Venice: Meet the ‘Ferrari’ Producer Who’s Worked With Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, Bought Into Miami’s Other Soccer Club and Is Sending MMA Fighters into Space

Venice: Meet the ‘Ferrari’ Producer Who’s Worked With Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, Bought Into Miami’s Other Soccer Club and Is Sending MMA Fighters into Space

In about four years time, Andrea Iervolino hopes to launch a stadium and TV studios into orbit and broadcast the world’s first zero-gravity MMA fight from space. He’d originally thought that Galactic Combat — his idea for reality-show-meets-sports-tournament following a group of spacebound fighters — would be ready sooner, within two or three years, but he’s says some “technical issues” among his aerospace partners has pushed his expectations back. “But it’s not really far away.”

Until then, the Italian producer will sadly have to contend with work on solid ground under Earth’s less exciting gravitation pull, work that includes — among a wide array of activities across entertainment, sport and beyond — being a producer on Michael Mann’s all-star and much-anticipated Venice-bowing biopic Ferrari. Alongside his business partner, rum heiress Monika Bacardi (who also has a producers credit) and through their Iervolina & Lady Bacardi Entertainment (ILBE) banner, they put $24 million into the $90 million feature, providing the production services in Italy, where almost all of it was shot. 

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“It’s the most we’ve invested in any film,” claims Iervolina, who admits they came on board the long-gestating project at the very last minute in 2022, the same year cameras starting rolling. But it was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down. 

Having produced a number of films with Bacardi over the last decade, mostly lower budget titles but several with big name talents, including Johnny Depp films Minamata and Waiting for the Barbarians (which bowed in Venice in 2019), plus 2022’s Eva Longoria-starrer Tell it Like a Woman (Oscar nominated for best original score), Iervolina recently decided that they should focus on making films that told the “amazing stories” of his country’s entrepreneurial legends. 

And so, earlier this year, they released Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend, starring Frank Grillo, Mira Sorvino and Gabriel Byrne, and in March announced they were working on a biopic about Maserati. Even though Ferrari would see them join someone else’s project and have a far less hands-on role — (like most of Iervolina’s films, Lamborghini and Maserati were fully developed, financed and produced in-house) — he was never going to pass on adding arguably Italy’s most iconic sportscar to the cinematic garage. 

Iervolino describes his operation, with its own production house, as “like an independent studio.” But it’s an independent studio with more arms than most. Among the various businesses falling under the growing empire with Bacardi, most of which were acquired, are an encoding company, a post-production company, two animation studios in Serbia, a celebrity endorsement company and a sports marketing company.

By himself, he just announced the new $55 million Tuscany Film Studios, which alongside normal soundstages will also include, he claims, “Italy’s largest VR studio,” plus a luxury hotel to help entice Hollywood talent for whom a simple trip to Tuscany isn’t enough. Construction is due to start in September, with the first projects expected to shoot there in 2024. Further afield, he’s the founder and CEO of Space 11, which will be flinging MMA fighters into orbit to the “first space station dedicated to entertainment.” Then there’s TaTaTu, the video-on-demand and social platform, which he launched in 2018. TaTaTu started out as part of the blockchain craze, quickly announcing plans to finance various films, including Waiting for the Barbarians and the Lamborghini biopic, via its digital tokens. After a couple of years, it ditched cryptocurrency, with the focus now centering on the app, which rewards users for viewing content and interacting on the platform with coins that can be redeemed by bidding on auctions. 

Peculiar though it may sound (at least to anyone over 40), TaTaTu is listed on the Euronext Growth Paris exchange and currently has a market capitalization, says Iervolino, of “precisely $5.8 billon” (actually $5.84 billion according to Euronext Growth Paris). Iervolino owns 97 percent of TaTaTu making him, on paper at least, rather wealthy. And TaTaTu has taken him into even more eclectic waters, the company having acquired an 85 percent stake in London food market operator Mercato.

It doesn’t sound too bad going for a man still in his 30s (Iervolino is 35) and whose first inroads into  film began, he claims, as a teenager in his hometown of Cassino, crowdfunding for a feature the “old fashioned” way. “I literally went door by door in my hometown, to the pizzeria, the gelateria guy to ask for a little investment to produce my first movie,” he says. 

