Capone comes face to face with one of the Untouchables, Andy Garcia, to talk about his latest work CITY ISLAND!!!
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
It may be just my memory, but at some point in the mid-1980s, Andy Garcia just seemed to show up and then never stopped showing up. After strong supporting work in THE MEAN SEASON and Hal Ashby's 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE, Garcia silently owned huge chunks of THE UNTOUCHABLES as Agent George Stone, the sharpshooter who chased me relentlessly and put an end to that fantastic shootout sequence on the steps of Union Station in Chicago. And the hits kept on coming--BLACK RAIN, STAND AND DELIVER, INTERNAL AFFAIRS, DEAD AGAIN, HERO, THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD, WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN (I'll skip over THE GODFATHER, PART III if that's okay with you), HOODLUM, SMOKIN' ACES, and the three OCEAN'S movies for director Steven Soderbergh.
In more recent years, Garcia has used his influence to turn his attentions to directing and producing. His production work so far has been for films in which he is the star, such as THE UNSAID, THE MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS, the exceptional MODIGLIANI, and the documentary CACHAO: UNO MAS. You also owe it to yourself to see his 2005 feature directing debut THE LOST CITY about a successful Cuban nightclub owner in the 1950s who is effectively chased out of Havana when Castro takes power. His newest work as producer is the latest film from writer-director Raymond De Felitta (TWO FAMILY HOUSE), a complicated family examination called CITY ISLAND, starring Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Emily Mortimer, and Alan Arkin. This movie manages to be a crowd pleaser while resisting nearly all forms of sentimentality; it's set in the Bronx, so what did you expect?
Garcia would have been a prime candidate for my AICN Legends column, but there just wasn't the time to pick through his career on his recent visit to Chicago. That said, I couldn't help but get some really good stories from him about shooting THE UNTOUCHABLES nearly 25 years ago in my city. I had been living in Chicago less than a year when Brian De Palma's masterpiece hit screens, but it was one of the reasons I decided never to leave, and it provided more than a little inspiration in taking the Capone name. Please enjoy my talk with cinematic renaissance man Andy Garcia. Just for a little background, this interview took place the night after I saw the film, which was followed by an audience Q&A by Garcia.
Andy Garcia: How are you?
Andy Garcia: Are you a native Chicagoan?
Capone: Not a native, but I have been here about 25 years.
So I every once in a while allow myself the privilege of walking into a movie knowing almost nothing about it. It doesn’t happen that often in my line of work, but that was pretty much what I was going into last night.
AG: Was that for a lack of information provided to you?
Capone: No, not at all. It’s just that every once in a while I decide if there’s a small little movie, I want to feel like I'm discovering it.
AG: Right, not read anything about what it’s about or anything like that?
Capone: Yeah. It didn’t seem necessary. So the first surprise was that you have paired up with Anchor Bay as a distributor. They're a great company, but they have something of a history as a distributor of genre films, lots of horror film. How did you hook up with them on this film?
AG: I think their profile is changing as a company, and secondly it was the only distributor that wanted to buy the film.
Capone: Okay. And it looks like they're giving it a pretty healthy release and promotional push.
AG: But the real reason is their profile as a company has changed. I sat with Kevin Costner [whose film THE NEW DAUGHTER is being released on DVD by Anchor Bay in May] initially who was the one who first saw the movie and [Anchor Bay Executive Vice President and General Manager] Bill Clark, and they are sort of opening up and changing a little bit of their philosophy of their company and I think acquiring movies that are sort of in the tradition of some of the other independent distributors, like Fox Searchlight or Sony Classics. I think they are just looking for good movies, and we were fortunate that we got a distributor. It was a difficult time. A lot of independent distributors had closed down last year, so it was a difficult market to sell in, even though we had won the Audience Award [at Tribeca in 2009], and the audiences were going crazy for the movie, it was a very difficult market to sell a movie in.
