Riccardo Scamarcio is too humble to know it, but his “Hello” purrs with the masculine warmth of a fine Cohiba cigar. If he wasn’t also so darned handsome, you might say he had a face for the radio. But the actor, famous for his roles in Three Steps Over Heaven, Loro, The Ruthless, and Hollywood films like the second John Wick, is as renowned an actor as he is an Italian sex-symbol. Scamarcio is one of the country’s most recognisable male actors. But he has also started producing films—many of them dream projects—with his company The Big Lebowski (“I’m quite different from The Dude,” he admits). His next feature, 2 Win, is inspired by the fierce rally battle between Italy’s Lancia and Germany’s Audi at the 1983 Rally World Championships. It is directed by Stefano Mordini and co-produced with Jeremy Thomas. 

“It is the story of a rivalry and a friendship,” Scamarcio tells me. He plays underdog Cesare Fiorio up against the unbeatable Roland Grumpert (Daniel Bruhl). So inspired by the human element to the true story, Scamarcio delved into the unfamiliar world of rally driving, and even learned from real pilots. “You won’t see me driving like that in Rome,” he laughs, “well, not unless I need to get somewhere really fast…” Here, Riccardo talks about 2 Win, and the similarities between actors and racing drivers. 

This is really a European tale. It’s about the difference in nationalities; a small team from Italy—order in disorder—trying to achieve the impossible against the successful German team. It’s a metaphor for Europe in some ways: Different cultures sharing something in common, but in a David versus Goliath type battle, and although it was an amazing achievement, it never had the spotlight it deserved. I just thought, ‘I’d love to tell that story’, and after three years of writing, I have connected much more deeply with these people and their journey. 

I met the real Cesare by accident. It is kind of unbelievable. I bought a vintage cupboard at a shop in Puglia, and noticed the owner’s MG station-wagon. We started talking about cars, so I told him about our film, and he said, “Cesare is my friend. He comes here.” I was in disbelief. He gave me Cesare’s number and I phoned him, and it turns out he lived rather close to me, in the middle of nowhere. We met and he told me all the stories; we’ve even become friends. He’s going to have a small part in the movie. 

Motorsports are dangerous. But there’s a mysterious fascination with danger, especially in cinema. There’s a line in the film: “Instead of hiding death, we run towards it, to kiss it away.” But the film is really about talent. To make it as real as possible, we hired genuine pilots, including the 2020 rally world champion, and got all of the original cars. I was always annoying them with questions—asking how to do certain turns…not that I need it in my everyday drive. Maybe [laughs]. 

There’s a crossover with acting. With drivers, sure, but also footballers. It’s all about that single creative moment of magic and staying controlled under pressure—like Francesco Totti’s chipped penalty. Pure class. I believe that an actor should have the power to manage situations and especially tough conditions. The pilots on set exemplify this. There’s a scene with no cuts, and it’s a minute-and-fifty-seconds from the car, non-stop, full speed. Seeing it like that feels more like an hour, and even more impressive is that the driver had never been on that road before, but knew exactly how to handle it. 

Funny enough, my first car was a Lancia too. A Lancia Ypsilon. Then, ironically, I bought a German Audi A4. Truthfully, I wasn’t so passionate about racing cars when I was younger. It’s something I’ve learned to appreciate over time. My dream cars were always Aston Martin. Not because of Bond, but because of their timeless style. 

Everyone has their own habit on set. The pilots even have unique rituals; some would perform the cross, and others would drink a lot of water. But I’ve never had a ritual. I’m too distracted, and then at the last section—action! I think it helps. Too much focus isn’t good for me. I’ll overthink it. I need to just jump into the scene and be natural. 

To be an actor, you need to be ready to be ridiculous. You have to be fine with making a fool of yourself and exposing your emotions. It’s easy to choke. To worry what the audience thinks. If you aren’t ready to face endless humiliation, it isn’t the job for you. 

Who says I’m a sex symbol? OK, fine. I’m aware of what they say, but I’ll never define myself as that. It would be weird, but I guess it’s better than being known as a moron. Our job as actors is to deliver emotions, and I’d like to be known as an empathetic person instead. But sex is wonderful. We all need to make love, it’s one of the more important things. So perhaps being sexy, as they say, has its uses. Who knows?