Andrea Bocelli’s name is basically synonymous with Italian music, but there was a time when the legendary singer was told he’d never be a serious opera singer. In fact, he’s been attacked by critics more than once throughout his storied career. But rather than shy away from the controversy, Bocelli is embracing his unconventional start in the new biopic, The Music of Silence.
The film follows Bocelli’s life from birth to stardom, changing actors as he grows. As a teen, Bardi is portrayed by Game of Thrones’s Toby Sebastian (fans may remember him as Trystane Martell). He captures well Bocelli’s persona, his dialect and his movement. But as for his singing voice, he left that for the pro: Bocelli recorded voiceovers for the film, including never-before-released music that he composed when he was young.
“It was a bit weird,” Bocelli told InStyle of having himself portrayed on screen. But there’s comfort in the fact that while similar, the film—based on his 1999 memoir of the same name—doesn’t follow his exact life story. “There is an obvious distance between reality and the story, the story in my book as well as the story in the movie,” he said.
“I didn’t want it to be an autobiography, a historical book,” Bocelli added. One marked difference is the main character’s name: Rather than take his own, Bocelli chose to name the protagonist Amos Bardi. “I believed that when you tell about yourself in the third person, then you can be more authentic in a way.”
As much as it centers on Bocelli’s singing career, it’s also largely about his disability. He was born with congenital glaucoma, and lost his sight all together at age 12 in a soccer accident. In the film, Amos is determined not to become a musician, as he considers it a job that blind people do. It isn’t until he meets a singing coach, played by Antonio Banderas, that he leans into his talent.
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“What made me feel that I was doing something right is that whenever I went anywhere, people would ask me to sing,” he told InStyle.
Later in life, Bocelli would be asked to sing by many talented musicians. He picks out Céline Dion and Ed Sheeran as two of his favorite duets, the latter of which he collaborated with last year on Sheeran’s hit song “Perfect.”
“He’s at the same time very humble and also very serious in what he’s doing,” Bocelli told us. “It was him who asked me to sing with him, and my children were already his fans. It was also very, very fun recording the song together with him. And I did it partly also as a gift to my children, who are his fans, because they’d love to meet him and hear him sing live of course.”
As his new film hits theaters, Bocelli is once again ignoring the critics. “I really hope that people go home feeling better, having enjoyed the movie, having had a positive period of time while watching. Feeling good in their soul,” he said of his hope for the movie.
The Music of Silence hits theaters and Digital HD on Feb. 2.