Capone: I love that right off the bat in the film, you establish that the community is as much of a character in this film as the people are, because it’s such a unique location. Can you talk just a little bit about?
AG: Yeah, you want to establish like you said a character of a community breeds a kind of people that are born out of that community in a way. We tried to capture that in the opening scene and set up the movie in the opening voiceover and in some images that we shot. Actually a lot of those images I went…[director] Raymond [De Felitta] was shooting one scene, I grabbed the second unit and started driving around the city and shot some stuff, because you have to do that in this kind of movie.
Capone: You're certainly qualified to run around with a camera crew, that’s true. There are some great singular moments in the film that I think do a great short hand at establishing what kind of family this is, starting with a couple of meal sequences, especially the big shouting match, because I think shouting is a form of communication in this family.
AG: Absolutely. We will be shouting at each other pretty soon before I finish my breakfast. [laughs]
Capone: Oh great. But I love that in those scenes you’re not forwarding the plot in any way, it’s just a way of getting to know the dynamic.
AG: That is the plot.
Capone: There’s a story here.
AG: I’m saying, the family is the story. That dynamic is the story, so we aren’t in a hurry to get away from that dining room table. It sets up the dynamic of the family and where we end up, where the story takes us you can reflect back to that dinner scene and go “This is where they started, it looks like now it’s a totally different space. That dinner scene would be a totally different space.” In a way we have a dinner scene in the yard at the end of the movie. It’s a picnic, but essentially the vibe is totally different you know?
Capone: For such an expressive family, they certainly have a hard time expressing or communicating about certain things.
AG: Just because they are shouting doesn’t mean anybody is listening.
Capone: That’s right. That doesn’t mean there’s any actual communication going on.
Capone: In the picnic scene, everyone’s lines of communication are wide open.
AG: Everybody is holding hands, and it’s a very spiritual kind of moment without being heavy handed about it, but that’s the essence of it.
Capone: It’s interesting also sort of bringing in this outsider, this other son, almost highlights or underscores the issues that the family is having.
AG: He’s the one who resolves everything. He’s the catalyst to bring everything to light, you know?
Capone: Yeah and he’s the only one not lying all of the time!
AG: He’s the only one that’s completely together.
Capone: Yeah, which considering where he’s coming from is ironic.
AG: Exactly! But until Vince [Garcia's character] really decides to begin to take responsibility for the things that he cares about or the things that he is responsible for, his life doesn’t really begin to resolve itself and the first step obviously is somewhat acknowledging his son. Even though he doesn’t actually tell his son “I’m your father” or tell his wife “This is my son,” he does make the step to bring them home and he figures, “Well, if I bring them home, maybe one night I might get the courage to say something.” But obviously he doesn’t have the courage to tell them, but he does at least bring them home which is a major step.
That action begins to give him the tools, first of all, to survive an audition process, because it’s the son who gives him the tips or gets inspired off of it. And then on his other journey, which is this whole acting thing he’s got going, it’s another muse played by Emily Mortimer who gives him the courage to… First of all, she’s the one who in her way resolves everything for him. She’s sort of like his guardian angel. If you look at the film, she’s the one who tells him to bring the son home. She’s the one who tells him to go to the audition, and when the family comes together what happens to Emily? She turns around and goes away.
Capone: That was unusual, because up until that scene where you are in the house with her at the end and the wife meets her, I thought she might not be a real person. Because there is no interaction between her and anybody else. I thought, “Maybe it’s just someone he’s invented as part of his acting exercise.”
AG: In a way, she services the movie that way as sort of like we said an angel kind of thing. She’s a real person, but in a way she is Jiminy Cricket.
Capone: The audition is going to be what most people are going to talk about, at least a lot of actors are going to go “Wow.” How long, I know you shot this very quickly, but I’ve got to imagine you really worked to make that feel as genuine as possible, that audition scene.
AG: Well it’s just like any other scene in the movie; we shot it in an afternoon, the interior, which was the waiting room and then the audition. Those were all shot together. You know, we went in and did it. It was a very well-written scene. There was some improvisation in the scene, but the scene was very well written. It was designed in a way to be the most uncomfortable for my character as possible.
