The Italian-American actor-director goes back to his roots…
The NY actor is our Hero.
With 35 years in film, John Turturro, 58, has worked with everyone from Spike Lee ( Do The Right Thing) and Martin Scorsese ( The Color Of Money) to Woody Allen ( Hannah And Her Sisters) and the Coens ( Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing). He pours all of that experience into his latest creation – a selfimportant actor on location in Italy in Nanni Moretti’s touching Mia Madre. In Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre, you play the infuriating thesp Barry Huggins. What do you make of him? What do I make of him? I’ve seen him. I know him… sometimes, on a shoot, if somebody is a really famous person, they really go out of their way to make everybody feel relaxed. But other people, they come in and have to be the cock of the walk. They start telling jokes and everybody starts laughing and it’s not really funny. You’re like, ‘Wow, now I’ve got to put up with this for a long time!’
Barry claims he’s worked with Kubrick. Did you ever meet the great man? I almost worked with him – almost. It was for the last movie [ Eyes Wide Shut], but I wasn’t available for the two years that he wanted me. I talked to him about it. It didn’t work out… we had a great conversation. He really liked me as an actor, which meant a lot to me. It would’ve been interesting to see – doing 75 takes – and how you [ deal with that]. It’s not my favourite movie of his that he made, but it would’ve been interesting.
Who is the most demanding director you’ve worked with?
I don’t know. There have been demanding directors that have been very good. Nanni is a very demanding director. But stimulating, and he doesn’t constrict you. Earlier on in my life, I worked with [ William] Friedkin and [ Michael] Cimino – that was a different world. Cocaine-driven, brutal, actors being handled different ways. It wasn’t very gentle, and I didn’t really like it. But I learned a lot, and I learned to speak up for myself… you need to be able to speak up when you have to.
You’ve always managed to float between Hollywood and indies. Has that been easy?
I hate the idea that there’s this indie world. I hate to ghettoise. When I was younger, those big blockbuster movies were fewer and far between. Movies are movies. I saw some movies last year – a lot of them were independently financed and they were movies that got a lot of acclaim. It’s all the same to me.
What about working with Michael Bay, as you did on Transformers?
That’s another world! That’s my electrical world. I’m usually a plumber. When I work for Michael Bay, I’m an electrician!
You also have become a regular Adam Sandler collaborator. How did that happen?
I hosted Saturday Night Live, and they asked me to play in Mr. Deeds. I didn’t want to play a big role, and I liked these two small parts. I said, ‘If you put them together, I think I can come up with something.’ And I had a really good time doing that. Adam let me do exactly what I wanted to do, and I really enjoyed that. Butlers are good roles!
You’re in Hands Of Stone, about boxer Roberto Duran. What can you say?
I did a cameo for Bob De Niro, because he pestered me no end to do it! I’d like to put Bob in a film with Nanni – they could be like cousins! I’ve worked with Bob a bunch of times – What Just Happened?, The Good Shepherd. I’ve done millions of readings with him. He really wanted me to do this, and I’m a Roberto Duran fan too, so there you go. JM
‘Transformers is my electrical world. I’m usually a plumber’
Totally Turturro: (top to bottom) in Barton Fink, Transformers, and throwing shapes in new film Mia Madre.