Filippo Scotti

Relieving trauma has Filippo Scotti revisit parts and memories of himself

Filippo Scotti wears a worried look as he fires off apologies for being five minutes late into the call. He was helping his friend with a project and lost track of time. He asked him to pedal fast when the two breezed through the street on his friend’s bike, hoping to catch the interview on time. After a bout of reassurance that he has nothing to worry about, he drinks from his 1.5 liters of water bottle to fight off the 38 degrees celsius heat crashing over Rome. Drinking tons of water forms part of his daily routine along with hours of physical training for his next project. NR tries to break through the secret project, but Filippo’s lips remain sealed. The only piece of information he gives is that “imagine wearing a t-shirt when it is 10 degrees out there. I have to prepare my body for that.” He assures us that he will not be doing jump stunts like Tom Cruise. Even if that were the project, Scotti would buckle down in a heartbeat to physically prepare for it.

On starting out

Scotti started out as a theater actor in Naples at the age of 16, and even before that, his mother had encouraged him to try his hand out at acting when he was 11. While on tour with his theater group for shows, an agency signed him, the gradual shift of the young actor from theater to cinema. His new lineup brimmed with auditions where he would prepare each day to spew out his memorized lines with depth to match his character’s emotions, almost melding with his own. Those moments culminated in Scotti earning the role of Fabietto Schisa in Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God (2021). Now that he is thinking about it with NR, he admits he got lucky.

Working for the movie nudged Scotti to look at the cinema industry as a spider web where he always has to move, audition, secure roles, act, and go on press tours. The cycle repeats, and he admits it took him a while to get a hang of the rhythm. But his strike of luck keeps him in the spotlight, project after project. “I am also lucky that people whom I worked and work with trust and have taught me how to be and stay in character, to always be ready for what is coming. I am always learning and never stopping, and that is a double-edged sword for me. It scares me, but at the same time, it excites me. The whole experience is just wonderful,” he says.

On preparing for the shoot

From luck, the conversation flows to how mathematical he sees the process of being on set is. Everything seems to be planned – a miscalculation in schedule, equipment, script, and post-production means shooting delays. The viewers see the finished product flashed on the cinema screens, but it only scratches the surface of what happens behind the scenes (not the bloopers that seem to detract the attention from the hard work invested in producing and making a movie).

Scotti tells NR that often he wakes up early only to start shooting late in the afternoon or at night. The physical and mental preparation he undergoes also comes in handy when his first hours are spent idly waiting for his turn. Then, when he acts in a scene and the first take is not good enough, it might take two, three, four, five, or more takes before he can settle down. “During the shoot, I block out any thoughts so I can stay focused on my character. When I do more than five takes – even four because I always target a maximum of three takes – I start to hit this wall and fall into this repetition. It affects the way I act, so I strive to get it all done before the third take,” he says.

On relieving trauma

For The Hand of God, some takes took more than three times, and as the shooting went on, Scotti found himself in the shoes of Fabietto’s character, beyond the biopic he was portraying. He would think of ways to tap into Fabietto’s pain and tragic experiences, but would end up feeling obligated to play the role. Sorrentino noticed, sat with him, and told him that he should give his truth to the lines of his character. “If I am to say my lines, I should think of my truth – the painful events that happened in my life,” he says. Scotti followed the director’s advice and soon, he relieved his truth, even if it meant digging up the past he had already buried. “While I did not live the tragedy Fabietto lived, I felt the pain he felt as I remembered my past,” Scotti tells NR.

When asked about the experiences he went through, Scotti pauses. Seconds of silence have passed before he speaks. “I am only going to share one event that was strange for me,” he begins. When he was in high school, Scotti enjoyed the company of his friends, the topics his teachers delved into, and the theater classes he had in between. Yet the young actor felt as if he was in limbo, the weight of an unknown sensation seemed to be putting him in stagnation. He felt stuck and he could not pinpoint why. “Until now, I find it hard to describe the feeling,” he says. “I wanted to study, but I did not want to study. There was this push-and-pull feeling that tired me out.” Suddenly, Scotti was playing a role of a character who was stuck and wanted to find a way out, a real-life portrayal of a role he saw in movies. Like a coming-of-age movie, he figured out that he felt free after he pursued acting full-time. He still studies for pleasure from time to time, but he no longer has time to beat. His pace, his time.