Capone: Mission accomplished.
AG: [laughs] The casting director is way above you looking down at you with a camera far removed, very cold, very judgmental, and then there's this guy who dives in with his nose barely above the water. He didn’t know what the hell to expect. It was a very uncomfortable situation for him. When he comes in the door, he stops. He almost turns around and walks out.
Capone: Oh yeah.
AG: I think in one take I did, and they sense that he's about to walk out, and they go “No, Mr. Rizzo come in” kind of thing.
Capone: Is it tough playing an actor who is just starting to learn his craft? Do you have to tap into a time in your life when you were much younger and in those same shoes?
AG: No doubt. That’s the nature of it. You tap into everything in your life that you might have a parallel to the character, whether it’s that or other emotional aspects throughout the movie, that’s what we have to do as actors. But yeah there’s no doubt that I remember very uncomfortable situations or auditions where you go in and you walk out the door and you start beating your head up against the wall going “That was terrible. That was stupid!” Because you don’t know what to expect, you are trying to please and you are trying to be good and trying to put too much emphasis on getting the job. It’s a very uncomfortable, nerve-wracking situation for anyone to be in.
Then with time, you get a sense of “Wait a second, I’m approaching this the wrong way,” and then you start getting an idea of what you really should be doing. Then there’s also insensitivity that comes sometimes from the other side, people who are in the casting process that might not be the most sensitive and depending on the individual. it can be a train wreck sometimes.
Capone: I want to mention this before they shut us down here; you mentioned last night a Hemmingway project [HEMINGWAY & FUENTES] that you are trying to get going. I was reading about that last night. That sounds like a really fascinating story. Is Anthony Hopkins actually attached to it?
Capone: Okay, so how close is that too actually happening?
AG: You know in the movie business you can be in the toilet one day and in production the next. It could be that quick. It’s active and there’s a lot of activity on it, so there are fish behind the boat. They’re not on the boat right now, but we have actually got them in the slick, in the chum line. They are in the chum slick, you know? It’s just the nature of it. It takes time to, especially as an independent movie, you have to attract investors and distributors, and it’s a process. It’s not easy, and obviously in today’s market, because of the world economics situation it becomes even more difficult, and the fact that a bunch of distributors are closed down, it’s a struggle, but it’s a struggle I’m game for, but it’s there and it’s going to get done. I always have that belief or else I wouldn’t do it.
Capone: I can’t imagine it wouldn’t. It’s such a great story. I also noticed you were in Renny Harlin’s next film GEORGIA, which is weird, because just last week I was talking to another actor, Emmanuelle Chriqui, who is in it as well…
AG: That’s right.
Capone: She brought it up in the interview, and I had never even heard of it. And you play the president of Georgia [which was invaded by Russia not long ago], right? That’s another story that I think a lot of Westerners certainly aren’t going to know.
AG: They’re not going to know too much about it, but it happened fairly recently, you know?
Capone: Oh I know, that’s what I mean.
AG: He’s still the acting president, yeah.
Capone: It’s embarrassing that recent history is escaping our grasp.
AG: Well, people are consumed with their own thing, but it was an intense movie to go through. I got a call to do it about three or four days before I actually had to be in Georgia, and I was on my way to the Ghent Film Festival with this movie. So I had one day in LA to work with a dialect couch, and then I got on a plain to Ghent. From Ghent, I went to Georgia.
Capone: So you actually shot it there?
AG: I did all of my work in two days and all of the scenes that I’m in in two days, so really I had like one day to prep it and two days to shoot it and I was back in LA, so it was a very quick and intense improvisation on a theme kind of thing. But the movie… I haven’t seen the movie. They seem to be very happy with it and again I haven’t seen it yet, but Renny had a whole army in tanks, because it deals with the war and correspondents on the ground, and then it cuts to the president dealing with the issues like a parallel thing.
