Here’s a fun thing you might not know about legendary director George Miller — before he started making his wild, wild films, he was an emergency room doctor, and to this day, many people still call him Dr. Miller on set. This is according to Three Thousand Years of Longing actor Matteo Bocelli: “Everyone has huge respect for Dr. Miller,” Bocelli says. “Everyone knows his story.”
In Miller’s newest film, Bocelli plays Prince Mustafa, an heir to the Ottoman Empire whose story is one of several told by a Djinn (Idris Elba) to a narratologist (Tilda Swinton) who happened to acquire the bottle imprisoning him. It’s the first film role for the Italian-born 24-year-old, who prior to now has been best known for his career in music, as he follows in the footsteps of his father, opera singer Andrea Bocelli.
Speaking to Consequence via Zoom from his home in Tuscany, Bocelli says that he had always found the film industry to be interesting, and also, “since I was young, like 14 or 15, I was already in music but people from TV and cinema told me, ‘You know, you have a face that could really work in movies. If you really want to, in the future, you could have fun.'”
That said, when he was contacted by Miller’s assistant to discuss a potential part in Three Thousand Years, he thought it was a joke. But, he says, “I gave the contact to my manager and then he came back to me and he said, ‘No, this is not a joke. This is reality.'”
Bocelli believes that Miller discovered him first via a modeling campaign he’d done for Bulgari, after which Miller watched the music video for “Fall On Me,” featuring Bocelli alongside his father. He only learned that a few weeks into the production, though — meanwhile, before his first conversation with the director during the summer of 2020, Bocelli says, “I was so scared because I had to talk with one of the greatest directors about something that I’ve never done in my life.”
The nerves didn’t go away after getting cast, either. “Working with so many Oscar winners, I think it was quite normal to be a little bit anxious,” he laughed. “It was truly something new to me. Even if I was born in a family where show business is the main [thing] — you know, having a father that sings — it’s still show, but it’s show made in a different way. It’s not like going to a studio and recording a song or going on stage and singing in front of an audience. It’s different. You prepare differently.”
The biggest difference, he found, was that with music, “most of the time, it’s part of your life experience.” But as he acknowledged with a smile, “I’ve never been a Turkish prince.”
Bocelli’s character doesn’t speak a lot in the film — which, he acknowledged with a laugh, meant that he didn’t have to learn Turkish. However, learning his few lines of Turkish dialogue proved to be easy, and he did do some research into the Ottoman Empire after getting the role, noting that “the historical period helps a lot in getting into the part.”
To shoot his scenes during COVID, Bocelli flew to Australia and spent a few weeks in quarantine before finally arriving on set. The sets did include some use of green screen, but Bocelli says that what you see on screen in his scenes is “mostly real, I think, compared to [Mad Max: Fury Road].
Bocelli says that one thing he had to learn was how to put aside his shyness — something that helped, though, were the costumes created by acclaimed designer Kym Barrett. “The costumes were a super fun part of the whole process. It’s fun because you completely change your aspect, you know, and when you see yourself in the picture or on camera, it’s someone else. And, you know, it’s fun to change into someone else.”
Bocelli also collaborated with composer Tom Holkenborg (a.k.a. Junkie XL) as a vocalist on the film’s original song “Cautionary Tale,” though he gives Holkenborg full credit for the track. “I think he did an amazing job because first of all, it’s not easy to make beautiful music, plus it’s not easy to make it following a sort of atmosphere, energy, emotion. When you watch the movie and the melody comes in, you really understand that this piece of music adds something to the movie… Most of the soul and the energy of it comes from Tom, and I feel very honored to have my voice on it.”
As for the future, Bocelli does hope to do more acting, though while there have been “some calls” about that, he does also clarify that “my main passion is music and I have to balance everything.” In the meantime, he remains very proud of being a part of George Miller’s wild fairy tale.
“There are many aspects that people can get from watching it, but the most important one, at the bottom of everything, is the power of love and the power of relationships. I think that love is the only thing that can really save the world.”
Three Thousand Years of Longing is in theaters now.