The Music of Silence: Toby Sebastian Interview On Playing Andrea Bocelli

The life story of one of the greatest opera singers of Andrea Bocelli is brought on to the drama The Music of Silence.

It’s based on the book, which is the extraordinary true story of Andrea Bocelli, a blind boy, who against all odds becomes one of the most world renowned opera singer. To date he has sold over 80 million records worldwide.

Here’s the synopsis:

Everyone knows his voice, his songs, his interpretations of famous opera arias, his international popularity. However, much less is known of the private life of Andrea Bocelli and of the path leading him to Lajatico, a village in the Tuscan countryside, and to the laurels of his present career. Amos Bardi (the singer’s alter ego) was born with the gift of a voice which, from childhood, promises to be of superb quality, but at the same time, with a serious problem regarding his eyes, making him nearly blind. He can see no more than contrasts of light. His illness forces him through the ordeal of multiple surgeries. Soon he is separated from his family to enter an institute for the visually impaired to learn Braille. But it is there that he has a terrible accident, a blow to his face causes him total blindness. Darkness falls. Despite everything, Amos does not give up.

Driven by great ambition and interests (a passion for singing, a love of horses, motorbikes, bicycles, a degree in law), his life will be one challenge after another until he manages to achieve his first great success on stage with Miserere. From here begins a life studded with victories but in which the silent pursuit of a daily mission continues, moment after moment, the mission of one who, to be like others, must work harder than others, in every gesture, at every step.

The Music of Silence is directed by Academy Award nominee Michael Radford (Il Postino, Merchant of Venice), and stars Toby Sebastian (Game of Thrones), Luisa Ranieri (Letters to Juliet), Jordi Molla (Bad Boys II), Ennio Fantastichini (Loose Cannons), and Antonio Banderas (The Expendables 3). The screenplay was co-written by Anna Pavignano (Elsa & Fred) and Michael Radford in collaboration with Andrea Bocelli.

LRM had a phone interview last month with Toby Sebastian, who played the lead character of Amos Bardi in the film for The Music of Silence. We talked about playing the blind Andrea Bocelli, the preparations for the role and other challenges on the project. He also mentioned his upcoming role in Trading Paint and his experiences on the set of Game of Thrones.

The Music of Silence is playing in select theaters and available on VOD and Digital HD today.

Read our interview transcript below.

LRM: I’ve checked out your film. It’s quite a change going from Game of Thrones to The Music of Silence.

Toby Sebastian: Thanks. Thanks.

LRM: So why were you attracted to this project?

Toby Sebastian: The story was lovely. The script was beautiful, which is enough really. On top of that, the team around that was wonderful. Most importantly, it’s playing this important person of Andrea Bocelli was very exciting for me. Not only for who he is, it’s on how much the world loves him and how extraordinary the story is with the challenge that came it.

In a way, I felt it was kind of scary to make this come out right. There was a lot of things I could dig deep into and play with. I do love the idea of impersonating someone.

LRM: Did you have to do any extra research on Andrea Bocelli? Did you have a chance to read his book?

Toby Sebastian: I read his book. But, I tried not to take it in too much even though the [film] is based on that book. For me, it’s important and hard to unlearn something or forget. I wanted to keep it both separate. There is the book and there’s the art in making a movie.

LRM: Was it difficult for you to act blind throughout the entire movie? What did you had to focus on?

Toby Sebastian: It was incredibly hard. The trick was to play blind and not too blind. To be playing Andrea Bocelli, unless he’s wearing shades, it’s really hard not to know that he’s blind. He walks more comfortable than I do. He moves incredibly well. He can do anything in life. There’s not anything he can’t do.

The trick was to do that. You want to play Andrea Bocelli, but at the same time not to really, really overdo it. This was the conversation I had with the director [Michael Radford] continuously and not going too far with it.

LRM: Did you have to undergo any training for musical instruments or singing for this film?

Toby Sebastian: I had done some training in opera singing. Not a lot, but I had some. Piano-wise, I didn’t play a lot of pieces. If I had more time, I would’ve played some of the pieces. There were other things to be worried about.

