In a scene of Felliniesque surrealism, the actress Nicole Kidman was barred from filming inside an historic Roman apartment building at the weekend by angry residents who wanted a higher fee for their cooperation.
The 280 families living in 41 via Vespucci in the Testaccio area claimed they had not been forewarned that the actress would be filming an advertisement in their architecturally admired palazzo or condominium.
When word got out about Kidman’s starring role, and it was revealed that the administrator of the building had agreed a fee of only €6,000 (£4,000), the tenants rebelled.
Preparations for the film were halted as residents streamed out of their apartments, descending from the building’s eight staircases, to gather in the central courtyard and to argue with the startled film crew, led by an American director.
Blocking access to technicians setting up cameras, lights and miles of cable and threatening to halt production, tempers flared as one tenant described the fee as a “plate of lentils” – a term used to describe a paltry sum of money.
Another hotly pointed out the disparity between the fee that the actress would receive and the amount that was being offered to the residents for their inconvenience. “If it’s her, they’re going to have to pay us more,” said one man quoted in Corriere della Sera.
While Kidman remained in her trailer in the street, negotiations to placate the crowd commenced and the dispute was hastily resolved. The residents would be paid €25,000 (£17,000) for five days’ use of their terrace, communal laundry area and courtyard – more than four times the original fee.
“La Bella Nicole” was then allowed to continue her day’s work as the financially astute residents declared themselves satisfied with the deal. They said the money would be put towards reducing their service charges this year.
Kidman was filming a series of advertisements for pay-TV Sky Italia in which she is portrayed as a housewife and a resident of the building. She was also shown sitting on steps, talking to a young Italian boy, telling him to “never stop dreaming” – the slogan for the pay-TV station.
The actress, who recently married Australian singer Keith Urban, did not appear to be concerned about the dispute. According to onlookers, she looked “luminous” and said hello to the watching crowd in Italian.
The 39-year-old was in Rome for only 24 hours but is due to return to the capital next month when she inaugurates the Rome Film Festival. Her new film Fur, a portrayal of the photographer Diane Arbus who committed suicide and who was known for her disturbing portraits of people on the fringes of society, will open the festival.