Actor Gianni Capaldi was born in Motherwell, Scotland to Italian parents and always nurtured a real passion for film. Growing up with a strong work ethic and an eye for business, he managed a string of family owned businesses in Scotland and even trendy nightclubs in LA before taking his first step into acting. His debut was the Poker mockumentary, All In, and since then he has tackled a variety of acting projects on top of his work as a producer under his company, High Five Films.
Most recently he appeared alongside familiar genre stars like Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Vinnie Jones in Hard Rush, Blood of Redemption and A Certain Justice, as well as forthcoming horror feature, The Wicked Within.
During a recent trip home to the UK, we caught up on his journey so far, his latest action projects and what’s coming next.
You worked a number of different jobs before starting out in film. What led you to pursue this new career path?
I come from a family of entertainers so I think I’ve always had that side to me. My Father is a singer and I’m related to Jimmy Logan and Peter Capaldi, some well-known Scottish entertainers, so it must be in my blood. I also grew up as a big film fan so it was something I was always interested in.
You worked on a few indie projects prior to Hard Rush and Blood of Redemption. Which stand out in your mind?
One which really stands out is The Wicked Within which is a really interesting horror film. I was one of the leads along with Sienna Guillory who is amazing and one of the best actresses I’ve ever worked with. Her husband Enzo Cilenti is also in the film and Eric Roberts plays a supporting role. I really enjoyed it because it was a straight-up acting role and really powerful. I’m excited to see the response the film gets.
How did you come to be involved in Hard Rush and Blood of Redemption?
I produced as well as acted in both films. It basically started when Agustin, the writer of Hard Rush, wanted to get a script off the ground. We were talking through ideas and I visualised a character driven gangster film like Snatch but set in LA where the colourful characters speak volumes and their actions dictate the story. He had something which wasn’t completely finished but matched some of these ideas so he gave me the script, I read it and then sent it to director Giorgio Serafini. He loved it so we started developing it further from there with producer Phillip B. Goldfine and the rest of the team. The roles for myself and Vinnie Jones were cast first and then between us we started casting for the other characters.
Hard Rush and Blood of Redemption were shot virtually back to back with a lot of the same team involved. How was this process managed?
I was talking with someone about a James Cameron film back in November 2012, with the understanding we were due to start shooting Hard Rush in December. I was told about another project they needed to shoot at the start of the new year and the producers they had up until then insisted they couldn’t do it under a certain budget. I was asked if we could take it on which I was confident we could do. So we shot Hard Rush at the end of 2012, took a break over Christmas, then came back with most of the same crew and shot Blood of Redemption. The process got much smoother and it felt like we were a well oiled machine by that stage.
From an acting perspective, did you have much prep time?
To be honest I had a lot more time to prepare for Hard Rush. I’m a method actor so I like to have a lot of prep and I tend to stay in character right until the film is finished. But because the characters I played in each film were so different (a gangster in Hard Rush and an FBI Agent in Blood of Redemption) I didn’t have much time going into the second project, but it was different enough and I made the most of the time I had. I really enjoyed the fact that they were so different.
What was it like sharing the screen with the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Vinnie Jones and Randy Couture and do you have any memorable stories from your time working together?
Absolutely! Vinnie Jones is a really good friend and we’ve worked together a few times. We worked together on Cross which wasn’t a good film but had a great cast including Michael Clarke Duncan, Tom Sizemore and Danny Trejo. In this case it was nice to do three films together, back to back, which we really enjoyed: Hard Rush, Blood of Redemption and A Certain Justice. Dolph Lundgren is a great guy too and it was fun working with him but I think the biggest surprise for me was Randy Couture. He’s someone I’d seen smashing people in the Octagon and playing tough guys on camera but he was such a gentleman when I met him! Something funny which happened on Blood of Redemption was during a fight scene I had a short fight with a stunt guy and unfortunately the timing was slightly off and I broke his nose. I obviously felt terrible and after we finished he was taken straight to hospital. But about 30 minutes later I got a text from Randy Couture who was in Louisiana working on something else and he said: “Attaboy! Bone crusher on set!” [Laughs] I really don’t know how he knew about it!
How about the crew? You had some impressive names on the fight team as well.
We had Benny “The Jet” Urquidez fight coordinating on Hard Rush which was great. Jimmy Lui worked with him and then Jimmy came back to work on Blood of Redemption and A Certain Justice. It’s very rare to have people do three films in six months because not everyone is available but we were lucky to have some people stay the whole time, such as the DP Marco Cappetta. Everyone got better with each film and we were bonding more as a unit and working more efficiently.
You worked on these films as a producer and you also run High Five Films. How have you found this journey and has it opened a lot of doors you wouldn’t have access to?
It definitely helps fast track certain things and gets projects moving forward. I’m not an actor who likes to just sit and wait for the phone to ring. I like to be pro-active. This is one of the reasons I think Brits do well in LA because when they say something, they do it. In LA sometimes there’s a lot of talking and not much action.
What did you hope to do differently with A Certain Justice, especially after Hard Rush and Blood of Redemption?
We had hoped that we could all bring something different to the table. Dolph with his hair and mustache, Vinnie in a role as the guy who is picked on for a change and myself as more of a conscientious villain who has a change of heart in how he wants to lead his life. The important thing was to keep it fresh and our roles had to be completely different from any of the previous films together.
What was it like working on this new role as Vin and was it challenging as an actor?
I really enjoyed Vin. It was important to get the audience to become invested in his character and care about what happened to him. It gave him a deep emotional side, where he struggles within himself to continue that lifestyle. He shows his ability to be ruthless yet expresses a gentle touch when it came to Tanya. He chose to defy Dolph’s character and say enough is enough in the end, with an alternative ending showing Vin and Tanya (Briana Evigan) on the bus together leaving town to start a new life. It’s the kind of character I would like to play in an episode of Sons of Anarchy!
How was it working with Cung Le and working on perhaps more military style, quick and brutal action, compared to the earlier films?
The action was very fast! We are used to more of a drawn out fight in movies where Cung would go through his opponents life a hot knife through butter. It was exciting to include that style of combat in the film, again something fresh from the previous films!
Do you have any funny anecdotes from your experience making the film?
A funny memory is from filming a scene with Dolph. I was watching his mustache which took on a life of its own and begin to detach from his face, all the while I had to keep a straight face till the end of scene. Definitely one image I wont forget! I had so many lovely memories though throughout the film, including with the lovely and amazingly talented Briana Evigan, where I had to carry her from the bedroom to the bathroom and nearly banged her head maneuvering around the furniture.
Will this team reunite for more action projects?
Never say never! I’m in talks at the moment to film in Italy with the team. The location is outstanding and it’s so beautiful there. One of the producers, Alessandro Riccardi, from a horror film I just worked on in Italy called Janara, is teaming up with Giorgio Serafini and a US producer to create something ready to shoot in October. So I’m very willing to get back working with the “trio” again.
What’s next for you?
The Wicked Within will be out soon and I’m looking forward to seeing the response it gets. Janara is now in post-production and due out around Halloween. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will soon be released in the US as well, so there are some good releases on the way.
Finally, what advice would you give to new actors trying to break into the business?
Get a great showreel and show the best stuff right at the start. Never give up and make sure you keep a positive attitude. Remember you’re playing against the odds but you never know what will happen so just stick at it. It’s very important to remember you won’t necessarily be playing major roles because most times they’ll give those roles to name stars but don’t worry, just focus on giving a great performance and making your scenes memorable. If you’re on screen for five minutes, make those five minutes count!
Hard Rush, Blood of Redemption and A Certain Justice are available now on Blu-ray and DVD.