Lady Luck eyes recession-hit Italian reality show star
"Be nice to me please," whispers Daniele Santoianni, fresh from Grande Fratello, just before the camera starts rolling and the interview begins.
The 28-year-old former finance manager from Milan reveals a vulnerable side that his cool, calm and collected behaviour on the popular Italian reality TV show barely hinted at.
He chucks his cigarette before filming starts - "also because I don't want my mum to see me smoke" - and asks to change places because he prefers his right side. It's a matter of luck... or maybe vanity. And the reference to his mother is not because he is a mammone - "I just value my parents' opinion".
Daniele lasted 60 solid days in the Big Brother house, which premiered in October and concluded in March, making the 10th edition the longest Grande Fratello season.
He was probably the most good-looking male but his personality did not shine and he was accused of spending more time observing his reflection in the mirrors than contributing to the action, although it is hard to believe, given his confidence, sense of humour and warmth.
"Despite the accusations that I was foxy and tactical, I just brought my personality from outside to inside the house. It was not a game for me," he insists.
Like everyone else under 24-hour scrutiny in the house, Daniele was also accused of being false - the buzzword and best line of attack contestants could master. But he believes it was actually the problem of those who fired the accusation. "In my case, I feel many of the others did not understand me. My lifestyle was different from theirs."
Overnight, in typical Grande Fratello fashion, Daniele went from being a relative nobody to filming a movie in Malta and being known as far afield as here.
Today, he is recognised wherever he goes and he likes it. "But my lifestyle has not changed. My best friends before are the same now and I have the same relationships with everyone I knew."
He considers the life-changing experience to be a "big fortune" and a "good opportunity", which, being ambitious by nature, he plans to take complete advantage of.
Daniele aims to be an actor and is already on the right path, starring in a short film alongside Croatian model and showgirl Nina Moric, which is being submitted to the Cannes Film Festival next week.
Co-produced by Where's Everybody, it could be extended into a television series by Canale Cinque and a feature film in the coming year.
"I hope one day you can interview me again, this time as a big actor, and you will ask me: 'Daniele do you remember our first meeting?' I don't know, but I hope..."
The transition from manager to actor would seem simple but Daniele is now studying for his new role every day and plans to move to Rome to attend a good acting school.
"For me, to be good at anything, you need a serious and solid background and education," says the victim of the financial crisis.
Grande Fratello came along at the right time and luck continued to pour in after with up-and-coming Hollywood screenwriter Stefania Rosella Grassi "totally believing in me" for some reason. And he's not taking anything for granted. "I want to make the best of it for her and for me..."
In Stalking, he plays a police inspector. "I am a good man," he underlines. "The Italians look at me as a baddie, but I am not!"
In a previous telephone conversation, Daniele says the real winners of the reality television show emerge after and he seems to be insinuating that he is one of them.
"Absolutely not! The winner is my best friend Mauro (Marin). He was the only person I had a good relationship with. But I know that from this edition, I am the only one to have landed such a good opportunity!"
In every season, the winner does not necessarily break into show business and movies, he explains.
Despite his drive, Daniele denies any competition between the contestants and laughs when asked who he really disliked. Warned to avoid being diplomatic, he only says: "Three months have passed since the end of the programme. Today, I do not have a relationship with the others except for Mauro."
Sometimes, he is in touch with the controversial George Leonard, AKA Il Principe, and the equally explosive Veronica. But that is where it ends, he clarifies about his "very little story" with her, as the millions of viewers could attest to, having witnessed that stolen kiss.
Daniele has a decent command of English, especially for an Italian, but is sly enough to pretend he does not when the question may not be to his liking.
On the subject of Veronica and whether she is now making porn films - as he had suggested to her live on national television in an unexpected outburst on his part that got the studio cheering for him but sent the volatile and hysterical contestant screaming and crying into the bathroom - he claims he does not understand the question.
In a second attempt to figure out whether he regretted his famous words, he justifies it was his first contact and experience with a massive public, under fire from many cameras, piling immense pressure and stress, after being caged in the house for about two months.
"What I said is not my style," he explains.
But does he regret it? "If I said it at that time, then I don't!"
Daniele is still single. "Maybe it's because the women don't want me," he laughs, with the trademark confidence of someone who has luck on his side.
No, seriously, he is getting to know someone but she is still just a friend and he is keeping her name under wraps. "It is also because I am busy but really it is always the right time to find the right woman... Maybe I'll find my perfect match right here in Malta..."
That prospect, however, was not too promising, given that Daniele was on the island for only four days and saw nothing of it, spending most of his time at work.