In 1974, Marco Nanini balanced work-related comedy with personal tragedy: his father had been hospitalized, and already hopeless, with aggressive cancer treatment.
The play that the young actor was performing at the time, “As Desgraças de uma Criança”, was a reinterpretation of an old text, full of jokes and improvisations. On one day when he was particularly disappointed, he acted tense. I failed to relax the audience.
Until, in one scene walking through the audience, it boiled over: “My father is dying of cancer, and you there, having fun at my expense!”. Everyone burst out laughing.
Nearly 50 years later, he still remembers the scene. “How do I tell the truth and people die laughing believing it’s a lie? This is theater.”
This testimony is in the prologue of a biography written with factual accuracy and literary ease by the journalist Mariana Filgueiras, who tries to decant the truths steeped in lies in the life of one of the great interpreters of our theater.
The book root has one peculiarity. It was an initiative by Nanini himself, who at the time of the germination of the book was on the threshold of 70 years – today he is 74 – and was beginning to worry about “leaving an obituary”. But I didn’t want to write anything.
It’s curious because, during the interview she gave alongside the biographer for this report, Nanini sometimes says she doesn’t like to expose herself. And she, at the end of the conversation, points out that she likes that “her most intimate things are protected”.
This contrasts with a biography that does not hesitate to step on minefields, such as the abrupt break with Marília Pêra —the director with whom he created the biggest theatrical event of his career, “O Mistério de Irma Vap”, alongside Ney Latorraca, and an actress with whom he formed a duo of such harmony as to be compared to Paulo Autran and Tônia Carrero.
“I’m trying to calm down,” says Nanini, not because of this specific episode, but because of more recent tensions that have upset him. “I’m already old enough to be calmer, but my temper is about to suddenly explode. And those tantrums I had had destroyed me, they shook me a lot.”
He proved it in a recent case, when he made “Greta”, a sensitive and shameless play about a gay nurse who is in love with Greta Garbo. Upset by a technical problem at the end of the recordings, the protagonist did not want to go to the farewell party of the cast.
The next day, he called the director, newcomer Armando Praça, and said, “This is Nanini’s twin brother speaking.
It is with similar delicacy that the book touches on the first loves of the actor, who has had occasional relationships with women, but has fallen in love with men from a very young age, first of all Nando, his partner since 1986, who has helped Nanini connected to this Zoom interview.
“Some artists find it easy to talk about. I don’t,” she says. You first addressed your homosexuality in the press 12 years ago in an interview with Bravo magazine. She spoke in passing, but on purpose, of the “lovers” who appeared in her life.
“The journalist [Armando Antenore] he said I had already done so many interviews that he didn’t know what else to say. He stuck in my head. I already intended to declare it one day, to not always be tied to that feeling of shame. Then I quickly dropped it in one sentence. He gave me the starting point to get rid of that stigma.”
Filgueiras’ written biography, “O Avesso do Bordado,” is authoritative, as the author readily admits, and prepared with its subject still alive—which goes against the recommendations of nine out of ten biographers. First, because things will keep happening in the character’s life. Second, because the author is more tempted to embarrass or self-censor.
The writer has a different opinion. “The ideal would be to have at least two biographies, one with the person alive and the other after his death. Otherwise you don’t find the subjectivity of the person himself, you don’t know what is deeply rooted in him”.
She leads by example. I didn’t know that Nanini had such a strong bond with animals and how much this was a structuring part of his creative process. A key scene in the book shows the actor crouching in front of a boxer, mirroring him in an exercise in empathy.
“He actually lives with animals to get their reactions, movements, expressions. He walks with a cast inside his own house.”
The title of the book alludes to another central aspect of Nanini’s creation. “O Avesso do Embroidery” refers both to the manual, colorful and meticulous work that the actor carries out with his scripts, and to a phrase by the actor Emiliano Queiroz that has never left the biographer’s mind.
“Since I met him, what most draws my attention is the refinement that Nanini gives to the characters. It’s the details, a posture that is. Not everyone sees it all the time, but he worries about the reverse side of the embroidery”.
Embroiderers always say, completes the writer, that the most important thing in every garment is not its face, but its inside, the lines, the linings and the trimmings that give it structure.
For the villain cangaceiro in “O Auto da Compadecida”, he had a glass eye made, which took days to get used to. He watched the hawks on YouTube to remove the imposing posture of Augustus, the monarch of the soap opera “Deus Salve o Rei”.
And Lineu Silva from “A Grande Família” was totally inspired by Nanini’s father Dante, from the buckle on his pants to his preoccupation with composure. Maître of large hotels, his work made the actor from Recife live as a child in addresses ranging from Manaus to Belo Horizonte.
“I try to engage with the character so that it reaches the viewer through emotion, not just through sight,” says the actor, his glasses and gray hair unkempt in his home. “I like to embody the whole character, feel it all. When I do, I forget about reality. I hope the audience indulges in fantasy too.”
But sometimes reality gets in the way, like that story about her father’s cancer. Or another memorable show seven years later.
It was 1981. Nanini hosted a banquet for lunch, courtesy of a wealthy friend, and immediately went out to present a session of the very famous besteirol “Doce Deliite” together with Marília Pêra. He got into his old car, drove to the theater and put on a leprechaun costume for the first skit. He began to laugh at his own misery and never stopped.
Marília was surprised, she didn’t understand, but she was infected. The two performed the entire comedy laughing and the actress, out of respect for the public, said that whoever wanted could go to the box office and get their money back. Nobody even thought of doing it.
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