Film: Gino D'Acampo: ‘Why would you want Gino to play a priest?! I don't know'

As new Disney Pixar film Luca is released, we discover more from chef-turned-voice actor Gino D'Acampo, plus the film's director and producer...

By Danielle de Wolfe, PA

Luca is a 2021 American computer-animated coming-of-age fantasy film

SAT on his terracotta-hued terrace, Gino D’Acampo looks to be living the Mediterranean dream – a scene that has quite literally remained a foreign concept to most of us these past 12 months.

The picture of relaxation as we chat over video link, his white fedora, short-sleeved T-shirt and lightly tinted sunglasses only emphasise his international location.

“I am in Italy – it’s a glorious day,” declares D’Acampo with the sense of exuberance we’ve come to know and love from the chef-turned-television presenter.

“I’m wearing my fishing hat at the moment, I’ve got a pair of shorts on and I’m going to go swim very soon – well, I’m going to go on the boat very soon. I look like an Italian on holiday, which is how I spend six to seven months of my life.”

A mere coincidence, D’Acampo’s surroundings align perfectly with the subject of his latest project.

Set on the Italian Riviera – a far cry from the This Morning studio – Disney and Pixar’s new animated feature film Luca is a reminder of summers gone by.

Following two young friends, Luca and Alberto, the pair enjoy long days of sun-doused fun, all the time harbouring a dark and mysterious secret.

“Luca is a little bit like me when I was at this age,” says D’Acampo, (44).

“Everybody told me I had to stay in my little town and I had to find a job and I had to find a wife eventually and settle down, because that’s what everybody used to do those days.

“All my friends are still there – they did find a wife, they’ve got children, they did find a job in the local restaurant. I was always the one thinking, ‘Well, there must be much more than that, than just my beautiful but little town’. So I related to him very much.”

Stepping into the recording booth, D’Acampo was required to set aside his usual cheeky-chappy demeanour, instead channelling, of all things, a man of the cloth.

Describing the role of Priest Eugenio as a “very small part”, D’Acampo appears equally as baffled by his role, “I mean, why would you want Gino to play a priest?! I don’t know.”

A coming-of-age tale, Luca and Alberto are actually sea monsters who manifest as humans on land. After making friends with a real girl named Giulia, the pair are invited for dinner, only to encounter a number of near-misses when it comes to their identities being uncovered.

“I like him,” says D’Acampo of the film’s lead character.

“I mean, I wasn’t a monster when I was a little boy – well, maybe my mum would have said different, but I wasn’t technically a little monster.

“But I did go away. I came to England and that was my escape, getting experience and to understand there is a bigger world out there.”

Luca is about an unlikely but strong friendship that grows between a human being and a sea monster disguised as a human

Working on the film was a journey that began “seven or eight months ago” according to D’Acampo, with initial discussions hitting a dead-end according to the chef.

“At the beginning, I said no; I didn’t want to do it because, you know what? It’s not the kind of thing I do.

“So then Disney and Pixar, they sent me the video. I watched the movie and I completely fell in love with this guy… It was [set] in a place where I filmed Gino’s Italian Escape, my cooking series – in Cinque Terre, near Genoa on the Italian Riviera.

“So then I thought, ‘Wait a second, I’m changing my mind. This is filmed somewhere I’ve been, I know very well, this little boy is just incredible, the story is all about friendship and it’s all about Italian food and how Italian people kind of live their life!’ And so I said, ‘That’s it. I’m done. I don’t care, I want to do it’.”

Directed by veteran Disney and Pixar storyboard artist Enrico Casarosa (Up/La Luna) and produced by Andrea Warren (WALL.E/Monsters, Inc.) the film’s relatability stems from the fact the story was once a lived experience.

“My best friend and I – I met him when I was 12,” says Casarosa with a smile.

“I was the shy kid, sheltered, and he was very free. I grew up in Genoa – we went around that real Riviera.”

Explaining the lead characters’ partnership is a reflection of a summer’s worth of adventures, the fondness D’Acampo initially felt for the tale is one the Italian director hopes will be mirrored across the generations.

“I started asking myself, ‘Would I be the same person if I hadn’t met him?’” continues Casarosa of his childhood friend.

“I love the maps. I love the visuals of those old ancient strange sea monsters – the region has nice folklore, but it also felt really interesting because it spoke to the oddness or the ‘feeling different’ that we feel as kids.

“My best friend and I definitely felt a little bit nerdy and out of place… There’s something about childhood, and having this big secret that felt interesting.”

As for the somewhat novel experience of recording feature film voiceovers during a pandemic, it’s a challenge the team took in their stride.

“By the time we hit shot production, the pandemic was gaining momentum and we had to shelter in place and all go home,” says Warren.

Noting the team departed the Pixar offices “grabbing computer cords” as they went, Warren says they began to question whether it would even be possible to continue production remotely.

“We managed to come up with a system,” says Warren. “We sent them iPads and microphones and Jack Dylan Grazer [who voices Alberto] recorded in his mother’s closet, you know?

“Everybody just got really inventive and made it happen, but it was definitely a challenge, that’s for sure.”

Luca is available to stream on Disney+ now.

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