Relieving his past traumas for his role in The Hand of God made Scotti realize how, at times, he has to take off his mask and acknowledge and understand his vulnerability. “To accept it is difficult sometimes,” he says. “But I feel lighter afterward, knowing that I have understood what it meant.”

On fame and recognition

Scotti has experienced being recognized on the street for his role as Fabietto. When asked if the gradual build-up of fame surrounding his career affects him, he says that he is more focused on the emotions and depth he dedicates to his roles rather than the recognition he receives from the public. It pleases him to know that he can influence viewers with his acting – he even receives direct messages on his social media, which he reads, double taps, and treasures – and Scotti reminds us that the Scotti who portrayed a role in his previous project differs from the Scotti today. “Am I the same person? Would I be able to do better in the next project? Responsibilities come and go. I love being the message people can relate to, and I hope to continue that.”

On moving beyond acting

During his press tours for The Hand of God, Scotti was asked at times if he wanted to be a director one day. He could not remember when he had said that, or if he had even said it at all, but somehow, it piqued the press’ curiosity over his next venture. For NR, he says he loves writing and the idea of crafting characters over directing a movie, but that above all, he would love to produce movies. “If I were to have the opportunity in the future, I would love to open my own production company,” he says. “It would be difficult but worth it at the same time. The idea is exciting, to be honest.” 

Scotti already has a name for his production company, but he says he will keep it to himself for now. As for the movies he will produce, he wants some gut-wrenching scripts based on reality. They do not have to be drama or tragedy. He envisions his movies as means to address topics that the general public might not be open or ready yet to talk about or reflect on. While he is unsure of specific themes, his statement circles back to how he dealt with his trauma, a potential overview of the visual narratives he wants the public to see.

On reflecting on his own

As a fan of words, Scotti used to bring a notepad in his pocket to jot down his thoughts. They were gone the moment they crossed his mind, and he wanted to keep track of these phrases, hoping they would make sense when he revisits them in the future. Touring and traveling means he stays far from home and finds himself on his own. In the times he is in his own space, Scotti ponders on life, love, movies, his career, his next path, his decisions, his regrets, and what he might have forgotten to say or do. “For example, I am living in Rome and my family is living in Naples. It feels far and close at the same time. I check in with myself on what I feel when I experience this. Then, I write down my thoughts,” he says. He has replaced his notepad with a ‘notes’ app on his phone. He reminds us that his thoughts are not poetry, but just jumbled words that made sense to him at the moment of writing, a set of word vomit he feels acquainted with.

Filippo Scotti appears hesitant to share one of his personal thoughts. He fumbles on his phone and stammers as he finds an excuse to refuse. We assure him it is fine if he does not want to share anything. He calls his typed-down thoughts shitty and bad. We disagree. He turns his phone to the camera and shows a long list of saved thoughts on his app. He clicks on one and purses his lips. “Last night, I dreamed of your pain. Up close, I can see the waves of the sea,” he reads. Earlier, he said he wants to base his acting on emotions for people to relate with, a mission he eyes to fulfill by playing a character. His delivery for NR can attest that while he still has mountains to climb, he is already on his way to reaching their peaks.


Talent · Filippo Scotti
Photography · Bobby Buddy at Kaptive
Fashion · Victoire Seveno at Kaptive
Hair and Grooming · Miwa Moroki
Set Design · Clara de Gobert and Nico Plinio Lanteri
Agents · Carole Congos and Amal Jefjef
Fashion Assistant · Flore de Sermet
Special thanks to Gianni Galli


  1. Full look PRADA
  2. Full look PRADA
  3. Full look PRADA
  4. Full look PRADA
  5. T-shirt RON DORFF, jacket, trouser and shoes BOTTEGA VENETA
  6. Full look PRADA
  7. Jacket ACNE STUDIOS and t-shirt RON DORFF

Agnes Questionmark

“This is my dream, of being a new creature, half-human, half fish, to be a hybrid, something that can’t be recognised or put in a box.”

During May of this year, while we were just emerging out of a third lockdown and entering a world that was both forever changed and somewhat the same, something else, or rather someone, was also in the midst of transformation. In an abandoned health centre in Belsize Park the art installation/performance Transgenesis curated by The Orange Garden and Charlie Mills, was taking place. Over the course of twenty-three days, Italian artist Agnes Questionmark (Agnes?) climbed into the body of a giant octopus sculpture, which took up the entirety of a drained swimming pool, and stayed there for eight hours every day until the exhibition was over. 

