Italian actor and singer Michele Morrone has become an international star, to the point where he can’t go out drinking with a friend without being stopped. Even with a hat on and a protective mask over his face, people see his tattoos from a mile away.
The reason for his sudden rise to world fame is Netflix’s adult drama “365 Days,” in which he plays Don Massimo, the head of the Sicilian mafia who kidnaps a Polish woman and gives her a year to fall in love with him.
The film, compared to “50 Shades of Grey,” has caused controversy for its story, which many consider harmful, and even a petition to remove it from the streaming platform. However, it is also known as one of Netflix's most-streamed movies and regularly finds itself in the top 10 most-watched movies.
How did Morrone, who had given up in the midst of the Depression and moved to a village to become a gardener, find him at the center of this storm?
When he flew from Rome to Dubai on July 23, he spoke to Gulf News at Palazzo Versace during a visit to promote a new local platform called HalaHi, where fans can pay to receive a personalized video appeal from their favorite celebrities, including themselves. (Some fans may be surprised to know that the father-of-two, who used to be married to a Lebanese designer, can speak basic Arabic, which he demonstrates during our video interview.)
Morrone discussed the reactions to his film, the gifting of parts of his HalaHi proceeds to an orphanage, and why he almost said no to the role that changed his life.
Tell us about your partnership with HalaHi and why you wanted to be there?
The concept of HalaHi is that you do something good for people who love you. Fans who want to receive a personalized video of their idol can simply book the video with their name and everything. At first, I thought I didn’t like people having to pay for a video. I don’t want to do business with that. Because I think an artist should be friendly and just send videos for free. But then I thought I could take that love and put it in something else … This is charity because some of the money I personally make – I don’t know [about] the other artists – is used for charity.
Which charities are important to you personally?
The first one I love is, how do I say in English? Orfanotrofi. All children, they have no families, for example, they are in this kind of house – an orphanage.