Char­ac­ter ac­tor John Tur­turro lis­tens to his in­ner voice

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - LEWIS BEALE

John Tur­turro has been re­garded as one of Amer­ica’s best char­ac­ter ac­tors ever since he burst onto the scene in Spike Lee’s clas­sic 1989 film “Do the Right Thing.” Since then, the 60-year-old New York na­tive — born in Brook­lyn, raised in Queens — has won Obie and Emmy awards for his work, and been nom­i­nated for Golden Globe, SAG, In­de­pen­dent Spirit and Cannes Film Fes­ti­val hon­ours. Tur­turro has ap­peared in ev­ery­thing from gang­ster films (“Miller’s Cross­ing”) to Holo­caust dra­mas (“The Truce”), even Adam San­dler flicks (“You Don’t Mess With the Zo­han”). He is up for an Emmy Award for his mes­mer­iz­ing per­for­mance as a hus­tling, lowlevel lawyer in the HBO se­ries “The Night Of,” and also stars in the new film “Lan­d­line,” as a har­ried 1990s Up­per West Side dad cheat­ing on his wife.

Q: In “Lan­d­line,” you play a New York City father whose grown daugh­ters sus­pect him, with jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, of cheat­ing on their mother. What was it about the role that at­tracted you?

A: I thought the script was good, but the role was a lit­tle un­der­de­vel­oped, but I liked what the piece was about, and it was from a fe­male per­spec­tive. And they de­vel­oped it more for me, his ex­pe­ri­ences. I felt I wouldn’t have to go out of town to shoot it, and it was well-ob­served. I wanted it to not just be the guy who com­mits adul­tery.

Q: You were re­cently Emmy-nom­i­nated for your out­stand­ing per­for­mance in HBO’s “The Night Of,” play­ing a lawyer used to de­fend­ing low-level cases who ac­ci­den­tally takes on a ma­jor mur­der case. How did you feel about the char­ac­ter?

A: The char­ac­ter is what you see. Peo­ple re­late to him be­cause he has so many ob­sta­cles, and he’s this com­pe­tent guy who doesn’t have the con­sti­tu­tion to hold some­one’s life in front of a jury. I know a lot of peo­ple in other pro­fes­sions who are com­pe­tent and don’t have that con­sti­tu­tion to sell them­selves. He’s like a de­tec­tive, yet he wants to stay in the back­ground. Q: Is he a shys­ter? A: No. He’s an ide­al­ist, he’s cyn­i­cal but un­der­neath he’s an ide­al­ist. But he knows the sys­tem. This is his deal; he deals with peo­ple a lot of times they’re guilty, and he tries to get the best case for them. This kid res­onates with him, he thinks there’s a chance, and it’s hard to take a chance in life. It just spoke to me, it felt so hu­man, and peo­ple’s re­sponse to him is so in­cred­i­ble.

Q: You re­cently fin­ished di­rect­ing and star­ring in “Go­ing Places,” a film about Je­sus Quin­tana, the out­ra­geous bowler from “The Big Le­bowski.” I have to ask — how good a bowler are you?

A: I’m one of the best bowlers around. I’ve learned a lot of things in my life as an ac­tor, and some­times I for­get things. I’m a fairly de­cent ath­lete. I can horse­back ride, and I love to dance. But bowl­ing, I throw a bunch of strikes and then fall apart. Q: Who were your film idols grow­ing up? A: I liked Burt Lan­caster, Kirk Dou­glas, James Cag­ney, then Brando, Hoff­man, De Niro, Hack­man. Then I got in­tro­duced to Ital­ian and Swedish movies. I don’t get turned on the same way when I go to the movies now; TV peo­ple are do­ing more chal­leng­ing things. And there were very adult movies back then, anti-he­roes and hero­ines. I think a lot of mod­ern films I find to be a lit­tle more self-con­scious. I like things that are un­con­scious.

Q: What’s the best ad­vice you ever got about act­ing?

A: To don’t give up your in­ner voice, your in­ner urges. Once you do that, you don’t have any­thing. I think I still have that. I like be­ing free, like you’re walk­ing on a tightrope, but it’s very dan­ger­ous.


Abby Quinn, Jenny Slate, and John Tur­turro in "Lan­d­line."

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