5th August 2001
Kindly donated by Mike Martinez
Director, actress and daughter of Enzo G. Castellari
Stefania in 1990: The Bronx Warriors
Stefania now works as a director for T.V. and is married and living in the states, married to Greg Goodwin, a special effects man who she met on the set of the Killer Crocodile movies. Recently she was nice enough to grant this page a lengthy interview, so without any more ado, here's the Interview:
(the following Interview was conducted on August 5th, of 2001 between Mike Martinez and Stefania Girolami Goodwin)
The first film that I am aware you participated in was in the major success LA POLIZIA INCRIMINA LA LEGGE ASSOLVE (HIGH CRIME) in which you played Franco Nero's daughter Annie. Even though you were at a very young age, I thought you played the part very believably... so much so that I believed you were really Franco Nero's daugher. How did you decide to become an actress and manage to get cast in that pivotal role? Also, what was it like to work with your father on such a huge film for the time?
Actually my first role was in "Tedeum," I was nine years old and loved going to work with my dad, so one day he gave me a little piece of paper with a line written on it while we were in the car headed to the set. He said learn it, you're going to have a part today! I was sooo excited! I played apposite Lionel Stander and Renzo Palmer , not a bad start! The role for "La Polizia..." came as a surprise, my dad was casting and couldn't find a young girl that spoke English well enough to pull it off, I was on vacation from school, so we tried and it worked. La Polizia, was Natasha Richardson's first role though...she's the little girl outside the police station playing hopscotch. Natasha and I were good friends at the time and spent many vacations together. Working with my Dad has always been fantastic both in front and behind the camera. At a very young age it's hard to separate Dad from the director, so I saw it as hanging around with Dad and having fun. I never missed school for any of the parts I got, I was always on vacation, and acting made my vacations much more enjoyable and unique.
LA POLIZA INCRIMINA... was a major hit for its time and pretty much gave birth to the popular genre of 70's Italian police films. How did acting in it change your life?
Acting didn't change my life at the time, I never pursued an acting career, but in retrospect it helped me understand what I did want to do...be behind the camera. It helped me prepare for it; though I didn't know it at the time.
Were you involved at all when your father was filming KEOMA?
On Keoma I just visited the set, sat in a corner kept my ears and eyes open and asked a lot of questions. I think I was fifteen at the time, and beginning to understand the more complex mechanics of film making.
I believe the next film you worked on with your father was IL GRANDE RACKET (The Big Racket) which is on of my favorite films even though it often shifts from comic book action to being one of the darkest films of its genre. What was the atmosphere like working on this film?
My memory of working with my Dad in all his films is always pleasurable. Crews worked hard, but also had fun, there was a lot of joking around even on a tight schedule, and my dad has a great sense of humor.
Your father cast you as the innocent girl who gets brutalized by thugs in that film. Was it your choice to take on such a challenging dark and serious role at such a young age?
It was challenging, I'm not a "dark" person. Drama isn't something that comes easy to me. I'm a very optimistic and I like to laugh. This role was even tougher because of the "rape" scene. I had no first hand knowledge of sex at the time, and even though I had a stunt double for some of it my Dad helped me figure it out. He talked to me and showed me the scene from "Two Women" where Sofia Loren's daughter gets raped, and that's sort of what I based myself on. I still have an out take reel from the rape scene where I was screaming my head off, and after my Dad yelled cut, I started whistling...it's quite funny!
In 1979-80 I am aware that your had smaller roles in two of your father's film IL GIORNO DEL COBRA and L' ULTIMO SQUALO. Do you have any incite about the filming of these?
In "Il Giorno del Cobra" I was visiting my Dad. He was in Genoa and I was on vacation, Thanksgiving I believe. I had just gotten my hair braided for a hair show, and Franco thought it would be funny to add a little gag before he entered the office. So it was improvised on the day. By then I had known Franco for a long time and it all was fun. I Also have another small part in the discotheque, and the girls sitting with me are my best friends from school Eva Hickey and Flaminia Lizzani (who's father is also a director). We are still very good friends even after so many years. In "L'Ultimo Squalo" I had a nice part I played James Francicu's daughter and my leg gets bitten off by the shark. I did my own stunts in that movie, and if you look closely when I fall off the boat my leg hits the pole tha guys are holding with the bait, and that stops my fall enough to cause my to pull my leg muscles and bang my head on the side of the boat! Once in the water I was supposed to say my lines and then swim to another camera for the close-up. I couldn't move my leg so I was yelleing to them that I hurt my leg, but they thought I was just acting. Then I began yelling in Italian and they finally got it and the safety diver came to get me. Acting in that movie was a great experience for me it was my first time in the United States, we shot part of it in Savannah, Georgia, a beautiful place!
IL GIORNO seemed very similar to LA POLIZIA INCRIMINA, plus I enjoyed thehumorous scene where Franco Nero briefly meets you before entering Mickey Knox's office. What was your impression of Franco Nero from working withhim through these films?
Franco is a wonderful man. Very professional and intuitive. I always enjoyed working with him, and thank him for the numerous tips he always gave me. To this day he is still very good friends with my Dad, and I often see him when I'm in Italy. I have also directed Franco in India on a miniseries called "Sandokan". I was the second unit director and I had the honor of directing one of Franco's scenes. It was a very emotional moment for me, and he was wonderful as usual making it all so much easier for me.
I noticed that in both films you acted alongside your father as well as "Thomas Moore" Ennio Girolami (your uncle?) and stuntman Massimo Vanni (who I also have heard is related in some way). How did you all end up working together so often and what was it like to work as a family as an ensemble cast in so many films?
Yes, Enio is my father's brother, and he and my Dad worked on my grandfather's movies together all the time, Enio in front of the camera and my Dad behind (with occasional small roles). Massimo Vanni is my Dad's cousin, and he works as a stuntman and actor. The word is "Family" you hit it right on! Film making in Italy is still not as industrialized as it is in the states and there are many, many families in all departments...sort of a family tradition that gets passed on, not at all "nepotism" as it may seem. Usually the youngest member of the family needs to work much harder to gain respect and not to make the others look bad! That went for me and my brother as well.
I realize Massimo went on to act as a stuntman for many of Bruno Mattei'sfilms in the Phillipines. Many of Mattei's films from this era have stolen footage from your father's films such as L'ULTIMO SQUALO. Any thoughts on this?
I was not aware of that.
How did you and your father feel when you heard that L' ULTIMO SQUALO was banned from America's theaters because Universal found it too similar to JAWS?
Well, it was a total mismanagement misjudgment move from the part of the producer. The original script was written by Ramon Bravo, a famous Mexican writer. The producer felt like he could...let's say "borrow" the story without giving him credit, so when the lawsuit came along he didn't have any paperwork to back him up. My Dad was very disappointed to say the least. He had to go to Australia where the trial was being held, and testify. The only pat on the shoulder he got was that the movie did play in the states for a few days and it made a lot of money! I think that was the main reason for suing, had it been a bomb I don't think anybody would have bothered.
Your major starring role happened in 1982 in 1990 - I GUERRIERI DEL BRONX (1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS) where you starred as the rich powerful girl who runs away to join a biker gang in a no-man's land in a futuristic New York. How did you get the leading role?
Again it was one of those things, my Dad was casting, and again didn't find the girl he wanted, so I tried and it worked. I think it's also because he trusts me a lot, always has, and it's a wonderful feeling for a daughter. That movie also gave me the opportunity to practice my behind the camera abilities as an AD on my days off, and I loved it.
I have heard that the star Mark Gregory was a problematic actor to work with. As his "leading lady" you probably had a unique perspective of how he and your father worked together and what some of these problems were.
Mark...or Marco Gregorio as I know him was a very shy, sweet inexperienced young man. He was like a fish out of water at first, but he learned quickly. He was not a problem at all, not on this show, and not with my Dad. I think the rumors are regading other films he did with Fabrizio DeAngelis. Marco worked in a shoe store before he was discovered in a gym. I think my uncle tipped my Dad, and they went to meet him...and there it goes, one of those stories.
1990 was also your third or fourth film acting alongside Gianni Loffredo (Joshua Sinclair) who played the traitor "Ice" and the mayor in L'ULTIMO SQUALO. What can you tell us about working with this actor/writer?
