“The marriage between the Vespa and the movies is an extraordinary partnership: incredibly happy and intense, an indissoluble bond for decades, which continues to grow and create emotions at every latitude…The Vespa today is the symbol of Italian creativity around the world and a unique example of ‘immortality’ in the history of industrial design. The Vespa is not just a mobility phenomenon, but a long-standing symbol of global social mores. Today as yesterday, riding a Vespa is a synonym for freedom and social status, for dynamism and a passion for beauty. It’s an experience of life and imagination, associated with individual and collective symbols that emerged for the most part in the years of La Dolce Vita: Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday were the first protagonists of a marriage made in heaven, which has subsequently been repeated with extraordinary frequency in hundreds of films and advertising campaigns. The creativity of actors and actresses, directors and advertising designers fuels the power of the myth and enhances the collective image of the Vespa with new values, in every corner of world.” Roberto Colaninno (from the exhibition catalogue “La Vespa e il cinema”, Piaggio Foundation, 2010).
Artist Ugo Nespolo created the 2010 exhibition poster and logo.
The Vespa is more than an industrial and commercial phenomenon that has endured for 70 years. Since its debut in 1946, it has influenced social customs and culture. In the years of “La Dolce Vita”, the Vespa became a synonym for the scooter and the reports of foreign correspondents described Italy as “the land of the Vespa”. The role played by the iconic two-wheeler in society in and outside Italy is documented by the presence of the Vespa in hundreds of international movies. And the story still continues today.
London. British director Guy Ritchie and his wife, model Jacqui Ainsley, on the red carpet at the premiere of the “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” where a part is “played” by a vintage Vespa, take their cue from the Hepburn-Peck duo for the photographers.
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the Hollywood hit "Roman Holiday" (1953) were the first in a long series of world-famous actors and actresses who have been filmed on the saddle of the best-selling scooter, which has also been the co-star of hundreds of movies since then, ranging from “Quadrophenia” to “American Graffiti”, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “102 Dalmatians” to the more recent “Alfie” with Jude Law, “The Interpreter” with Nicole Kidman and the “Transformers” blockbuster series (the fifth film in the saga directed by Michael Bay is due for release in 2017, and once again will feature a Vespa scooter), as well as “The American” with George Clooney, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” by Guy Ritchie and “Zoolander 2” directed by and starring Ben Stiller, with co-stars Owen Wilson and Penelope Cruz.
Penelope Cruz and Ben Stiller on the set of “Zoolander 2” with the Vespa co-star.
The Vespa has also appeared in celebrated movies by great Italian directors like Dino Risi, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, such as “Caro Diario” by Nanni Moretti, “Romanzo Criminale” by Michele Placido and “Cinema Paradiso”, an Oscar and Golden Globe winner directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.
Taormina, 2011 edition of the “Nastri d’Argento” festival: director and actor Nanni Moretti “autographs” a celebratory Vespa PX.
In photos, in films and on movie sets, the Vespa has been the “travelling companion” of movie stars including Raquel Welch, Ursula Andress, Geraldine Chaplin, Joan Collins, Jayne Mansfield, Virna Lisi, Milla Jovovich, Marcello Mastroianni, Charlton Heston, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Gary Cooper, Anthony Perkins, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Nanni Moretti, Sting, Natalie Wood, Brigitte Bardot, Paul Newman, Antonio Banderas, Matt Damon, Gérard Depardieu, Jude Law, Eddie Murphy, Owen Wilson and Nicole Kidman. And this is only a partial list, given the large numbers of stars, past and present, who have loved and continue to love the Vespa.
Even more difficult is a census of the Vespa’s appearances in world cinema: starting in the mid-1950s, the Vespa has been a “player” in at least a thousand movies, from Hollywood to Bollywood, via the Italian and European film industries. The relationship between the Vespa and the cinema really is a “love story”, which, 70 years on, continues to create new emotions on the world stage and captivate whole generations.
The celebrated scenes with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck riding a Vespa round the streets of Rome were a formidable “commercial” for the scooter, the Italian symbol of genius, design and style, and launched the Vespa on the international markets. To the point that the prestigious Forbes magazine wrote: “That 1954 Oscar for the splendid Audrey Hepburn should have gone to the other ‘female star’. While Gregory Peck was courting Hepburn, the whole world fell in love with the metallic green Vespa 125…”.
BACKSTAGE SNIPPET: LOW OR HIGH HEADLAMP? There is a lesser known detail about the movie “Roman Holiday”: during production, for the first time a number of images were circulated of a Vespa with a headlamp on the handlebar rather than on the mudguard (which was the original arrangement of the model sold at the time); the purpose was to make life easier for the cameramen, because the headlamp on the mudguard created a dispersive light effect, caused by the reflection on the camera.
A number of scenes were shot with the “new” version of the Vespa, but in the end director William Wyler decided to use the current model with the low headlamp. Piaggio subsequently began production of the new model with the headlamp on the handlebar.
The Vespa 125 Mod. 51 (V30T), 1951, co-star of the movie “Roman Holiday”.
The Vespa 125 U, 1953, the first model with the headlamp on the handlebar.
(The photographs were selected with the assistance of the Historical Archive of the Piaggio Foundation-Museum in Pontedera).
Alessandro Del Piero.
Make sure you don’t miss the exhibition “The Vespa and the Movies”, organised in cooperation with the Piaggio Foundation and Promocinema and with the participation of Italy's National Cinema Museum, which can be seen until 31 August 2016 in Alessandro Del Piero’s ADPLOG exhibition space in Turin. A fascinating exploration of the indissoluble relationship between the iconic scooter and the movies, the exhibition presents photos and stills from countless films, together with several Vespa models covering 70 years of history, style and social change. The APDLOG space has also been transformed into a movie theatre, with weekly screenings of the most important films starring the Vespa.ADPtv | La Vespa e il Cinema | 2016
The Turin event is a new updated version of the exhibition organised in 2010 at the Piaggio Museum and subsequently shown in Turin for the 150th anniversary of Italian Unification, at the “Nastri d’Argento” film festival in Taormina, in Cannes and in St Petersburg. This year – the 70th anniversary of the Vespa – it is back in Turin.
World soccer star Alessandro Del Piero opened the exhibition on 7 June: “When I was asked whether it would be possible to host “The Vespa and the Movies” exhibition in my ADPLOG space in Turin, I agreed enthusiastically,” he said, “because the space houses my passions from a variety of worlds, from sport to art, photography and cinema, and the great excellences of Italy. The legendary Vespa scooter embraces all this: a sporting spirit and desire for freedom, the essence of Italian design, an iconic protagonist in memorable movie scenes and, above all, an example of Italian excellence, which is recognised and admired all over the world.”
(PHOTOS: © EDGE Srl).