Top Italian director Paolo Sorrentino has announced that he will return to his native city of Naples to direct a movie for Netflix inspired by his idol, Diego Maradona.
Sorrentino, who won an Oscar in 2013 for his Rome masterpiece The Great Beauty, says his new film will be inspired by the Argentine footballing superstar's famous "Hand of God" moment against England at the 1986 World Cup. The influence is clear in the name of the new production, which has been christened “E stata la mano de Dios” (“It was the hand of God”).
“It’s the first time in my career that I have made such an intimate and personal film," the director said. "An exercise that is both joyous and painful."
This project comes after Sorrentino, who recently turned 50, had to postpone filming a different movie in the United States due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He will serve as the screenwriter and co-producer of this upcoming film, which will be aired on streaming giant Netflix.
“I am glad to share this adventure with Netflix, and with the other producer, Lorenzo Mieli,” Sorrentino affirmed in a statement.
Sorrentino in recent years has moved into TV long-form series, making both The Young Pope (2016) and The New Pope (2020). Speaking before filming, he said that he had found "harmony” with Netflix's executives that “was immediate and brilliant.”
“They’ve made me feel at home, which is ideal, because this film means exactly that – to return home,” said the director
As for his own link to Argentina's legendary number 10, Maradona is transcendental in the life of the filmmaker, who said in 2016 that he "owes his life" to Diego.
The filmmaker, repeating a story he told a few times during his career, explained that his parents died when he was 16 years old, after an accident with a heating unit on holiday caused them to inhale carbon monoxide. The tragedy took place at the farm house where the Sorrentino family often used to spend the weekends, but that time out, Paolo himself never made the trip. He had begged his parents instead to let him stay home in Napoli as he was desperate to go and see Maradona ply his trade at the San Paolo Stadium that weekend.
“[Maradona] saved my life. For years I asked my father to go and see the games instead of spending the weekend in the mountains, but they always told me I was too young. That time, they finally gave me permission to go,” the director said.
Maradona was the star of the Neapolitan team in the 1980s, famously leading them to two unlikely championship titles in 1987 and 1990.
Diego, however, seems not to be as enthusiastic about the new film – the Gimnasia coach's lawyer expressed on Twitter that the athlete did not authorise the use of his image in the film and threatened legal action.
Netflix was steadfast in insisting that the film is not a sports movie, nor is it about Maradona, but instead a personal story about Sorrentino’s youth in 1980s Naples.
Sports are a regular theme in Sorrentino’s work, with the director a huge football fan. His 2015 Oscar-nominated film Youth featured an overweight man who bore such close resemblance to Maradona that a clip of the film went viral after people mistook it for actual footage of the soccer player himself.