Gianni Loffredo is a very smart man and talented writer. He was an asset to have on set, because many times the dialogue was rewritten than and there, and he was the guy you would count on for that.
How did it feel to be acting alongside the likes of James Franciscus, Vic Morrow, and Christopher Connelly?
My God what can I say...I was lucky? I was blessed, they were all wonderful and professional and they all in one way or another helped me. James Franciscus was really like a Dad to me on the set, and made me feel very conformable. I didn't have any scenes with Chris Connelly, but was around him on the set when I did my AD thing on the side, and he was a fun guy to be around. It's very hard for American actors used to American film sets to adjust to the "Italian style" we are more rustic, very little pampering and a lot of work. But there was such unity on the set that I think made them feel part of something beyond the film, making it a pleasurable experience. I remember one incident with Vic Morrow, he always was very reserved during the filming, but one day at the airport, I was goofing around with my Dad, and he started crying. He told me that I was very lucky to be able to be with my Dad, and have such a good relationship. He missed his childeren and couldn't stop crying about it. I wish I could one day let them know about that day, and the loving things he said about them. We don't always get a chance to know how our parents feel, especially when there is a divorce involved.
1990 was a huge hit at least in the United States and remains pretty popular even today. Afterward, did you ever consider pursuing a serious acting career outside your fathers films?
No, by then I really knew I wanted to be behind the camera. I had to compromise with my parents, they said I needed to get my college degree before I could pursue it "It's a tough business, get a degree, so you always have something to fall back on...." So I did, I got an International Business degree with a minor in computer science from the American University in Paris. I did do one more acting role while I was on summer vacation from college on "Sinbad," and there too I was an AD on my days off.
I also noticed you had a small role in the post-apocalypse action film I NUOVI BARBARI (Warriors of the Wasteland/The New Barbarians), were you around much for the making of this film?
I was the script supervisor on that film, and that part was just a little thing I did for fun. Shooting films in English in Italy you're always going to have problems finding actors, so that's why that small part came by. My brother Andrea also has a part in the film.
Stefania on the far right - The New Barbarians
As the 80's went on, you started doing more and more work behind the scenes on some of your fathers films like STRIKER (Not to be confused with Cirio H. Santiago's post-apcoalyptic STRYKER - Ed)? What sort of work was this?
I was the first AD. It was my first film as a first. That's the career I pursued for many years after that. My Dad's first AD was not available at the time, and my knowledge of Spanish certainly helped me in getting the job.
Then came SINBAD OF THE SEVEN SEAS with Lou Ferrigno, which I have heard took several years to make and was also directed by Luigi Cozzi. I noticed you and your uncle both had parts in the film as well as RomanoPuppo (Ratchet in 2019: After the Fall of New York - Ed). How did the filming of this movie go and who was ultimately responsible for the finished product?
Well, that movie really makes me mad.I have no idea who Luigi Cozzi is! It was re-edited and the scenes with the Mom and the little girl were added, I guess Mr Cozzi shot them. They were terrible, and useless if you ask me. My Dad had completed the project and when he saw the movie, it was completely different. I don't know what the producers were thinking. It didn't take two years to make! The schedule actually was very tight for an action show full of effects like that one. Romano Puppo just recently died. He was a very interesting man. He used to work on ships and sail all over the world, he had very unusual stories to tell. He lived in Trieste with his daughter, where he had a restaurant in and would occasionally come down to Rome to act as a hobby.
Then there was HAMMERHEAD, your father's "lost" film (as in it is nearly impossible to find) made in Florida and Jamaica. I think your brother Andrea co-starred in the film, but did you have anything to do with it?
I was the first AD, and directed some of the second unit sequences. My brother didn't co-star, I don't know who you might be confusing him with. We all loved Jamaica, it was fantastic!
Your father worked with a somewhat famous producer Fabrizio De Angelis on many of his films in the early 80's. How well did you get to know De Angelis and how did you end up working for him on some of his later films (KILLER CROCODILE is one)?
