The Italian Almanac

The Pursuit of Happyness

Italian News - December 19

Italian director Gabriele Muccino remained overwhelmed on Tuesday after his new film starring Will Smith struck box office gold in the United States, raking in $27 million in its debut weekend. "I have to keep pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. I'm just overjoyed. Who would ever have believed it," said Muccino, who returned to his home city of Rome on Monday for the Christmas holidays".

Muccino's father-son drama The Pursuit of Happyness, featuring Smith and his seven-year-old son Jaden Smith, opened across America on Friday. It immediately shot to No.1, beating off competition from two other major premieres: dragon fantasy Eragon, which netted $23.45 million, and children's tale Charlotte's Web, which banked $12 million. Cinema buffs said it was the first time an Italian director had triumphed at the US box office, even with an American-produced movie.

The 39-year-old director spent 10 months in the United States filming The Pursuit of Happyness. Shot in San Francisco, the 60-million-dollar picture revolves around the true-life story of Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman who dragged himself and his child out of poverty to become a hugely wealthy stock broker. The quirky spelling of Happyness derives from the story line.

Muccino, who has won a string of awards for his past work including Italy's equivalent of the Oscar, said his approach to the all-American tale was largely inspired by Italian neorealist cinema. A postwar movement which aimed at the realistic depiction of the poorer classes, neorealism is synonymous with the name of directing legend Vittorio De Sica.

The Pursuit of Happyness was made by Sony Pictures, which said on Monday that the film's takings had helped make 2006 its best ever year in terms of domestic box office earnings.