From director Nick Sandow (who plays Caputo in “Orange Is the New Black”), “The Wannabe” is a crime drama centered on the 1992 John Gotti trial. In this depiction, a young man (Vincent Piazza) obsessed with mob culture tries — and fails — to fix the jury. He subsequently gets involved in a mafia plot bigger and wilder than he could ever imagine. The film co-stars Emmy winner Michael Imperioli (“The Sopranos”).
Indiewire’s own Nigel Smith moderated a discussion between Piazza, Imperioli and director Sandow, who were in town for the film’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Read on for five highlights from the roundtable discussion (which you can watch in full above).
Practically everyone in the film was on “Boardwalk Empire.”
Vincent Piazzawas a regular on Terrence Winter’s acclaimed series, playing Lucky Luciano. But both Arquette and Sandow recurred prominently on the HBO prohibition crime drama, while Imperioli was similarly connected to the group through his relationship with Winter on “The Sopranos.” Though Piazza was already attached, the various connections helped land Arquette in particular. “[Sandow and I] started getting into the work, and then we said ‘Who could make a great Rose?'” Piazza explained. “And we were like, Patricia Arquette!” Piazza later jokingly described “The Wannabe” as “Boardwalk in the 90s.”
Sandow was terrified to show his film to Scorsese.
“I was so nervous,” the director explained. “We met at his house and sat on his couch. Looking across, I could see all the statues … and we were just sitting, waiting for him to come down. But as soon as he got there, it was like we were with someone really safe.”
Sandow framed the story around his own interpretations and experiences.
“There wasn’t too much information. There was just a handful of facts, and I got fascinated with this character who I started to imagine as pressing his nose up against the glass, and desperately wanting to become something. And I grew up in a neighborhood five minutes from [him], so the world was [familiar].”
Arquette and Piazza developed chemistry off screen.
In “The Wannabe,” Piazza and Arquette boast a level of chemistry that’d be envious to any director. But how did it form? “Patricia is one of the most generous actors that you can imagine being paired up with. When she agreed to do it, we had multiple conversations,” Piazza explained. “She was discussing the character and the relationship in the perfect way … and we would sit and read plays and talk and just form a relationship, so that way it’s not as immediate as having to form it on the set.”
Piazza prefers working with actor-directors.
Before working with Sandow on “The Wannabe,” Piazza played a key part in Clint Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys.” When asked how Eastwood compares to Sandow as an actor-director, Piazza responded, “[They] let actors entertain impulses, and are very gentle not to disrupt the relationship or what’s happening in the scene. [Sandow] is really adept at that. I was spoiled rotten, going from Clint Eastwood to Nick on set, and it was this seamless, wonderful ride for those few months.”