Despite still being a kid, he says he had an ace up his sleeve, being among the first to make films digitally, and as Iervolino’s skillset in that arena grew and the industry shifted towards it, he says he started to sell his expertise to other producers in need of the know-how. “They saw me as the young digital entrepreneur movie producer.” One of those producers was Luciano Martino, considered one of Italy’s key filmmakers in the 60s and 70s, who at the age of 72 formed a business partnership with a then 17-year-old Iervolino. “I was the digital mind of the company,” he notes, claiming that by the time he was 22 he was doing “eight or nine movies per year” (one of which was 2004’s Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino starring Shakespeare adaptation The Merchant of Venice). 

Martino passed away in 2013 and Iervolino — only 25 years old but already with around 45 movies under his belt — found another partner in Bacardi, the billionaire widow of Cuban rum scion Luis Adalberto Facundo Gomez del Campo Bacardi. 

According to Iervolino, Bacardi was “looking for a partner in the movie industry,” but the two also shared the “same vision” to make international films rather than titles purely for the Italian market. So they teamed up, founding AMBI Pictures. The features soon started coming, among the first being Barry Levinson’s comedy drama The Humbling, also starring Pacino, then later the Andrea Boccelli biopic The Music of Silence, starring Antonio Banderas, and To the Bone, starring Lily Collins. 

Along the way, a relationship with Johnny Depp formed, in 2018 the star signing a development deal with TaTaTu to develop content together. Waiting for the Barbarians had already been announced, but then would come Minamata, and the Depp-voiced animated mini-series Puffins, followed by Puffins Impossible. “We’re now doing some new stuff — we have a very good relationship,” says Iervolino. In potential an eyebrow-raising move, Iervolina & Lady Bacardi Entertainment recently produced and financed In the Fire, Amber Heard’s first feature following her court battle with Depp. While he claims that Depp is a “very good friend — I love him and respect him deeply, artistically,” he says he has no relationship with Heard, his work on her film purely business. “I’m a professional. She did a movie with us and I was happy. My job is not to be a judge.” 

Alongside this fast-growing slate of features, the teaming of Iervolino and Barcadi would spark the rush of business launches and acquisitions. Iervolina said he realised early on that revenue from films alone might not be a solid source of income (and indeed, few of his titles could claim to have been box office smashes) and that to “be relevant we should create synergies.” Which is where the idea to provide film servicing came about, alongside the animation studios (which don’t solely work on in-house projects), and the more technical operations, such as film coding. 

But the less obviously film-related elements of the portfolio he also claims to have brought into the mix. After acquiring a majority stake in SoCal Sports — the sports agency which has numerous Italian soccer stars old and new on its books — he says he “changed the company” so that it started producing sports video content, it landing an immediate hit on a local streaming site with a documentary about iconic club Milan. 

On the soccer front, Iervolino — this time acting alone — recently acquired an ownership stake of U.S. club Miami FC, which plays in the second tier of the USL. “Now I know how to monetize a team, via video content and image rights, so by creating synergy I can create revenue,” he says. “In the end, everything is connected.” He also freely admits that the investment, which was announced in May, was made knowing the phenomenal amount of interest in U.S. soccer and Miami that was to come following Lionel Messi’s move to the city’s other club, the David Beckham-owned Inter Miami (“Although being called Miami FC, I think we have the better brand”). 

Even the Mercato food markets he says have been synergized — “I converted them so at night they become like production studios for documentaries.” With a focus on stories related to food and culture, one such creation is the upcoming docu-series The Unknown Chefs, about four refugees as they set up food businesses in the U.K. and being produced by Iervolino and British music producer David Tickle. 

And, in the not to distant future, there’s space. Outside of the complications of actually getting there, Iervolino says his concept is “very easy,” essentially a reality show following people as they train to become both MMA fighters and astronauts. While it may sound far-fetched now, he’s confident such concepts will become the “new normality — everybody will be doing it.”

Surely as creator and producer on Galactic Combat, when the technical issues have been ironed out and it’s ready to launch, Iervolino will need to be in rocket for its first trip to his intergalactic studio

“I’ll go if there are enough seats,” he says, 

Until then, a seat at the Palazzo del Cinema for the world premiere of Ferrari will have to do.