Review of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
In A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Chazz Palminteri plays Dito's terminally ill father who reunites with Dito (Robert Downey, Jr.) after 15 years. Chazz Palminteri's past films include Little Man,Running Scared, In the Mix and The Usual Suspects. I had the privilege to interview him.
First Look Media will release A Guide to Recognixing Your Saints on September 29th, 2006.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you sign on for your role?
CP: I just read the script and connected with it. I just thought it was a brilliant piece of honest writing. Whenever you have the chance to play somebody who loves somebody but canít show it, itís really a challenge for an actor. You have to do it more internallyóI like that.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Did you read the book before signing on?
CP: No, I didnít. Sometimes when you play a character whoís real, but heís not really famous, sometimes Iíd rather not read about him because no one else knows about him either. So, itís best that you have a blank piece of paper in front of you. If youíre doing a piece about Abraham Lincoln, then you have to find out how that guy look and acted. When you play somebody not famous at all, you can do anything.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Did you relate to the character?
CP: When we did the scene with the seizure, all of a sudden Channing Tatum was able to go over the place and he broke [something] and glass was all over the place and then when they said ďCut!Ē, some of the people got upset with him because they thought he was out of control which he wasnít. Itís just because Dito told him to do whatever he wanted, so a few people from the set yelled at him and I didnít like it, so stood up and I said, ďDonít yell at the kid.Ē I did it as me, but, subconsciously I knew what I was doing. It kind of like bonded our soul together. I said, ďIf you want to yell at somebody, yell at me.Ē Dito smiled and knew that it was going to be okay.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was your relationship like with your father?
CP: A great relationship. My father was totally different. [He] encouraged me to travel and encouraged me to do whatever I wanted me to do. [He] encouraged me to dream.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What makes A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints so appealing?
CP: Itís an honest movie. People recognize honesty. You see television today and a lot of it is just written for entertainment, but this is honestóitís true emotion. You canít hide that. If itís honest with us, itís honest with everybody because many people say, ďI see myself. My dad was like that or I felt like that.Ē So, I think a lot of people just resonate to it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like working with Shia LaBeouf?
CP: Heís a young boy, but heís well beyond his years. Heís a gifted kid. The kids were great, just young, good actors.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Did you relate to him? CP: I canít feel that way when I saw it. I made it when I was much older. I saw the enthusiasm he had when I was that age, but I wasnít as fortunate to make it as young as they had. NYC MOVIE GURU: What is it like working with Channing Tatum?
CP: I knew that Channing [Tatum] was going to bust out any second. I said to him, ďListen to me very carefully. Youíre going to bust out very big really soon. Donít fuck it up. Stay focused on the work. Stay strong.Ē He has everything. Heís a great actor [and] has great instincts. We were doing our scenes together and I told him some things to do [and] he did it right away. Then he did it again and I didnít have to tell him twice. He was like a sponge.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like interacting with him to develop the character?
CP: I asked him about his fatheróhis real father. He told me some very personal stories. In the bathroom scene, when Iím yelling, during the breaks what I would do is I would improvise what his real father would do in certain situations. There were certain places that he had to hit that he wasnít getting there and so Iíd whisper things in to his ear such as, ďI love you.Ē It worked.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Whatís the key to a happy marriage?
CP: Trust. Without trust then you have nothing. A marriage is supposed to be like an oasis. Life is tough, so the only place that you can go for that little oasis of truth has to be the marriage. Life is so hard that if you go home and you donít have trust there, all is lost.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did the blue collar spirit remain authentic without seeming too fake and Hollywood?
CP: You gotta cast well. Directing is 85% casting. If you have to tell the people how to play the part, [youíve] got the wrong actor. You just kind of guide them. A director is kind of like a jockey on a horse. [Dito Montiel] cast well. We all knew that element.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Are you open to being typecast, like playing a cowboy in Oklahoma?
CP: Yes. But do I have to go research it and spend there a little while? I would have to do that. Otherwise, get a cowboy from Oklahoma. Heíll do a much better job that I will. Get him and put him in the middle of New York and try to make him play that character. Itís the same thing.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you establish the father-son relationship in the film?
CP: I sat down with Robert Downey, Jr. Rob is a pro. Heís a great actor. Any time you get a chance to work with a great actor, itís great.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What did you think of Dito Montiel as a first time director?
CP: Heís great. I love working with first time directors. I look forward to working with them because most people are afraid to work with them. If you want somebody to paint your house, you wouldnít want somebody who has never painted a house before. But I like working with first time directors because theyíre fearless. Theyíll try anything. I love working with great directors, but sometimes theyíre worried about their next movie and if the movie is going to be [successful]. First time directors are just happy to be there. I kind of like that.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did director Dido Montiel help you?
CP: I just asked him about his dad. I said, ďTell me about your father. What was he like? What would he do? How would he feel? Just tell me stories about your father.Ē From there, I would live with it and then do my own thing.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Did he seek directing advice from you?
CP: We talked about certain scenes in certain ways and he was very collaborative. Thatís the way you make movies. Thatís the way Martin Scorsese and [Robert De Niro] make movies. [Robert de Niro] has been one of my closest friend for 17 years. And I watched them make movies and theyíre always together in the corner talking and itís a great thing.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Have you considered directing again?
CP: Yes, I want to. Iíve written a couple of things that Iím going to direct. Iím going to direct, soon, so weíll see.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Whatís more difficult, directing or writing?
CP: The writing is the hardest. Not the actual writing, but the discipline in writingóto sit down and do it. Especially when youíre an actor and a director, itís very difficult. Usually, you have writer/directors. You very rarely get writer/actors because itís like being a tennis player and a baseball player. They donít workóit just doesnít fit.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Are you writing more for film or for theater?
CP: Iím writing more for film, but Iím writing something for the theater, too now.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Will that eventually turn into a film?
NYC MOVIE GURU: Whatís next for you?
CP: Thereís the movie Safe which Iím producing as well with new production company. Itís about guys who rob safes and I have this giftóIíve never been in jail. Itís going to be directed by Dave Rodriguez.