Photography / Film & Theater / Memoirs

Additional information about Gianni Bozzacchi

"During the 1960s and early 1970s I had the opportunity to capture glamorous celebrities on my black-and-white TRI X film. I was caught up in this world for twelve years, and when I finally walked away from the photography business, I was a very long way from where I had begun."
—Gianni Bozzacchi

During the 1960s and early 1970s, Gianni Bozzacchi captured fame, glamour and celebrities on film. His camera opened the door to the world of the jet-set, while his personality, drive and artistic style gave him privileged entrée into the inner circle of people whose lives he was chronicling. Gianni's perspective as both voyeur and player disarmed his subjects, bringing a freshness and candor to his photographs. When he finally walked away from the business, he was on top of the world and a very, very long way from where he had begun.

Gianni was born in a poor neighborhood of Rome in 1943. His earliest memories were of destruction and struggle in a black and white world. More so than any other element, this youthful experience, painfully and powerfully distinct, shaped his artistic vision.

Gianni's introduction to the world of photography was as an assistant to his father, Bruno Bozzacchi, who served as the Director of the Photography Department at Rome's Hospital of Books. Bruno used cameras, coupled with ultraviolet and infrared light, to expose where faded ink had once etched parchment. Blank pieces of paper and half-lost pages of books came alive through this restoration process. Letters and tomes from Michaelangelo, DeVinci and other artists of the Renaissance passed through Bruno's hands to Gianni's as together they worked dark room "miracles." The education was never formal, yet Gianni learned the intricacies of scientific photography at his father's side. For a restless teenager, however, this ersatz apprenticeship grew into a dark room imprisonment. Gianni abruptly left his father and what he then perceived as the photography of the dead.

Gianni continued to work within photography as a retoucher and developed a considerable reputation. This job, however, served only to finance a new love, auto racing. While competing on the Fiat Giannini Team, Gianni had a tremendous accident and suffered a massive head wound. Gianni was in and out of a coma for ninety days following the accident. The only things he can remember from that period are Bruno sitting next to the bed and his desire to apologize to his father for not realizing what a gift he had bestowed in photography. Within six months of regaining consciousness, Gianni took a job at the Pierluigi Agency in Rome, named after the most famous photographer in Italy. It was here that Gianni honed his skills as a retoucher and began to photograph models and celebrities.

Gianni's life changed dramatically when he was sent to Africa to serve as special photographer on the set of "The Comedians." The movie was based on the Graham Greene novel of the same name and starred Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Alec Guiness and Peter Ustinov. The film's publicist feared Gianni's rough edged youth and forbade him to photograph Elizabeth Taylor. This edict, however, was taken as a challenge by the young photographer who was far more cocky than sensible. His camera found Elizabeth repeatedly and she in turn found him. Before he could leave the set to return home, she offered him a job as her permanent traveling photographer. Elizabeth Taylor was the world's most famous woman at the time and undoubtedly its most glamorous. Her marriage to Richard Burton claimed international attention and together they were the quintessential jet-set couple. Gianni, a street-wise kid from a fringe neighborhood of Rome, accepted this position. He was to stay with Taylor and Burton for the next eleven years, though they succeeded in keeping him exclusively for only two.

Gianni was extremely vulnerable in his new position. His instinct and talent were precariously balanced with a lack of culture and formal education. Artistically, this was a good mix as it created just enough insecurity to give his work its edge.

Taylor and Burton became Gianni's professional ticket to extraordinary success. Publications wanted his services as did the movie industry, the fashion industry, stars, political figures and the merely famous. Subjects during this period included the Royal Family of Monaco, the Shah of Iran and his wife Farah Diba, Noel Coward, Tito, Picasso, George Raft, Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty, Michael Caine, Peter O'Toole, Lawrence Harvey, Anthony Hopkins, Alan Delon, Brigitte Bardot, Virna Lisi, Claudia Cardinale, Giancarlo Giannini, Luchino Visconti, Rod Steiger, Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, Robert Mitchum, Mia Farrow, Steve McQueen, Al Pacino, Ringo Starr, Raquel Welch, George Stevens, Eric Segal, Gore Vidal, Henry Fonda, Peter Ustinov, Jacqueline Bisset, Maximilian Schell, Terence Stamp, Yves Montand, Sergio Leone, Coco Channel, Genevieve Bujold and scores of others.

