The Way Forward: James D’Arcy Didn’t Finish His Pandemic Movie, But is Now Back Shooting in Rome

The writer-director of Made in Italy, out now in theaters and on digital, on life during and after lockdown.

My experience of the pandemic was spending time quietly at home, just trying to take it a day at a time. I was in the very fortunate position where I wasn’t panicking about where the next meal was coming from, and for that I was incredibly grateful.

In terms of my new film, Made in Italy, I genuinely hope that it can bring a little bit of lightness, joy and hope into people’s lives in a moment when I think globally we just desperately need those things. We’ve been bashed over the head with appalling news, to the point where the Australian bushfires – which were what we started the year with – have been completely forgotten. 2020 has just been shocking from start to finish. If this film can provide a little levity even for a small group of people, that would be wonderful, because my experience in London during the pandemic was that there was, in fact, a great deal of community spirit. I saw people engage with each other in ways that they hadn’t done previously. And that’s really what Made in Italy is about: connecting and reconnecting. I hope that we can tap into a moment where actually this is what the world needs.

Made in Italy is not my life story in any way, but my father died when I was very young and this film is my fantasy love letter to what my relationship with my father could have been like. I wanted to imagine what it would have been like for us to talk to each other. I made the film with some humor so that audiences could feel safe going into this difficult emotional place. If it inspires even one person to phone a parent, or phone a child, so they can reconnect, then that’s the greatest compliment the film could ever get.

In the past few months, my biggest creative accomplishment is that I went through all the film footage I have of my nephews and nieces and cut it together into a little short film. It worked out really well, but it is by far the most creative thing I’ve done. I had an idea for a film that one could shoot in lockdown, but to be honest with you, I found it very difficult to concentrate for long periods of time during the lockdown. So that script did not get written. At the start, I thought, “This is amazing, I’ve got all the time in the world – I’ll have three drafts done by the time the lockdown is over!” but actually I’m still at the treatment stage …

At the moment, I am actually in Rome on a film set, as I’m making a miniseries which we started shooting before lockdown. We were among the first to shut up shop, because Italy was hit so hard early on, but we’re also among the first productions to get back to work.

One of the things that I definitely learned from the lockdown is that people want entertainment. So I feel very confident in the long term that, one way or another, the industry will survive, because since time immemorial, people have told each other stories. In the short term, I don’t know. All I know is, human beings by nature want to be together, so eventually that will happen. We will reconvene. The film industry is, at its heart, incredibly noble and does humankind a great service, so I have every confidence that we will continue making films and television programs, to entertain people and help them to be moved and excited and afraid and amused. Because those are basic human needs.

James D’Arcy is an actor, writer, and director; Made in Italy, his feature directorial debut starring Micheál Richardson, Liam Neeson and Lindsay Duncan, is out now through IFC Films. D’Arcy is perhaps best known for playing Edwin Jarvis in the Marvel TV series Agent Carter and the 2019 film Avengers: Endgame. Other television credits include Those Who Kill, alongside Chloë Sevigny, Broadchurch opposite Olivia Colman, and Homeland with Claire Danes. On the big screen, James was in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Tomas Alfredson’s The Snowman with Michael Fassbender and J.K. Simmons, and Jupiter Ascending and Cloud Atlas, both for the Wachowskis. He can also be seen in Madonna’s W.E. and Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. In 2016, he wrote, directed and produced the short film Chicken / Egg, starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Hayley Atwell.