‘Ferrari’ Producer Criticises Italian Actors As Adam Driver’s Casting Accused Of Cultural Appropriation

"Why can an American play an Italian? It only happens with us."

Ferrari movie poster

Image: NEON

Italian-born producer Andrea Iervolino has publicly defended the casting of Adam Driver in the lead role of Ferrari, rebuking accusations of cultural appropriation and taking roles from Italian actors.

The 80th edition of the Venice International Film Festival threatened to be a tame affair amid the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strikes, with more and more actors standing with striking members, subsequently unable to promote their upcoming projects.

Michael Mann’s latest biopic Ferrari, following the life of legendary racecar driver Enzo Ferrari and his tumultuous relationship with his wife, secured a SAG-AFTRA Interim Agreement ahead of the Festival, permitting its actors to attend the iconic event in Venice.

But as one of the more eagerly anticipated movies to premiere at Venice this year, Ferrari has come under fire for its use of American-born actors in roles that some say should be exclusively given to Italian actors.

The casting of American actor Adam Driver has been met with accusations of “cultural appropriation.” Image: Getty

Attending the festival was Pierfrancesco Favino, one of Italy’s most famous actors, who stars in the Italian-made war film Comandante, which premiered alongside Ferrari in Venice this year.

Speaking at the awards show, Favino has levelled accusations of “cultural appropriation” at Ferrari for casting Adam Driver, born in San Diego, California, to play one of Italy’s most celebrated icons Enzo Ferrari, originally from Moderna, Italy.

“There’s an issue of cultural appropriation.”

Pierfrancesco Favino

“Instead, the parts are given to foreign actors who are distant from the story’s real protagonists, starting with the exotic accents,” Favino said to The Telegraph. “If a Cuban can’t play a Mexican, why can an American play an Italian? It only happens with us. In another time [Vittorio] Gassman would have played Ferrari. Now, Driver does it and no one says anything.”

Ferrari producer Andrea Iervolino challenged Italian cinema to produce international stars such as Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz from Spain. Image: Getty

Set during the summer of 1957, Ferrari explores the life of Enzo Ferrari through his early days with the Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix motor racing team as the head of one of Formula 1’s most iconic and celebrated brands.

American filmmaker Michael Mann (CollateralAli) directs, as we follow Ferrari’s rise to power whilst navigating a turbulent relationship with his wife, Laura Ferrari, played by Penélope Cruz.

Italian-born producer Andrea Iervolino has hit back at Favino’s criticisms of cultural appropriation, claiming that Italian actors simply don’t have the international profile “to play the lead roles in films that cost around $100 million to make, such as Ferrari.”

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“Italian cinema needs to look beyond Italy and come up with synergies with the international film industry, which wants to invest in Italian icons,” Ferrari producer Andrea Iervolino said. “Films like Ferrari, which will be distributed in 150 countries, promote Italy and Italian genius.”

Welsh actor Christian Bale was the first big name to be cast in the titular role of Enzo Ferrari, before pulling out of the project over concerns he would have to gain weight for the part. Bale was later replaced by Australian actor Hugh Jackman in 2017, who was later replaced by Oscar-nominee Adam Driver in 2022.

It is unclear if an Italian actor was ever considered for the role.