During the time he was with Taylor and Burton he documented all of their film productions, and acted as a "special photographer" on the set of many other films.

Gianni's unique photographs won critical acclaim and multiple awards, including International Photographer of the Year for three separate years. As his professional life evolved, so did his private. His relationship to Taylor and Burton changed from that of retainer to friend and member of the extended family. He lived with the couple in Puerto Vallarta, London, Gstaad, the Beverly Hills Hotel and aboard their yacht, the Kalizma. Indeed Gianni became a celebrity himself during this period, the subject of articles, layouts and television interviews. At his first wedding, where Taylor and Burton served as Maid of Honor and Best Man, over one hundred photographers waited outside to capture the event, while inside, only one man was allowed to ply his trade, Pierluigi, Gianni's first employer.

Gianni's career as a photographer lasted twelve years at the top of the trade. His reasons for quitting were several. Among the more compelling were Taylor and Burton's divorce, the death of his father, Bruno, and the frustration of no longer being challenged by his job. Moreover, photography was no longer fun and no longer art at least as he interpreted the word. It was time to break with the past and move to another form of expression. Quite abruptly, Gianni left photography, entering a transitional period in which he grew more and more involved with movie production. His gift for visual composition was such that the greatest directors in Europe sought him out for advice. Amongst those with whom he collaborated, sometimes uncredited behind the scenes, were Michelangelo Antonioni ,Sergio Leone, Pietro Germi, Vittorio De Sica, Francois Truffaut, Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti.

Gianni took his next step under the tutelage of producer Elliot Kastner. Without screen credit, he produced three features for Kastner: "The Missouri Breaks," directed by Arthur Penn, starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson; "The Medussa Touch," directed by Jack Gold, starring Richard Burton and Lee Remick; and "Farewell, My Lovely," directed by Dick Richards, starring Robert Mitchum and John Ireland.

Following these three features, Gianni produced his own movies, including the cult spaghetti Western "China 9, Liberty 37," directed by Monte Hellman and starring Warren Oates, and "Together," directed by Armernia Balducci and starring Jacqueline Bisset, Maximilian Schell and Terrence Stamp. He then began a special relationship with the incomparable Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni. Without screen credit, he helped Antonioni to develop and produce "Mystery of Oberdan" and "Identification of a Woman." He also worked with Antonioni in developing both "The Crew" and "Winter," features he was to produce while Antonioni directed. Unfortunately, it was at this time that Antonioni was felled by his first stroke and both projects were put indefinitely on hold.

Gianni used this break to write, produce and direct the film "I Love NY," starring Scott Baio, Kelley Vander Velden and Christopher Plummer. Due to post-production meddling by the producers, Gianni had his name removed as director from this film. He also pursued writing during this period, co-authoring the screenplays "Cops and Cons," with Max Schulman and "Across the River and into the Woods," with Robert Altman and Roy Scheider.

After "I Love NY," Antonioni asked him to resume work on "The Crew," serving as both producer and co-director. Once again, however, the acclaimed director was struck down with an even more severe stroke, one from which he has never fully recovered.

It was at this point in his life that Gianni decided to form his own production and development company. To turn this dream into reality, Gianni entered into partnership with Roy Scheider, and recruited an outstanding international staff. Their current project is a multi-film chronicle of the Italian Renaissance, produced in conjunction with an American cable network and corporate sponsors, European investors and the Italian government. This series, for television, video and educational institutions around the world, will incorporate the talents of the best-known Italian and Italian-American artists and filmmakers.

Elizabeth Taylor
The Queen and I
by Gianni Bozzacchi

October 2002
144 pp.      129 b/w photos    
8 1/2 x 11
ISBN 0-299-17930-3   Cloth $49.95t

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