'Gomorrah' Actor Sentenced to 14 Years For Extortion

The actor, working under a stage name, was arrested in 2008 after being recognized by inmates during a screening of the organized crime drama.

ISCHIA, Italy – Giovanni Venosa, the Naples actor who played a key role in Matteo Garrone’s award winning epic organized crime thriller Gomorrah and then was arrested for being part of the real Naples mob the film explored, was sentenced Tuesday to nearly 14 years behind bars for extortion.

The sentencing is the latest life-imitating-art-imitating-life moment for the 2008 film, which won the jury prize in Cannes and earned rave reviews from critics. A month ago, prosecutors in Milan accused Garrone of illegally collaborating with Naples crime families while making the film.

In the latest news, Venosa-- his stage name, not his actual name -- was sentenced to 13 years and 10 months in prison for his alleged crimes.

Venosa was a successful local stage actor in Naples before Garrone selected him for the role in the film. He was captured only after the film was screened in a local prison and inmates recognized him. In the film, the character Venosa played killed two teenagers and threatened to decapitate another. His work was praised for its authenticity.

Gomorrah -- the title is a play on words crossing the Biblical city of Gomorrah and the Camorra, the official name for the Neapolitan Mafia -- graphically and darkly tells the stories of five people who try to make a compact with the crime families. Author Roberto Saviano, who wrote the book the film was based on, receives state protection against death threats received after the book was published.