’t say red carpet but stroll: “There were fewer controls and the festival was a real party, because the whole island was involved”. Then the crisis and the protests, which also affected the film festival: “In ’68 they detonated a paper bomb in front of the front door”. Until the relaunch in the 1980s, just when Roberto Saoner he was provisionally called to replace his father, who had just died. “And I’m still here temporarily,” he jokes. “In the 80s there were also three sold out night performances, with incredible crowds. There were less set-ups – he remembers – but more excitement ”.
Among the movie stars, there are many memories linked to the privileged role of custodian. From John Travolta who preferred to avoid contact with the public (“We found him an alternative route”) to Kathleen Turner who fell ill, from Harrison Ford to Anjelica Huston. “In 1986 I lifted Jane Birkin and accompanied her in my arms to the Great Hall: she had a broken leg and her companions were impaled”. With a hot proposal rejected at the last minute: “Tinto Brass asked me to shoot a very intense scene, with an excellent remuneration – he explains laughing -. But I had been married for a year and, doing some calculations on how much a divorce lawyer would cost me, I declined… ”.
With the director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto barbera, Saoner has a direct relationship: “We have an excellent relationship for twenty years now, which goes beyond work,” he says. “Barbera has brought the Venice Film Festival back to its former glory, today the best festival in the world is back, also in terms of film level”. The future? “I see myself here, working and trying to be useful. It’s my life”.