It wouldn’t be a mistake to call John Turturro one of the finest character actors currently working. But he’s also an accomplished writer/director with four very different features under his belt, from his debut family drama "Mac" to the period theatre tale "Illuminata" and two music driven efforts, "Romance & Cigarettes" and "Passione." And for his latest turn behind (and in front of) the camera, he shifts gears again with "Fading Gigolo."
Featuring Woody Allen taking a rare screen acting role opposite Turturro in a project that isn’t one of his own films, the movie is presented within the framework of a sex comedy but with much more happening underneath. While ‘Fading Gigolo’ tells the story of florist Fioravante who is convinced by his friend to sell his more carnal talents to earn some big cash. There’s quite a lovely and tender romance developing in the picture, and what unfolds is a tale of friendships, relationships, religion and love.
"Fading Gigolo" is now headed to home video, and last week we had the pleasure of speaking with John Turturro over the phone about the film. He provided generous answers to our questions about the movie, and below we’ve excerpted the highlights of our conversation which touched upon on the making of "Fading Gigolo," working with Woody Allen, the upcoming "Big Lebowski" spinoff and more.
How the film came together, and Woody Allen’s involvement
…the guy who cuts Woody’s hair cuts my hair. He was always telling me you guys should do something together. I had done a little part for Woody [in "Hannah And Her Sisters"] and he asked me to do something else later on, but I couldn’t do it. Once I was up for the main role [in a film], it was between me and someone else and he went a different way. I always knew he kind of liked me. I did a little movie with Doug McGrath called "Company Man," and we spent a little time together. I was always a big fan of his and I was just thinking…there’s certain things he likes —basketball, foreign movies, especially old Italian movies— and the idea of us together could be very interesting.
Then I was thinking about all these places that are going out of business. Book stores, record stores, CD stores or little shops…You see all these little movie theaters that I used to go to to watch revivals, and theaters that I’ve worked at [closing]. I was thinking about how people nowadays people have to reinvent themselves. People who have lost a lot of their savings… I was thinking, wow, suppose you were in this situation and the guy had to reinvent himself, what would he do? Then the idea for the movie sort of came out.
I have a few friends who always have a girlfriend, they’re like serial daters, [the relationships} expire in six months. Then after a while you think, wow, that’s some kind of way to live. Sometimes people are a little enclosed in their own privacy, and they don’t want to share everything. So I thought that would be an interesting idea. I told my haircutter and he told Woody. I don’t know if I asked him, but he had the courage to tell Woody. Woody liked the idea, we discussed it and then I started writing it and then Woody would give me feedback. I didn’t know if he wanted to do something bold, something risqué and the first draft I don’t think he really responded to except for a couple of small things. He encouraged me to make it more nuanced and stuff. He never told me what to do, but he was pretty merciless…
Balancing the various tones
Well, the intimate stories just emerged from it. It was much broader originally, and then I thought, wow, this is something that’s very strong and of course it got even stronger because of Vanessa Paradis‘ performance. She did a lot of research and embodied it in a way that was very moving. I thought there was a loneliness to a lot of the characters that were trying to connect.
A lot of movies that I love, whether by Fellini or Jean Renoir, sometimes have real delicate things and really broad things. It can be like a commedia dell’arte approach, and then in the middle of it there’s this tenderness….Even in a lot of Shakespearean plays there’s sometimes low comedy within it. I think you can have both. I think a comedy can be really serious too.
…I didn’t know the movie was going to be as delicate as it turned out to be especially in the middle of the movie, where it turns. I think that can happen in life. Sometimes you start out saying, oh this is going to be easy, and then all of a sudden you go, wow, this is not what I thought it was going to be.
The developing "The Big Lebowski" and "Barton Fink" spinoffs and sequels
You know, [the Jesus Quintana film] is something that I would love to do. If I’m able to do it, I would talk about it. I don’t want to jeopardize anything. You’ll hear about it if I know.
[The Coen Brothers have] talked about [the "Barton Fink" sequel] but we’ll see. They’re waiting for me to get a little older. But it’s up to them. I’d work for them anytime anywhere. I consider them dear friends and lovely people to work with.
Working with Ridley Scott on "Exodus"
I only worked a couple of weeks. I never worked with that many cameras, or live leopards at my feet. But he’s a really talented guy and he’s wanted to work with me and vice versa for a while. But it was a wonderful cast and I enjoyed the scenes that I had. I had a bunch of scenes with Christian Bale who I think is a wonderful actor and a really nice person to work with, so it was a nice set and a good experience. But I never had seen that many cameras, and I worked with Michael Bay.
Next directorial projects
I have two things and I will talk about them as soon as I know what I’m going to do. Everybody knows I’m doing the HBO [series "Criminal Justice"]. That’s my first thing, but I hope to do a film right after that which would be…we’ll see which one it is, but if it’s the one I want, it will be pretty crazy.
"Fading Gigolo" arrives on home video on August 19th.