Rome’s iconic monuments are getting lots of mileage in Hollywood movies this summer.
Since May, the Eternal City has hosted the world premieres of “Fast X” and “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” two blockbusters that burned rubber and wreaked havoc on its cobblestoned streets.
Universal held its “Fast X” red carpet in the Roman Forum’s Temple of Venus, with the Colosseum as a backdrop, in early May. Weeks later, Paramount descended for the June premiere of “M:I 7,” with Tom Cruise prancing down the same Spanish Steps that serve as the setting for spectacular car chases in both movies.
“We’ve done car chases in ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies before, but nothing like this one,” boasted Cruise on the red carpet. The wild “M:I 7” sequence follows a massive Hummer in hot pursuit of a vintage pint-sized yellow Fiat 500. The latter is driven by Cruise and Hayley Atwell, who, in true “Mission: Impossible” fashion, are handcuffed together as the Fiat darts down the ancient staircase.
Vin Diesel was similarly amazed by the access granted for “Fast X”: “I could not believe that there was a [Dodge] Charger and we were shouting ‘Action!’ in front of the Colosseum,” he said to Variety. “I never would have dreamed of that happening 20 years ago.”
Neither would the Rome Film Commission, which is taking major strides to make the Italian capital friendlier to film crews as it looks to lure Hollywood shoots.
“These Rome premieres are the crowning moment of a journey that has made Italy much more attractive as a shooting destination in recent years,” says Cristina Priarone, who heads the Rome commission and also presides over the Italian Film Commissions Assn.
The game changer, Priarone underlines, is Italy’s generous 40% tax rebates for international film and TV series, which were introduced in 2008 and are among the highest in Europe (topping those of France, the U.K., Germany, Hungary and Romania). In addition, her team has been working closely with local authorities to cut red tape, so the Rome municipal permits office is now “a well-oiled machine.” Meanwhile, Rome’s storied Cinecittà Studios, which has housed productions from “Ben-Hur” to “Gangs of New York,” is undergoing a significant revamp, further boosting the city’s standing as a moviemaking magnet.
Priarone notes that “M:I 7” began production in Italy in early 2020 at the start of the pandemic: “We all worked together with regional authorities and the unions to create the conditions for this shoot to take place.”
At the packed premiere in the Auditorium della Conciliazione, a stone’s throw from the Vatican, Cruise said solemnly onstage, “Everyone knows what was going on in the world when we shot this film here.”
“Had it not been for every person in the entire [Rome] community who worked with us, from the restaurants in the streets, to the police, to everyone on the roads, to the government and medical staff — all making sure that we’re all safe — we would not have been able to create what we’re going to see this evening,” he added.
As for Cruise, the movie star arrived more than 90 minutes late for the gala, having been sidelined by an impromptu meeting with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
According to sources, he wanted to personally thank the Italian premier for making the “M:I 7” event on the Spanish Steps possible. Meloni is believed to have overridden pushback from some local authorities, who were against holding the launch at the 18th-century landmark due to concerns over wear and tear.
Those concerns are indeed well founded.
Roughly a year ago, a 37-year-old Saudi national drove a rented Maserati down the storied staircase, causing damage. He was caught at Milan’s Malpensa airport after being identified by police from images of the vehicle that were caught on surveillance cameras.
So when in Rome, don’t try what you’ve seen at the movies.