Cast Matt Smith as Big Anthony in the Live-Action ‘Strega Nona’ Movie

Imagine a man. He is tall and lean and pale, with a prominent jawline. A strong square nose is offset by puckish eyes and a subtle smile. He has an air of insouciance about him. Perhaps you’re picturing esteemed British actor of the screen and stage Matt Smith. Perhaps you’re also picturing Big Anthony, less esteemed character of the beloved children’s book Strega Nona.


The similarity first struck me when I watched Smith play a young Prince Phillip in season one of The Crown. It bubbled up again when I saw Smith in a platinum blonde wig, moodily gazing into the distance, in the trailer for the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon. The new film Last Night in Soho, in which he embodies a suave and nefarious downtown personality in 1960s London? Two hours during which I was occupied with one thought and one thought only.

Cast Matt Smith as Big Anthony in the live-action version of Strega Nona.

For the uninitiated, Strega Nona is Tomie dePaola’s 1975 masterpiece about a witch and folk healer who lives in Calabria, Italy. In her old age, she hires a guy to help around the house: enter Big Anthony. Strega Nona presents only one condition to his employment, which is that he never touches her pasta pot. Big Anthony realizes the pot is magical when he catches her singing a spell into it, causing it to suddenly produce pasta. One weekend, Strega Nona goes out of town for a girl’s trip. Big Anthony, often mocked by his fellow villagers, commandeers the forbidden pot in an attempt to impress them with ostensibly perfectly al dente [Giada De Laurentiis voice] spaghetti. But he had missed the part where Strega Nona blows the pot three kisses to turn it off and, soon enough, it violently floods the town with refined carbs. When she arrives home to realize Big Anthony has fucked up big time, Strega Nona shuts it down and then forces him to eat all the pasta as punishment.

Now, as far as I know, there is no Strega Nona movie actually in the works. But if producers took a single second break from chomping on cigars and greenlighting Marvel sequels, they would realize how misguided that is. In an era where every iota of childhood intellectual property is squeezed for content (“Lil Yachty Developing Action Heist Movie Based on Card Game Uno” is a real headline that made my tenuous grip with reality finally snap), they’re overlooking that nostalgia for Strega Nona is at an all-time high. I attribute this in part to millennials now having children to whom they can read the book, in part to millennials retreating to the comforts of childhood due to arrested development, and in part to The Sopranos stoking an undying obsession with Italian-American culture. In any case, Strega is at breakout 24-year-old actor levels of hot. She recently had her Vogue debut. She is the inspiration for countless memes. Even better, she was just the subject of a takedown smearing her as a bloodthirsty capitalist. (Controversy sells, baby!)

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