Federico Fellini told me that the theme of his life and of his work was "dreams are the only reality."
"No one ever perceives the real world," he said. "Each person simply calls private, personal fantasies the Truth. The difference is that I know I live in a fantasy world. I prefer it that way and resent anything that disturbs my vision.
"My films are often based on my dreams. When I wake up, I put them down as funny little drawings.
"For me making films is making love. I'm most alive when I'm directing. But before I started making 8½, something happened to me which I always feared could happen, and when it did, it was more terrible that I could ever have imagine. I suffered my greatest fear, director's block. "Director's block is like writer's block, except that it's public rather than private. My 8½ crew called me "the magician," but the film I was going to make had fled from me. I considered abandoning it, but I could not let all of those people down who believed I was a magician. It came to me that I should make a film about a director who has director's block.
"It had been said that my films are autobiographical. True. I often use something that really happened to me.
"When I was about seven, my parents took me to the circus, and I had the strong feeling that I was expected there."
I know Fellini would have been highly complimented by the choice of Daniel Day-Lewis to play Guido in Nine. Since the character in Nine represents Fellini, I can imagine Federico saying something like, "Such a fine actor, so good-looking...so thin."
Guido, in both 8 ½ and Nine, while being inspired by Fellini, is only part of the real man. In life, Fellini was rather shy and self-conscious. In his imagination, he could be Guido. As Marcello Mastroiani, and now Daniel Day-Lewis, Fellini was vicariously able to be the character of his imagination without upsetting his less turbulent personal life with his devoted wife and star, Giulietta Masina. "I am her best director, if not her best husband," he told me.
Fellini would have appreciated the actresses chosen to be the women in Guido's life - Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Judi Dench. Fellini was not the Casanova he sometimes was rumored to be, he, himself, having spread the rumor. "I have a playfully adulterous mind," he told me. "In my mind, I never get tired of living out my sexual fantasies. In life, they would interfere with my work."
Fellini would have been extremely pleased and certainly rather amused to lean that Sophia Loren was playing his mother. She was his choice to star in Journey with Anita, a film he never made. Anita was a girl with whom the story's director has a brief fling. The film eventually was made by another director, with Goldie Hawn playing Anita. In real life, Goldie Hawn is the mother of Kate Hudson, one of Nine's stars.
Fellini never saw the stage version of Nine on Broadway (he hated flying), but he was pleased by the idea that his films were enduring, and that both 8½ and Nights of Cabiria, (which became Sweet Charity) were the basis of musicals delighted him. He had grown up loving the Hollywood musical, particularly those of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, who inspired his film, Ginger and Fred. I'm certain that Federico would have appreciated that Nine is in the tradition of the great Hollywood musicals without imitating them. Music was always important in Fellini's films and he would have been thrilled that Rob Marshall was at the helm. His direction is never intrusive and always in control.
Rob Marshall has given us the definitive homage to Fellini, always in the spirit of the great Italian director yet never imitating him. I think that Fellini would have been especially pleased by Nine because it is not a re-make of 8½, but a true homage, which stands on its own. I can't speak for Federico, but I can hear him saying, as he often did, "What do you think, Charlottina?" I almost saw 8 ½ with Federico. During one of my visits to Rome, I was told by Fellini that a small theater was showing the film, many years after its release, and we rushed right over only to find a decrepit cinema, mutilated print, ancient projectors and miserable sound. Except for a snoring man and an attentive dog who seemed to be enjoying the film well enough, the theater was empty.
Fellini rushed out in panic, calling back to me, "You can stay if you wish. I ran out, following him, to Cafe Rosati, to drown our sorrows in coffee and patisserie. That was the day I almost saw 8½ with Federico Fellini.
I knew Fellini well enough to know that he would've slid down into a theater seat to see Nine and he definitely wouldn't have left. Sliding down in the seat was left over from his childhood spent at the Fulgar Cinema in Rimini when he saw a film he truly enjoyed and didn't want his mother to find him, and drag him away.
I wish Fellini could have been here to speak for himself about Nine and I know all of you wish it, too.
I believe Federico would have paid this film of Nine his highest compliment. He would've called it "Felliniesque."
Fellini's life exceeded even his dreams. "Life is the combination of magic and pasta," he told me, so I believe he would have suggested that after you've seen the magic of Nine, you go out and have a meal of delicious pasta.
- Charlotte Chandler, author of I, Fellini
Charlotte Chandler is the author of several biographies of actors and directors, including Groucho Marx, Federico Fellini, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, and Mae West, all of whom she interviewed extensively. She is a member of the board of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and lives in New York City.