For Agnes Questionmark (Agnes?) the start of the exhibition was also the start of her transition from the gender she was assigned at birth. However, she also considers herself trans-species, stating that her “dysphoria is not only gender-related but of species too. I wish I could find a hormone that allows me to become an octopus.” The sea plays a big part in Agnes Questionmark (Agnes?)’ work, she grew up on her father’s boat and being underwater is a comforting experience for her, which she has likened to returning to the womb. NR Magazine joins the artist in conversation. 

Your father was a sailor and you grew up on a boat. What was that like and how do you think those experiences have influenced your artwork specifically?

I grew up in my father’s boat. At the age of three, I discovered the underwater world holding his hand and at the age of eight, I dived for the first time by myself. The experience of being underwater was always a comfort zone, a familiar place where I would feel at home. I would fish and hunt, explore the fluid element with my body, feeling part of that habitat.
Being completely submerged was what I liked the most. In that precise moment, which only lasted a few seconds, I would feel at peace. Under the water, where sound is muffled, where sight is blurred, where touch is slimy, my body becomes light, my skin soft, I feel a sense of belonging, it’s like going back to the origin and falling into the arms of mother sea.

When my mother told me that, before she gave birth, I would hide in the womb, I realised that I had an unresolved relationship with my mother’s womb. I realised that my whole life I was trying to go back into my mother’s womb. I am trying to recreate that sensorial experience, being into the amniotic liquid, in the placenta. And the place where I felt closer to my mother’s womb is under the water.
Through my art and my performances, I am creating the feeling of being inside my mother’s womb, to perhaps solve my relationship with it.

I also grew up by the sea and one of my favourite games was to grab a big rock and sink to the seafloor to see how long I could hold my breath for. You stated that “Underwater was always a safe place, a place of comfort.” Did you ever play similar games and do you consider your artwork an extension of the play and exploration the ocean encourages in our childhood?

Holding myself with a rock underwater is still my favourite game. I can now hold my breath for about two minutes, so I have lots of fun holding myself with whatever I find under the water. As I said before, while I am underwater I remind myself that I am still in the womb. I like to watch around me and feel part of the habitat, I would look at the fish and pretend to talk to them, I would look at the rocks and pretend they are part of my house.

Your performance in Transgenesis lasted eight hours a day for twenty-three days. How did you cope with such long performances and did the experience affect you after the exhibition was finished?

Transgenesis was a ritual of self-destruction that announced the beginning of a new transformation. The day I started the performance was the day I started my hormone replacement therapy (HRT). While my body was standing at the top of a giant octopus, inside my body a real transformation was taking place. I was changing in real-time in front of the spectator. Even though the changes were not visible I would feel them. Since the first day I felt my body differently, touching myself felt different, my mood was different and my body began little changes that only I could perceive. Alas! I could not enjoy them because I was trapped and chained in the octopus. Every day I had to stand for 8 hours and perform.
It was devastating, an extreme action that consumed all my forces and all my energies. I felt exhausted, the more I would keep going the more I would feel the pain. I needed this process of destruction, I needed to die, to let a part of myself decay in order to flourish a new being. 

After the performance, I felt like a new person. Agnes? Was finally born and my new life began. It was the most dramatic ritual I could ever stage and I decided to share it with everyone. The show went viral, more than four thousand people booked themselves in and walked along my installation. There was a sort of peregrination towards the octopus. Everyone wanted to come see the great mother.

Over the course of the twenty-three-day performance that you did for Transgenesis you must have seen a lot of visitors. How did they normally react to your work and what was the most interesting reaction you witnessed?

Most visitors couldn’t believe their eyes. I immediately felt that I created something out of normal by looking at their faces, they were all scared but somehow enchanted by me. The experience was sublime, in a romantic view of a tragedy happening in front of their eyes, like a shipwreck. The viewer was contemplating a suffering being from a safe position, but they were still scared of falling, they wouldn’t get too close, they wouldn’t talk too loud, they would carefully choose their movements, they were all attracted by me but also very frightened. The energy in the room was very dense, all day there was a constant flux of people entering in the dark and loud space. Sometimes I would rest, sometimes I would be very angry, sometimes I would be calm and quiet. Often the spectator determined the energy of the room, I would perform with them at an unconscious level.
One day, a lady came right in front of me, she looked directly into my eyes and we looked at each other for a long time, I was repeatedly moving my arms back and forth following my breath, slowly she started synchronising my movements, it felt like an instinctive reaction to the connection we established. We performed for some minutes, together, moving our arms, looking directly in our eyes without touching but still connecting.

 A man used to come every other day, he used to sit down in front of me with dark sunglasses and watch me for hours. No movements, he would just sit down, listen and watch me perform. One day towards the end of the performance he stood up and started dancing like crazy. At that point I was exhausted, it was almost 8 hours of performance, but suddenly I felt all the energies recharged, he gave me strength and I started to perform with him, I felt like laughing and screaming but I could just express myself through my arms and my breath. Later on I discovered he was the singer of R.E.M.
Since the show was completely free we had the most disparate range of audience, from kids to adults, young students, to curators and gallerists, bougie of the neighbourhood or those who lived or were just lost on the street. An old woman came twice, I recognised her because she was holding the same plastic bag, she was messy and dressed as if she just came out from a Tim Burton movie. She wasn’t scared at all, she immediately came close to me, she came very close until she touched one tentacle. She was the one who came closer and stood up next to me and watched me from a very close distance. At first, I was scared because I felt vulnerable, I felt I had no vantage point towards her, she made me feel tiny and shy even though I was a giant octopus 5 metres tall and 9 metres long…

Your work is very personal and explores your transition. Do you think that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have allowed people more time and freedom to explore their own gender identity?

Yes, of course, statistics say that gender transition triplicated after Covid. I don’t think it was a matter of having more time to reflect and think but rather we were forced to face our own body because we were left alone with it. There was no opportunity to escape or avoid ourselves, no places to hide. Alone with our bodies, so we all had to find new relationships with ourselves and new compromises.

You have spoken of how your work explores the scientific, particularly in relation to the body. Do you think as technology advances the use of cybernetic body enhancements will become commonplace? Is that something you would potentially explore in the future? 

I was always interested in re-shaping and re-exploring my body. I feel our body is a potential machine in constant transformation. Watching my body changing radically through medicines is inspiring me to transform it at an even deeper level. Gender transition is the first step towards my cybernetic future. My next step would be exploring the possibility to expand my senses towards other beings in the sea, and therefore use extensions of my body to connect with them. 

You have stated that your dysphoria is not only related to your assigned gender but mainly caused by your assigned species. Recently there has been a rise in popularity in non-human x human relationships in media. Do you think there is a collective desire for marginalized groups to move away from ‘humanity’ and escape post-capitalist patriarchal trauma by becoming and embracing the otherworldly? 

Fascination with the non-human is becoming more popular and of a trend. Human prostheses, body extensions, claws, tentacles, tails, we dream of becoming a post-human creature to transcend our humanity and become something new. This is my dream, of being a new creature, half-human, half fish, to be a hybrid, something that can’t be recognised or put in a box. I am tired of being a human, my body is not representing what I feel. I feel more connected to the sea, I wish to talk with its creatures and connect with them and perhaps create new bonds. For this reason, we should rethink our way of communicating and relating to the world and start creating new ways of communication, starting with ourselves and our bodies. If we want to be post-human we ought to destroy our notion of being human and see ourselves as a potential being in constant transformation.

You have spoken often about wishing to return to your mother’s womb and your connection with female octopi who die when they become mothers. Do you consider yourself to have a fascination with the concept of motherhood and do you consider the creation of your artwork as a kind of birth?

The concept of the womb is the one of gestating life. I feel like my art is a womb, my studio is a placenta where things and beings are born. It’s a place that destroys to reshape itself, that kills and gives birth, like the mother. The mother has always been the figure of life and death at the same time. This is why we are all scared of our mother because we know she can kill us.

What advice do you have for young creatives looking to explore their identity and what does identity mean to you?

Identity doesn’t exist, gender is a construction of society. So forget about everything you learned and do whatever you like. You make your own rules. Be a rock star, be a rebel, don’t give a fuck about anything; don’t listen to anyone, follow your instinct and make lots of mistakes.
I always remember that I have the agency of being whatever I want to be, and If you want to be an octopus I am proof that you can do it!

Are you working on any projects at the moment and what plans do you have for the future?

I am transforming at a fast speed, everyday I am a new person. So my work is changing very fast too. I see and feel things differently, so I am enjoying my transformation and letting my new ideas come out. There are lots of projects I am working on at the moment, one of them is in collaboration with a great Greek artist who is also a trans-pieces queen so we are making something very special together.

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