Behind the Scenes of the Movie The Bicycle Thief Part 2

About the film The Bicycle Thief, behind the scenes of the Italian neo-realist movie.

INSIDE STORIES OF THE 10 GREATEST FILMS

THE BICYCLE THIEF (1947)

An American producer offered to put up the entire amount needed on two conditions, that De Sica rewrite the script and that the starring role be played by Cary Grant. De Sica turned the offer down. "I had to," he explained. "While Grant is a fine actor, he was not right for Antonio... I was afraid of Hollywood anyway."

A Milan banker finally put up the $140,000 necessary and De Sica began work. Casting was the first problem. He was determined to hire only nonprofessionals. "I needed the spontaneity of untrained talent," he said. "There is a freshness in their response to simple realities that was right and valuable." Italian radio broadcast the appeal for actors, and De Sica was deluged with applicants.

An unemployed steelworker brought his son to the casting call. De Sica hired the father but rejected the son. When he was interviewed on the radio, he signed the interviewer. Lianella Carrell, to play the wife. Of the hundreds of children he auditioned, none was right. He started shooting without having cast the key role of Antonio's son.

Early in the shooting, De Sica tried to quiet a crowd of children raising a ruckus in a nearby courtyard and stumbled onto Enzo Staiola. A street waif with "a round face, a weird nose, and large, expressive eyes," the boy was exactly right. "I felt that our Neapolitan Saint Januarius had sent him to me."

Romans were hired off the streets to serve as extras. The most cooperative group was recruited from thieves; apparently their experience with prison discipline had prepared them to serve effectively in De Sica's meticulously planned crowd scenes. At the end of shooting, one man was delegated to thank De Sica for "the first honest work we've ever had."

Although De Sica was painstaking in his planning--eight months had been spent in preparing a script and working out each shot in detail--he was flexible in the actual shooting. He worked without a rigid shooting schedule, allowing serendipity and the personal qualities of his amateur actors to influence and shape individual scenes. "I anticipated trouble and many retakes," he said, "since the man I used had never acted before. I was astounded when, in the first shooting, he looked at the boy and a flood of rich, real emotion began to flow."

The Bicycle Thief won a series of international awards and today is ranked by many film critics as one of the best films ever made.

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