Fabrizio's first movie as a producer was "1990 " and then he produced the sequel. He made alot of money with those two! Then he got the "directing bug", and produced and directed all the movies that came after. "Killer Crocodile" and "Killer Crocodile2" were shot back to back in Santo Domingo, and I was the First AD and script supervisor on those. I have to say the only good thing that came out of that experience was my husband Jeff Goodwin. He built the crocodile and did all the make-up effects on those movies. Things got ugly after a while, I think Fabrizio had lost his mind and Jeff and I ended up quitting the show. Two years later we got married and that's how I ended up living in the States!
In retrospect which film did you enjoy working on the most?
They all were fun for one reason or another, I think the project I enjoyed most though is one you might not know about. It was a series called "Extralarge" with Bud Spencer and Phillip Micheal Thomas. We shot it in Miami, and I was the first AD, my brother the second. I got the opportunity to direct second unit for the show as well and it was a wonderful experience as well as a commercial success. They still play re-runs on Italian tv.
Were you speaking English when you acted in these films? If so, did they ever leave in your original voice?
Yes, all in English. I think the only one without my original voice is 1990. I was back in school and couldn't dub it.
Do you own all of your movies on home video? How often do you watch them?
We own most of them, and I have to say it's been an endeavor for my husband to find them! He would surprise our friends with them every once in a while, and now, it's our son, Max, that gets surprised. We put "Sinbad" in for him not too long ago and didn't tell him anything. When I came up on the screen his face changed, he couldn't quite figure it out. He looked at me, than back at the screen, then said "Is that you Baba?" (That's what he calls me), and then laughed a silly little boy laugh...
Why is it that your characters almost always fall subject to either a horrible death or very unfortunate circumstanced in almost all your films (like getting maimed in ULTIMO SQUALO and horribly killed-off in 1990, LA POLIZIA INCRIMINA, and IL GRANDE RACKET)? Is it some sort of family in-joke?
Hahahahahahaha! It did become a family joke, even though my Mom never thought it was funny. To this day if she sees "La Polizia Incrimina" she will cry when my death scene come up. Ironically Massimo Vanni, my Dad's cousin is one of my killers...it makes it an inside Mafia family story...
Recently you have assistant directed episodes of "Dawson's Creek" and "Empire Records" here in the states. How did this happen?
When I got married and moved to the States I started over as far as work goes. I already was a first AD in Italy, but because of the whole DGA thing, I went back to being a PA, than a second second, a second and back to first. It took a while, but I finally made it. At the beginning though, I did go back to Italy for a couple of jobs. I firsted " A Pure Formality" a Giuseppe Tornatore movie, and "Mario and the Magician" directed by Klaus Maria Bandauer.
How did working with your father and Fabrizio De Angelis help to prepareyou for this work?
Working with my father taught me what to do and working with Fabrizio taught me what not to do...hahahaha!
Do any of your fellow crewmembers know of your father or recognize you from any of your past acting parts?
It's always very funny when people do find out I have that kind of past!
What sort of work are you doing now and what are your plans for the future?
I left Dawson's Creek after 3 seasons to direct. I had directed second unit for two miniseries prior to that. I directed 10 episodes of "Un Posto al Sole" an Italian series and wrote two screen plays that have been optioned. Now I'm back in the States and I wrote and am directing a mock-documentary.
How does it feel to be continuing the tradition of your father and grandfather?
I am very proud, and my Dad is even more proud, and I'm sure if my grandfather were alive he would be too.
What is most of the rest of the old gang up to these days, such as Fabrizio De Angelis, Ennio Girolami, Gianni Loffredo, and Massimo Vanni (if you know)?
Fabrizio I don't know, I believe he retired. Ennio is still acting he had a major recurring role on an Italian series, and just finished shooting a pilot that my Dad produced and directed called "Gli Angeli Verdi". Massimo worked on Scorsese's movie, and continues to act as well as stunt coordinate.
How do you feel about the recent rise in popularity of these 70's and 80's Italian films over the last couple years?
They certainly had a unique style, and there is much to learn from them.
Con Men (1972)
High Crime (1973)
The Big Racket (1976)
Day of the Cobra (1980)
Great White (1980)
1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)
Warriors of the Wasteland (AKA The New Barbarians) (1982)
Sinbad of the Seven Seas (1989)
Killer Crocodile (1989)
Killer Crocodile 2 (1989)