Back in 1985, Nancy Cartwright had no idea that one of her acting teachers recommending Italian director Federico Fellini’s 1954 film La Strada would have such a deep impact on her life.
After developing a connection to the drama and its characters, Cartwright made it her mission to turn it into a one-woman show and even reached out to Fellini himself to gain rights to the movie. But when his office’s response turned her down, Cartwright didn’t take “no” for answer, and soon she was in Italy in search of the filmmaker.
“I’d never been to Italy before. I’m in my 20’s — though I can’t speak the language. So, I took off. I ate, I drank, I fell in love — I did everything a single woman should and shouldn’t do when visiting,” the actress and screenwriter explains. “I got in trouble. And when you watch [Cartwright’s film In Search of Fellini] you’ll see, because about 70 percent of what you see, I did that.”
After she returned from her adventure abroad, Cartwright realized her own personal experience was the real story that she needed to tell, even though it took over 20 years for it to come to life.
Teaming with director Taron Lexton (who also is a Fellini buff) for In Search of Fellini, Cartwright peppered her script with a number of references to the Italian filmmaker that savvy audiences may pick up on. “Taron found that, chronologically, my journey paralleled exactly the way Fellini’s films were shot,” she explains. “So there are all these Easter eggs that, if you are a Fellini fan, you’ll recognize the horse from La Strada.”
For fans of Cartwright’s voice work on The Simpsons, she made sure an Easter egg for her mischievous, spikey-haired character Bart was included in the new film.