Italian TV and Film Star Fabio Testi Recalls Long Career: ‘Cinema Is My Love’

Italian TV and Film Star Fabio Testi Recalls Long Career: ‘Cinema Is My Love’


Italian auteur Vittorio De Sica triumphed at the Berlin Film Festival when his 1971 masterpiece “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” claimed the Golden Bear, on its way to the best foreign-language Oscar in 1972.

“Finzi” also earned Italian film and TV star Fabio Testi an Italian Golden Globe for best breakthrough actor. A half-century later, with over 100 credits on his resume, Testi remains active and game for parts that utilize his still stunning looks and hearty appetite for performing.

He’s also game for the role he seems destined to play in the Italian tabloids. A quick Google search of Testi’s current film and TV projects is dominated by stories – which Testi playfully plays along with – of current and past romantic adventures with women all over the globe.

Testi turns 82 this year and remains dedicated to two other passions beyond the aforementioned amorous actitivies: farming and acting.

“I did 102 movies with my name on them,” Testi tells Variety from the back porch of his farm in Lake Garda, Italy, noting that the career was less planned than inevitable. A career drilling for oil fell away as offers to act in movies just kept coming his way.

Testi recalls the good fortune of living in Rome during the city’s artistic renaissance in the 70s and 80s, becoming a fixture in pop culture in the city, making headlines with his film roles and yes, his relationships with actresses such as former Miss France Edwige Fenech, Bond Girl Supreme Ursula Andress, Charlotte Rampling and more. “It was a good moment for Italian cinema at the time. I was lucky to be there in the right moment,” he reflects.

During what he calls “the first crisis of cinema” in the late 1990s, Testi turned his attention to the theater, with a role in the stage adaption of Federico Fellini’s 1954 Oscar-winning film, “La Strada. “In the cinema, everybody saw ‘me’ in the role. In the theatre, I can do what I want,” he asserts. “In film, it’s difficult to change the idea of the public. In the stage, it’s easier.”

Originally owned by his grandfather, the land for his North Italy farm went up for sale during the rise of his film career and Testi grabbed it. An unorthodox concept for the era turned out to be prescient as Testi planted kiwi trees. Testi had visited several kiwi farms during his trips to Los Angeles and was curious if he could plant the crop on his native land.

Testi’s agricultural adventure had a ripple effect beyond his 10 acre startup. “Italy became the first producer the kiwi in Europe,” Testi says. “It started like a hobby and later it became a good business.’

“The farm helped him to keep his feet on the ground, to be in touch with reality, with real people, with real life,” adds his son, Fabio Testi, Jr.

Once the trees got too old and could no longer bear fruit, Testi had to change course. He launched a new era by uprooting the dead kiwi tress and planting acres of olive and trees that allow for the growth of truffles a decade ago, becoming the first truffle farm in the area.

Testi has several film and TV projects in the works, but he always devotes time to mentoring the next generation. He says he’s learned to take “the best” of the world of cinema with him to his sanctuary in Lake Garda, ready to pass his wisdom on to young talent working in the entertainment industry.

“Cinema is beautiful. Cinema is my love. Cinema is my life,” Testi professes. “When I see the young actor or the young singer, they change, they move, to fit in. If you’re an artist, you don’t need to change yourself. You don’t need to be different than who you are. You can be an actor or singer or artist, but be yourself.”

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