It happened on 6 April 2009 at 3:32 local time. The epicentre was near L'Aquila, the capital of Abruzzo region. The earthquake, rated 5.8 on the Richter scale, shook the central Italy. More than 308 people have died and around 1.500 was injured.

Abruzzo had been chosen to be the setting for George Clooney’s latest movie The American, but the earthquake changed the plans. Anton Corbijn, the director of the movie, and veteran Italian producer Enzo Sisti tried to find new locations, but eventually they were able to shoot the movie in Castel del Monte and Castelvecchio, both about 40 and 50 kilometers away from L’Aquila. However, Sulmona, a town in the Southern part of Abruzzo (and the birthplace of the poet Ovid) replaced L’Aquila as the third major location in the movie.

Castel del Monte from the movie The American (2010, Focus Features, screen capture)

The American is a slow-paced character study/thriller about a lonely assassin Jack (Clooney) trying to complete his last assignment while being pursued. Jack was sent on a mission in a small Italian village. He moves into the area and has to build a gun for a female customer.

Corbijn, famous for his music videos and movie Control, had enough time to show the beauty of the Abruzzo area and especially the town of Castel Del Monte. This medieval hill town is set into a steep hillside and the name Castel del Monte is from the Latin “Castellum de Montis” or fortress down from the mountains. According to the Italian Statistical Institute Castel del Monte's resident population on January 1, 2008 were just 463.

Castel del Monte from the movie The American (2010, Focus Features, screen capture)


As you might’ve expected tourism has became one of the most important drivers of town’s progress. Castel del Monte's biggest tourist event is La Notte delle Streghe or The Night of the Witches. In 2006, the town was named one of “I Borghi Piu belli D'Italia”, the most beautiful villages of Italy. Castel del Monte of Abruzzo must not be mistaken with another Castel del Monte, a 13th century castle situated in the Apulia region of southeast Italy.

Castel del Monte (aerial view) from the movie The American (2010, Focus Features, screen capture)


But now here comes the most important question: will the appearance of Castel del Monte in The American really boost tourism in the Abruzzo area as expected? After the earthquake the area will definitely benefit from the increased number of tourists. With the estimated budget of $20m, the movie is at the moment quite successful ($60m worldwide gross as of 9 November 2010). Remember: in 2008 a small movie In Bruges grossed $33m worldwide and contributed heavily to the promotion of the city.

I really hope that the movie will increase the number of tourists in the area, because the landscape and the town are spectacular. Furthermore I hope that new visitors will also give hope to the people in L’Aquila and Abruzzo. Enzo Sisti said that while shooting the movie they achieved some sort of synergy: people needed the filmmakers because they were very depressed, and the filmmakers needed them for the locations.

He also said: “They told me later that we brought a small part of happiness — we helped the people to come out, to be happy.”

A boost in optimism will be nice, too.