Casanova (2005): Directed by Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog)

It was an absolute dream to shoot in Venice. It was like spending four months in the most amazing museum–Heath Ledger on playing Casanova

Shooting on location has been a trademark feature of Lasse Hallstrom, the versatile Swedish director, who relocated to Hollywood after his highly acclaimed, Oscar-nominated “My Life as a Dog.” Hallstrom had filmed the Oscar-winning “The Cider House Rules” in New England, “The Shipping News” in Newfoundland, “Chocolat” in the picturesque villages of France, and now “Casanova” in Venice.

A highly accomplished team of visual artists bring eighteenth-century Venice to life, including cinematographer Oliver Stapleton, production designer David Gropman, editor Andrew Mondshein, and costume designer Jenny Beaven.

Point of Departure as Director

This is a big departure for me because it is probably the most outright comedy Ive ever made. The final script was rich, comic, and very clever, and I welcomed the challenge to create a tone Ive never tried, mixing a kind of classical comedy together with very strong dramatic and romantic elements.

Contemporary Perspective

The story offered a chance to tackle a favorite literary and Hollywood legend from an original and very contemporary point-of-view. Ultimately, we had a really great script, and a really great cast.

Heath Ledger as Casanova

Heath Ledger is a superb Casanova. He captures every facet of this fascinating Renaissance-era man as a soldier, spy, writer, philosopher, adventurer, and notorious lover of women. Casanova was in reality a man who had a tremendous ability to empathize with women, to really talk to them, and I think someone like Francesca would have been very intriguing to him. Heath understood all that instinctively.

The Character of Francesca Bruni

Francesca Bruni, the Renaissance writer whose wicked wit, savvy smarts and classical beauty make her the most formidable woman in Venice, is the one person with the power to change Casanova’s life. She’s essentially a modern woman, strong-willed, smart and way ahead of her time

Jeremy Irons as Bishop Pucci

Ive always admired Jeremy Irons and his very precise command of the English language. He may not have done a lot of comedy on film before, but I could just imagine him in the Pucci part, being able to have a lot of fun with the dialogue and Pucci’s very dry, sarcastic way of speaking. Jeremy has an amazing talent to bend the language any way he wants.

Oliver Platt as the Bumbling Paprizzio of Genoa

Oliver really makes Paprizzio works and makes him utterly believable. He’s very true to the emotion of the scenes and I think he gives Paprizzio a very authentic presence. He brings the character to life by making him emotional as well as funny.

Andrea, Francesa’s Mother (played by Lena Olin)

Andrea is part of one of the more unusual love stories that you might see on screen. I never had any doubts about casting my wife in that role. Lena exudes beauty and intelligence and that’s not the husband in me speaking! I think she is an extraordinary actress and I loved this part for her.

Working With Wife Lena Olin

Working together with Lena on both “Chocolat” and “Casanova” has been a great experience, and I really want more opportunities for us to work together.

Natalie Dormer as Victoria

Natalie just graduated from drama school, but she was so right for the role. She is smart and funny and a real screen talent. She also has a period look that is just right for the film. I predict a bright future for her.

Shooting on Location

I go wherever the script takes me and then I try to get deeply into the life of that place. The best way of getting to know Venice was to experience it in person. I am fortunate to have been able to shoot the script in a location that inspired the story and every single person in the production.


“Casanova” is one of the few movies I know of that has been entirely shot in Venice. The city adds the realism we wanted, while providing wonderfully seductive visuals as well.

Collaborating with Cinematographer Oliver Stapleton

Sometimes difficult circumstances encourage us to be more innovative in how we shoot a place. Both Oliver and I pushed ourselves to be a bit more daring with the camera and to find new ways of photographing Venice. We both knew that Venice has been captured so well up to now. We wanted to do something different: to portray the ineffable magic and spirit of the city, which is different from what you might see in postcards and books.

The Carnevale Sequence

I wanted to bring the visceral thrills and wild atmosphere of Carnevale, the Mardi Gras-style festival, during which the rules of society are broken, fully to life. We recreated the festival in Venice’s spectacular Piazza San Marco.

Integrating the Locals

It was incredible to see that the local Italians were brought to tears when we shot the Carnevale. This was the first time such a thing had happened since the 1800s, so it was quite emotional. It was another opportunity to really take advantage of Venice’s endless fascination from a visual point of view and let the audience experience something spectacular.