Andrea Bocelli discusses perfect new biopic, plus 'Perfect' with Ed Sheeran

Wendy Geller
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Opera singer extraordinaire Andrea Bocelli certainly has no shortage of fans — he’s sold more than 80 million albums worldwide — but now the Italian tenor is finding himself the focus of a newer, younger audience due to his charming, unexpected collaboration with pop star Ed Sheeran on a version of Sheeran’s hit “Perfect.”

New fans will, then, be interested in delving further into Bocelli’s history with the brand-new film The Music of Silence, which will be released Feb. 2 and details Bocelli’s fascinating journey through hardships to his ultimate successes. Diagnosed with glaucoma as an infant, Bocelli eventually lost all sight after a childhood soccer accident, but he did not allow this challenge to impede his career path.

Directed by Academy Award nominee Michael Radford (Il Postino, 1994), the film stars Toby Sebastian (Game of Thrones), Luisa Ranieri (Letters to Juliet), Jordi Mollà (Bad Boys II, Blow), Ennio Fantastichini (Loose Cannons, Open Doors), and Antonio Banderas (The Expendables 3, Desperado) and is a cinematic realization of his 1999 written memoir of the same name.

Yahoo Entertainment had the opportunity to chat about the biopic with the famous vocalist himself, and discover some of his insights behind the release — as well as discuss his collaboration with Sheeran, who recently won Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2018 Grammys for ÷, which boasts the original version of “Perfect” as its fourth single.

Yahoo Entertainment: The film tells your story through an alter ego main character named Amos. You used this method for your written memoir, as well. Do you feel “Amos” works for the movie format as well as the book?

Andrea Bocelli: Cinema has its own language; it needs the conciseness that a book does not have. They are different dimensions — both of them interesting, stimulating, creative, but different. I do not think it is right to ask a film to really tell a life. … It can, anyway, offer precious suggestions, [and] capture the most important moments, and sometimes even the sense. When, 20 years ago, I wrote this book, to think, to put some order in my life, my natural reaction was to use a third person and “distance myself,” in the hope of keeping a narrative clarity, naming the main character Amos. This was a homage I wanted to pay to an extraordinary man, a fellow countryman, who helped me in my studies for many years, until when I graduated in law and until my artistic career started.

[The] book and film are two different experiences. They both give the same message, that is: Never give up one’s dreams, because “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Experiencing the actors taking on your life events, in their voices and mannerisms, must have been unusual. Was it uncomfortable at any time? Is there any particular scene in the film that was very emotional for you to experience?

I confirm it is an experience that is somewhat surreal. Fortunately, the project has involved a great director and an excellent actor cast. Among the scenes that moved me most: that of the detachment from my parents, when at the age of 6 they took the difficult but wise decision to send me to a boarding school away from home, so that, in some way, [I could learn] to read, write, and count. I could then face life in the best way possible. I suffered a lot for that — but today, as a parent, I can imagine how much more than me my mother and father suffered, for that forced separation.

The acting was, of course, very good throughout, but did any of the actors really “nail” a feeling or event as you experienced it in real life?

The strong point of the project was the involvement of a pool of artists of great caliber: from the young Toby Sebastian, who succeeded — also according to my youth companions — to enter the character and to reproduce the nuances and gestures, to the great Antonio Banderas, a great actor who, not surprisingly, can also sing and play the piano.

The movie contains unreleased songs that you wrote in your childhood. Can you talk a little bit about these and what you recall about composing them?

I remember writing so many songs — alone, or in the course of long, passionate evenings spent to talk or make music with my friend Adriano … nights that were crowned by a pasta carbonara at around 2 in the morning. They were almost always love songs, because at 16, 18, falling in love was in the agenda of the day. And what’s better for two friends [than] to sigh for the same girl, sharing pains and poignant descriptions, and daily discussions if “that day she had smiled to you or to me?”

Can you talk about what it was like to work with Ed Sheeran on a version of the hit “Perfect”? What drew you to that project? Do you like the version he did with Beyoncé?

It was a nice experience. Ed Sheeran is young, gifted, serious, prepared, as well as temperamentally lovable. As for the duet, he asked me with such enthusiasm, so sincerely, that I could not refuse. And his euphoria, together with that of my elder children — [who are] both his fans — made me accept. Also, Ed thinks that a duet, just like the one with Beyoncé, is an artistic genre that can give great surprises and great satisfactions.

Ed Sheeran, left, and Andrea Bocelli (Photo: ET Canada)

This song — and now the film coming out — introduces a whole new generation of fans to your work, and how flexible you are as a vocalist in terms of genres. Would you like to do any more pop or rock collaborations in the near future?

When two voices, perhaps coming from distant sound worlds, intertwine, something magical can happen. Certainly rock (as country) is a potentially interesting musical field, even if I do not perform it, simply because I think it is not really “my thing.” But in every musical project, in every cooperation, every time I evaluate without preclusions.

Do you listen to any music currently that might surprise your fans?

At home I listen to opera music, usually performed by the same artists that were my favorite singers during childhood … Beniamino Gigli, Franco Corelli, Mario Del Monaco; also Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. But, especially when traveling by car, I like listening to new pop songs — and this being a field where my children know more than I do, I happen to ask them for information.