Starting out as a scriptwriter in 1956, Marcello Fondato is best-known in Italy for penning a plethora of successful comedies with some of the biggest stars of the times, including Claudia Cardinale, Monica Vitti, Giancarlo Giannini and Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. It is also worth mentioning his collaborations with Mario Bava on Blood and Black and Lace and Black Sabbath, as well as the vampire parody Tempi Duri Per Vampiri/Hard Times For Vampires directed by Stefano Vanzina.
Making his directorial debut with The Protagonists, Fondato couldn’t have strayed further away from the comedy genre in this sombre tale of a group of wealthy tourists who set out to meet an authentic Sardinian bandit without paying much attention to the risks involved.
“The idea came to me after reading an article in L’Espresso (newspaper) about tourists who were going to Sardinia and paying to meet the most famous bandit who, at that time, was (Graziano) Mesina… and others like him… going to the places where they hid and where they lived. The idea really struck me because it corresponded with an idea I already had… It backed up my theories about banditry and other serious social phenomenons that existed at the time and how the middle-classes viewed them…”
“It wasn’t the reasons behind certain phenomenons that interested me, let’s call it banditry, those deep-rooted reasons, evolving over centuries of desperation and poverty. That didn’t interest me. What interested me was the idea of going to see a show, a spectacle, and the lengths people would go to experience that thrill.”