"Agnelli" Reveals a Portrait of Italy's Fabled Jet-Age Industrialist

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12 December 2017
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Agnelli
Courtesy of HBO
"Agnelli"
Premieres Monday, December 18 at 8 PM ET/PT on HBO
 
          Tradition prepared him. Passion defined him. Considered by many to be “the prince” of Italy, legendary industrialist and jet-setter Gianni Agnelli was a cultural icon who embodied strength, calm and prosperity in the aftermath of World War II and into the new millennium. The documentary, AGNELLI, is an intimate portrait of the man who became a symbol of Italy’s post-war renaissance.

          Chronicling the dramatic life of the charismatic head of FIAT, this compelling portrait features intimate interviews with nearly 40 family members, friends, professional confidantes and rivals, including: his sisters and other relatives; former lovers; current and former FIAT employees and executives; his butler and cook; and journalists, historians and friends, among them Henry Kissinger, Valentino, Jackie Rogers, Sally Bedell Smith, Roger Cohen, Jas Gawronski, Lee Radziwill and his niece, Diane von Furstenberg.
 

          “Gianni was irresistible. It was not possible not to be seduced by him. Every woman was in love with him, every man wanted to be him,” comments Diane von Furstenberg. “I always said it was dangerous to think anything in his presence, because he’d pick it up,” says Henry Kissinger. “He was the international image of Italy. He was the most glamorous man in Italy,” observes Jean Pigozzi.
 
         AGNELLI features newly discovered Super 8 footage shot by Benno Graziani and iconic portraits by Richard Avedon and Ugo Mulas, along with a wealth of archival video and personal photos that help paint a complex portrait of the FIAT leader, who was an urbane, well-spoken international figure of intrigue and a politically powerful, restless jet-setter who valued family, but had failings as a father.
 
          Underlining his mythic nature and lasting legacy, AGNELLI charts the highs and lows of his incredible life in five chapters: The Rise of FIAT: The oldest son of seven siblings, Gianni Agnelli was the grandson of FIAT founder Giovanni Agnelli. After serving in World War II, he returned to a destroyed post-war Italy, with FIAT on the verge of being confiscated. Well-versed in English, Agnelli was able to persuade Americans that keeping FIAT in the family could better combat communism.
 
Agnelli
Courtesy of HBO
 
La Dolce Vita: Living in the south of France, Agnelli became a prominent member of international high society, romancing the likes of movie star Anita Ekberg and Pamela Churchill, ex-wife of the British prime minister’s son. While recuperating from a car crash that left him with seven fractures, he became involved with family friend Marella Caracciolo. The two eventually married and had two children, despite his “Don Giovanni” lifestyle. The Agnellis became known for their lavish home, haute-couture looks and jet-setting with political and cultural leaders from around the globe.
 
The Years of Lead: In 1966, Agnelli took the helm of FIAT and focused on expansion, acquiring Ferrari and working to make FIAT competitive with U.S. auto giants. A global oil crisis caused the company to bleed money, but Agnelli refused to lay off workers, instead offering a minority stake in FIAT to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and deepening his dependence on the investment bank Mediobanca. In 1976, a communist victory saw terrorism on the rise, threatening FIAT’s factories and putting Agnelli’s life in jeopardy. Despite the assassinations of the prime minister and a FIAT executive, he refused to leave Turin. With Italy and FIAT thriving in the ‘80s, he was able to buy back Gaddafi’s stake.
 
The Coup: Diagnosed with prostate cancer, Agnelli planned to retire and have his younger brother, Umberto, take over, but a corporate coup forced him to stay on. It would be another five years before Agnelli finally regained control. Edoardo: Agnelli and his son, Edoardo, were opposites in many ways. Edoardo went to college in the U.S. and turned to drugs, eventually committing suicide. Agnelli subsequently fell into despair, which lasted until his death in 2003. At Agnelli’s funeral, throngs gathered to remember him at the FIAT rooftop racetrack, underscoring his lasting influence on Italy. AGNELLI had its world premiere at the 2017 Venice Film Festival.


 
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