Spending time with him was the best preparation for the singing stuff. I still have to sing. However, my sound stuff had to be taken out. The best thing was to spend time with him in Tuscany on where he lives. That was invaluable. My performance wouldn’t be as great without spending the time with him and watching him.

LRM: What was it like the first time you spent with Andrea Bocelli? How great was that moment?

Toby Sebastian: It was interesting. I was honestly nervous. Very quickly, I warmed up to him. I think it was hard, because that he’s blind and he knows the movie is being made. Considering for him, in several minutes, he made me laugh. I ended up having lots of conversations with him. We talked about our mutual love for music.

LRM: Were you a fan of Andrea Bocelli before this film?

Toby Sebastian: I knew a little bit of his music, but I wasn’t a proper fan though. It’s not that I didn’t like it. I just haven’t been really exposed to it. I knew a couple of his recordings. Besides from that, I didn’t know really too much. I knew more about him, but his music wasn’t quite so much.

If I was a mega-fan, then I probably would have a different experience in training. My idea of him would have tainted my performance. In this case, it was more somewhat of a clean slate and had things to learn.

LRM: What was the most surprising thing you’ve learned about Andrea Bocelli?

Toby Sebastian: It’s his connection with people. It’s on how he makes the conversations with people. It’s when I visited with him, we’ve chatted and he made me laughed for five days. You can watch him with his family. He’s very happy with the simplistic lifestyle. He has his family, his music and wine. [Laughs] That’s about it. He’s a very, very humble person. It’s really, really shocking.

LRM: Now you’ve had a chance to work alongside with Antonio Banderas. He’s a legendary actor and he’s also a singer. How was that like?

Toby Sebastian: It was amazing. I kept on kicking myself that I was working with one of my childhood heroes. [Laughs] He was lovely. He was incredibly giving. He certainly upped my game. He went above and beyond to make you feel calm and at ease. Working with him was certainly a highlight, besides working with Andrea Bocelli. To work with Antonio on set, it was the highlight of the whole thing.

LRM: This role seems very difficult for you. What was the greatest challenge playing this character for the movie? Was it playing blind? Was it mimicking opera singing?

Toby Sebastian: It was playing blind. Playing blind was the biggest challenge by far. Nothing could’ve prepared me really before being around him. It was definitely the hardest and definitely the scariest.

LRM: After this project, are there roles you still covet to play in your career?

Toby Sebastian: I would love to play something that is quite dark. I would love to play a psychopath. [Laughs] Or something menacing. That’s what I really like to do. A villain of some sort—I think it would be great. It could be in a big blockbuster movie or in a dark tortured soul indie. It’s something like that I think would be a lot of fun.

LRM: [Laughs] That would be awesome.

Toby Sebastian: Right?

LRM: Most definitely. Can you talk about some of your future projects you may actually have?

Toby Sebastian: There’s one project that I’ve actually shot called Trading Paint. It’s a racing type movie with John Travolta and I played his son. It’s an extraordinary experience, in which it was filmed in Alabama. I met some wonderful, wonderful young guys and all the racing drivers. I hoped to race for real, but I got to be on the track behind an 800-horse powered car. In all of the other shots, I acted with John [Travolta], another hero of mine. That movie is coming out this year. We wrapped it around early September and late August.

I do have a few other things, but I’m not sure what’s next. I am certainly sure you’ll hear about it soon.

LRM: Terrific! Real fast. Do you miss being on Game of Thrones? Are you going to be sad that it’s going to end pretty soon?

Toby Sebastian: I am pretty sad that it’s going to end pretty soon. I love the show. I haven’t stopped watching. I do miss it. I had an extraordinary time of my life. My whole idea of everything changed while I was on the show. It’s hard not to understand with such a mammoth scale show. They are all such wonderful people. I do miss it. It was so long ago. A lot of thing had happened since then. But, if you can go back to re-live or re-imagine those memories—I certainly would. It was a wonderful time.

LRM: Thank you very much for this conversation. I really appreciated it. Thank you.

Toby Sebastian: Thanks for chatting. Good chatting.

The Music of Silence is playing in select theaters and available on VOD and Digital HD today.

Source: Exclusive to LRM

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Gig Patta

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.

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