(Previously- Satyricon 1 – The Historical Satyricon)

The full title of the film is Fellini Satyricon (minus the possessive) because there were a few other films that had already registered the singular title Satyricon by 1969. None of them, however, attempted to do what Fellini did in his production. It was filmed almost entirely within soundstages at the famous Roman studio Cinecittà from November 1968 to May 1969.[1] It was his first film “in four years, his first in costume, the most costly film he had ever made, and the first with foreign financial backing.[2]

Fellini claimed that he originally had a whim to make Petronius’ novel into an anti-fascist parody when he first read it in 1939, and only began seriously thinking about turning it into a film in 1968 when he signed a new contract and needed to state what his next project would be.[3]

Many of the leads were British and American actors, although still relatively unknown when they were cast by Fellini. He originally wanted to cast Terence Stamp, the French actor Pierre Clémenti, Boris Karloff (!), and Gert Fröbe (Goldfinger from the James Bond film), but these actors were either too expensive or unavailable. Therefore, he turned to his usual stable of actors (many of who were amateurs) and actually chose his two young male leads from their handsome headshots.[4]

The Principal Cast

(Characters are given their original Latin names rather than their Italian versions)

Martin Potter as Encolpius: After the Satyricon, Potter acted in British television and films including a 1975 mini-series where he starred as Robin Hood. He stopped acting in the late 1980’s.

Hiram Keller as Ascyltus, Encolpius’ friend: American Keller was a Broadway actor and a member of the Lee Strasberg Actors Studio. He was in the original production of Hair and was part of Warhol’s Factory. After the Satyricon, Keller stayed in Italy to work in several other Italian productions, but like Potter, mostly stopped acting in the 1980’s. He died in 1997 of liver cancer.

Max Born as Giton, the beautiful youth: Not much is known about Born. He was British and does not seem to have acted in any further films. Someone else dubbed his few spoken lines in the Satyricon. In the 1960’s he was supposedly involved in the drug counterculture but stabilized his life by the 1980’s.[5]

Salvo Randone as Eumolpus, the poet: Sicilian actor who had over 50 film credits to his name, mainly in the 1960’s and 70’s. He was the long-time husband of Italian actress Neda Naldi before he died in 1991.

Mario Romagnoli as Trimalchio, the vulgar freedman: Although he performed brilliantly as Trimalchio, Romagnoli was not a professional actor and does not seem to have acted in any other films. He owned trattoria near the Trevi Fountain and was a close friend of Fellini. His real name was not in the credits of the Satyricon. Instead, he was listed as “Il Moro”, the name of his restaurant.  Fellini originally wanted Boris Karloff for this role, but the famous actor was too ill to take part.  Karloff died while the Satyricon was in production.

Magali Noël as Fortunata, Trimalchio’s wife: Turkish actress Noël had a very long career, stretching from the 1950’s to the 21st century, and appeared in several other Fellini films.

Capucine as Tryphaena, the courtesan: This French model became an actress in the 1960’s. She had an affair with William Holden and befriended Audrey Hepburn. Her stage name was the French word for a kind of flower. She had a very adventurous life but suffered as a manic-depressive, attempting suicide several times before finally succeeding as an old woman in 1990. She jumped to her death from her 8th floor apartment, leaving behind only three cats as heirs.

Alain Cuny as Lichas, the captain: Cuny went to school to become a doctor in France, but eventually moved into the film industry first as a designer and then as an actor. He played a famous role in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and continued acting until the 1990’s when he died.

A documentary was made of the filming (titled Ciao, Federico!) by the American journalist Gideon Bachman. In it, we can glimpse how much the hippie movement and psychedelic counterculture was embraced on the set, and many of the actors and extras were American and British hippies who were in Rome for various reasons or part of Fellini’s extended social circle.

(Up Next- Satyricon 3 – Fellini as Director)


[1] Kezich, Tullio (2006), Federico Fellini: His Life and Work (New York: Faber and Faber). p.410.

[2] Hughes, Eileen Lanouette (1971). On the Set of Fellini Satyricon: A Behind-the-Scenes Diary (William Morrow), p. 5.

[3] Ibid., p. 4.

[4] Tullio (2006), p.290-291.

[5] www.imdb.com/name/nm0097034/board/thread/126617845