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'Bad boy' roles give Arcangeli a prosperous career

| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 8:43 p.m.

You name the anti-leading man role, and chances are Domiziano Arcangeli has played it. It might not seem so out of the ordinary, until you consider that many of his films have been noted for their erotic undertones, which, according to him, serve as a form of rebellion. In his glory days, he admittedly had a passion for causing controversy, the seed undoubtedly being planted after being discovered by famed photographer Helmut Newton at the tender age of 12. What followed was a series of photo shoots that weren't exactly received well by the general populous, given the age of the subject.

Nevertheless, his modeling career took off to such a degree that a mere year later, when most of his friends were still in middle school, he was traveling the world as an international model. After being screen tested by renowned directors Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, his focus shifted to film and television. Three decades and 145 titles later, he's expanded his horizons to include the titles of producer, director, writer, and now CEO of Empire Films.

On the personal side, he recently took on an entirely different role — that of a father to fraternal twin boys, Skylar and Thor-Lyndon, who were born in 2011. It's a new chapter in his life, one that has led him to hang the R.I.P. sign over his former life as a bad boy and embrace a more peaceful existence … least behind the camera. On screen, he'd still choose to play the villain over the hero every time.

Question: Your credits don't exactly conform to the Hollywood mainstream. What draws you to these atypical roles?

Answer: When I really became involved with acting, I was really drawn much more to the insightful, if you would, role. Those ones turned out to be always the unusual ones — the antagonists or the villains or the complex. I just pick those sometimes in favor of others I could play. I'm an actor. I think I should be doing everything and I've tried to really broaden my range as much as possible, but truly, it comes back to me a lot. Even if I play a lead, which is not often — I mean I play a co-lead and an antagonist often— but when I play the lead, I don't want to say they are anti-Hollywood because that's not true. But anti-classic leading man part. Anti-establishment, if you would.

Q: So are these bad boy roles a reflection of who you are as a person?

A: I have been a bad boy. I don't say that to justify myself, but I had a very somewhat turbulent childhood. So, I was angry at some point. Now, I'm not: I'm much different. I've aged well, I hope, with a lot of inner peace. I wouldn't say I'm a bad boy today. I'm just a man. I have two sons and I'm very much more stable and very sort of private because of this. I don't do anything so extravagant or nothing like the characters I play. I just save those moments for the screen.

Q: Has fatherhood influenced the kind of roles you play or don't play?

A: There hasn't been a role I haven't wanted to play. I said no only to bad directors, to tell you the truth. Maybe it's a little more of a European's take on films. I am an American's citizen and am a very proud (one). I grew up sort of watching European films — Fellini and other directors. They had an extreme influence on me. Those were the guys I looked at as mentors and I was really learning as an actor. The director is the most important part of the selection. They can offer you some bizarre controversial story, but if there is a great director attached, you know it's going to be something really sort of exciting to work in.

Q: You described Fellini's cinema as being dreamy, personal and visionary — do you feel that horror movies can capture those dynamic, artistic elements?

A: There are in some, definitely. There is more of that possibility because (in) those films the material is obviously dreamy. It has to be visionary otherwise it wouldn't be a cult film.

Q: What is it about this genre that you enjoy so much?

A: It's very thrilling — it's also a moment of having these very complex characters. It is fun. The exploitation value is what it is and you just accept it as a thrill ride. With special effects and CGI, it's fun to watch. There are some psychological ones less exploitative that are again, much more realistic than what people may think at first sight. I am surprised to hear about all this hate and violence between human beings. I feel like in horror films and cult films there's quite a stylized impression of society and I find sometimes that the genre, because of its shock value, has revolutionized film making.

Q: So is life imitating art or is art imitating life?

A: I think art is imitating life. I think it's always been like that, whether we want to really be honest or not. I wish I could say the opposite, but honestly, I think it's hard. And again, we're talking about art, not garbage. When we're talking about a great movie or a great work of art, a real cult, then it's an expression of the human mind — senses that were disturbed. We cannot hide that.

Q: That being said, given the chance to play the hero or the villain, which one would you choose?

A: The villain. Just because I know I can do a much better, more convincing job. I try to be realistic. I would have chosen a hero years ago…maybe. I think if you are aware of who you are, you're most likely to have longevity in this business. If you're trying to grasp onto an image that you're not ... a good idea. And also, quite honestly, I think the villains have a much more complex dynamic. It's so much more fun.

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