Giuseppe Capotondi on What It's Like to Direct Mick Jagger In 'The Burnt Orange Heresy'

Mick Jagger
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Mick Jagger attends "The Burnt Orange Heresy" photocall during the 76th Venice Film Festival at Sala Grande on Sept. 7, 2019 in Venice, Italy. 

Mick Jagger plays a man of wealth and taste, an art dealer to be precise, in Giuseppe Capotondi’s The Burnt Orange Heresy, which had its North American premiere this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. The world debut was in Italy at the Venice International Film Festival. Both the director and the star Claes Bang are Rolling Stones fans, but have never seen the band perform ln concert, they told Billboard.

As the wily Joseph Cassidy, Jagger makes a pragmatic offer -- make that a veiled threat -- to broke, dishonest art critic James Figueras (Bang), who travels with his one-night-stand Berenice Hollis (Elizabeth Debicki) to the collector’s “summer cottage” to interview reclusive painter Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland) in exchange for procuring one of his paintings. That’s aristocrat-speak for “steal the thing.”

“It's a Faustian tale and Mick plays the devil who makes the deal with the art critic,” says Capotondi of the plot, based on Charles Willeford’s 1971 crime novel, adapted for the screen by Scott B. Smith.

The Burnt Orange Heresy is shot in Italy’s Lake Como on a breathtaking estate some of us would indeed make a deal with the devil to enjoy for a weekend; meanwhile, the novel takes place in Florida.

Filmed last October before the Stones set out on tour, Capotondi tells Billboard, “We heard that he was looking for a last film to make and so we sent the script. He liked it and I went to London to see him. It was very unnerving before going in, but he’s just a gentle soul. He wanted to do it and then when he was on set, it was just like any other director and actor. He wasn't a Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones.

“It's working with the legend, but the good thing is that he doesn't act like one.”

Bang, whose credits include 2017’s The Square, is a musician himself, although he stresses it’s “hobby-level.” He grew up listening to the Stones because his parents were fans, so it’s cool to swap lines with Sir Mick.

“Obviously, before he comes on set, you're like, ‘Whoa, I might faint when I see him or something,’” Bang jokes to Billboard. “But on the day, if I was sitting there thinking, ‘Whoa, this is Mick Jagger,’ I probably would forget my lines. It's really about doing the job on the day. In that sense, he becomes your fellow actor on that day.

“That's not to diminish anything,” he adds. “But that's really important to me because otherwise I think I would go crazy.”

As familiar as Jagger’s mannerisms and speaking voice are, it’s to his credit as an actor that his public persona and moves like Jagger fade into the fine suit of Cassidy with his slicked-back hair and calmly manipulative ways.

“You want him to be very, very elegant and sophisticated,” says Capotondi. “He brought some histrionism to the character, which I think it was needed.”

Capatondi didn’t ask Jagger to contribute any music to the soundtrack, he says. “He came as an actor, not as a musician, so it would have been weird to mix the two things.”

Bang, who sings and plays guitar and piano, occasionally releases music under the name This Is Not America (named after the David Bowie/Pat Metheny song). “I play the guitar and I play the piano and I can never get myself out of the '80s somehow. Pet Shop Boys. New Order. I love it.

“This is what I do when people go and ride about with their motorbike; it’s really what calms me down. I like to think about it this way, that normally my job is like, ‘Stand here. Say that,’ all kinds of people telling me all kinds of shit all the time, and when I go and do music, I get to decide everything myself.

“I've got a lot of tracks out to producers right now and they're just coming back. I think next spring something is going to come out.”