INTERVIEW: Toby Sebastian plays singer Andrea Bocelli in new biopic

Andrea Bocelli is deservedly one of the most successful singers in history, routinely selling out enormous venues around the world. His story of emerging from relative anonymity and eventually becoming a blockbuster star with more than 80 million records sold is the subject of the new biopic The Music of Silence.

In the movie, which is now in theaters and available on video on demand and digital HD, Toby Sebastian (Game of Thrones) plays the iconic singer. The story goes into Bocelli’s impressive fandom, which includes popes and presidents, and it also details his early struggle and eventual acceptance of his blindness.

Academy Award nominee Michael Radford (Il Postino) directed the feature, which also stars Luisa Ranieri, Jordi Mollà, Ennio Fantastichini and Antonio Banderas.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with Sebastian via the movie’s press team. Questions and answers have been transcribed and slightly edited for style.

What attracted you to play Andrea Bocelli in the movie?

Well, I knew of Andrea Bocelli, um, and then, of course, when I got the audition … I was excited that they were making a movie of his story. I didn’t know enough about him, but the script was beautiful. And I admired him but also Michael Radford, who wrote it and was obviously set to direct. The script was beautiful, but the number one thing it always comes down … is a really popular, exciting team that I should be working with. … I knew it would such a challenge, but if I got the challenge, [then] I would be the luckiest man in the world to dip put my feet into something this hard. So that’s what excited me.

Were you a big fan of the singer before the production?

I liked his work. In all honesty, I didn’t really know much of his work. I didn’t grow up with
it. No one played it in my household really. I knew ‘Con Te Partirò’ and ‘Miserere,’ but
aside from that and those two songs, I didn’t really know a lot about the man. I just knew
that the whole world loved him, and I knew why cause he was amazing and one in a
million.

What have you learned from making this movie?

I’ve learned how to prepare for such a huge job because this is a huge job to have. I’ve learned that playing someone is a very fragile thing because you have to be super aware of being authentic and not doing something that’s more entertaining necessarily and staying close to the truth … and not carry anyone’s shoes, and I believe I did that. And I know that his family are very happy with what I did, which is all I could really ask for.

This is only my second lead role and third lead role in a feature, so that in itself is a huge learning experience, a wonderful and also terrifying experience at the same time. That’s really the main learning experience, … and I’m lucky … to work with wonderful people. And I’ve met them before, a lot of wonderful people before, but I have incredible parents. And I have some good actors I talk to on a daily basis.

Did Andrea Bocelli ever meet you and give pointers on your performance?

Yes, I met Andrea about two weeks before I started filming in Tuscany where he lives, Forte dei Marmi, and I spent about five days hanging out with him. He was incredibly welcoming and very friendly. I got to see him in the comfort in his own home and see kind of the real Andrea, which is what I really needed to do. And without his support, I wouldn’t have been able to do the job that was at hand. He didn’t give me any pointers. … He had a lot of trust in me, which was wonderful, but
he sang some of the songs that I had to sing and let me record them on my phone. So I could watch the way he moved and his face moved, and that was a humongous help.

What was it like to work with director Michael Radford?

He gave me a lot, which allowed me to learn a lot. He gave me a lot of space and on top of that we rehearsed every single day. Before we would do a scene ,we would do it as many times as we needed, many different ways to find the right one. He’s a real perfectionist. He had a lot of trust in me as I did with him, but, of course, I had trust in him … because he’s the artist that’s won however many awards and has created such genius films. But he had a lot of trust in me, which I’m forever really thankful for.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

The Music of Silence, directed by Michael Radford and starring Toby Sebastian, is now in theaters and on video on demand and digital HD.

Photo: Toby Sebastian stars in the drama The Music of Silence, an AMBI Distribution release. Photo courtesy of AMBI Distribution.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *