"Good Morning, Babylon's" screenplay credit includes the distinguished veteran Tonino Guerra as collaborator, and Paolo explained that while he did no writing on the script, he was their adviser. "Tonino told us, 'You have a wall, you throw the script against the wall. The wall is me, and I hope that some of its white chalk rubs off on your script.' "
Having done their homework before coming to Los Angeles for the first time to prepare for their film, the Tavianis were not expecting to find much of Old Hollywood extant. In the vicinity of the long-gone Griffith Studio at Sunset and Hollywood they did recognize from an old still one small cottage and a telephone pole, still leaning after all these decades. For the film, Hollywood in 1916 was re-created in an old studio outside Pisa, Italy.
"We researched everything we possibly could," said Vittorio, "but in the end you must kick it aside and do your own thing. All this background material gets in your blood and you don't think about it." Similarly, he explained that they did not allow themselves to be distracted by the language barrier, for "in the end a film is always images, style, sound. Let's just hope we end up with a good movie!"
The Tavianis agree that all their films are concerned with self-discovery. "To come to terms with this theme you have to have a kind of rapport with self, with nature and with others--society," Vittorio said. "And nature is very mysterious. The great questions are always Who am I? and Where am I going? I think it was Tolstoy who said 'I write to be loved by people I will never meet,' and that is why I make movies."
"When you've finished the movie and it's successful, you have this physical feeling that you have these power lines radiating out from you connecting you to others," Paolo added. "But if the film doesn't succeed, you feel strangled by them."
Win or lose, the Tavianis don't see the making of "Good Morning, Babylon" changing the kinds of films they make, but they were affected by its making. "We rediscovered how special the cinema is," Vittorio said. "It's a very precious thing. The spirit, the attitude, of the pioneers should be alive today. Life is very beautiful because it's full of surprises."