Capone: That sounds great. I’ve got to ask since you are here in Chicago, I have to ask at least one UNTOUCHABLES question.
AG: Sure, absolutely.
Capone: Just give me a sense of what… That was so early in your film career. You were a very young man and to get thrown in a film like that, what are some of the most intense memories you have of that experience?
AG: Well, I remember my introduction scene in the movie where they come and recruit me was the last scene we shot in the film, if I remember correctly. And it we started here like at the end of the summer, so by the time we got to that scene, it was snowing that day in Chicago, so it was like the beginning of Fall with early snow. It was very cold, and I always remember that scene, because it’s a scene, when I was a young man going to the cinema in the '60s I loved the movie THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, and THE UNTOUCHABLES is sort of a take on THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN in a way, which is a take off of THE SEVEN SAMURAI. So structurally, one guy going out to recruit a bunch of people to achieve this objective…I remember seeing THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and when James Coburn was introduced, who was the knife thrower remember?
AG: I said “Wow, what an entrance in the movie.” I think that’s the movie that made James Coburn and got him known as an actor. I remember as a child being so impressed by that scene and saying “I want to be that guy!” Being lost in that concept that was engrained in my mind, and my scene in THE UNTOUCHABLES is basically the James Coburn scene, there’s a gun and whatever and the sharp shooter instead of a knife, but it’s basically that scene. And later on I was able to not only work with James in the second to last movie before his death in a movie called THE MAN FROM ELYSIAN FIELDS. Not only did I work with him, but as a producer I hired him, so it was just like working with Sean Connery, who was a hero of the '60s for us. It was a great thing, and actually Julianna [Margulies] played my wife in [ELYSIAN FIELDS].
Capone: So, you have worked with her a few times before this.
AG: Yeah, Julianna and also Emily and Alan [Arkin]. We have all worked together before, which is why I made that call. So do you write just about Capone all of the time?
Capone: No, I use the name as an alias. I write about all films.
AG: I know that, but you write with Capone as your alias? [laughs] Absolutely, but that’s what I remember. For some reason, I also remember the conceit I had… When we were in Montana. We went to Montana to shoot this horseback-riding thing.
Capone: The bootlegging sequence right on the Canadian border, right?
AG: Right, but when it got to Chicago, Brian [De Palma] took me into a room and had this whole thing storyboarded, but with stick figures. Those were his storyboards, like “Here’s the three shot…” And he says, “Well, I’m going to have you guys on horses,” and in the script there was nothing to do with horses, so I was like “Brian, my character has never been on a horse… This guy’s from the Southside of Chicago…” He looked at me and he said, “No, no, he’s an expert horseman” and I go “How is he an expert horseman?” He goes “Fuckin' figure it out.” I said “Oh, thanks." The guy’s from the Southside of Chicago, now he’s going to be an expert horseman.” [laughs]
It was something that he conceived that he wanted to have us on horses, and it’s something that he adapted in the script, but hadn’t found its way into the script yet, and so me as an actor was like “Oh God… First of all, I’ve got to get on a horse.” So I started taking lessons at this equestrian center here somewhere in town or nearby where it had like a ring, so I got on the horse and I told the costumers “Find me a tie pin or a lapel pin, something that has a horses head just so I can have some sort of connection to…” So I concocted this idea and did some research, there were some stables in a Chicago park here in the inner city that my father or my grandfather as an immigrant, he was like a stable boy and he took care of the stables. When I was a little kid, I would go visit him and I was helping him in the stables, and that's how I knew how to ride. So I had to concoct this whole backstory just to justify “How does this kid from Southside Chicago become an expert horseman?” Then I had two weeks to be an expert horseman.
Capone: There you go.
AG: [Laughs] So that’s my UNTOUCHABLES story. Then I just had to concentrate on not falling off when the horses were going 40 miles an hour.
Capone: That’s right. Well thank you very much; it was really a pleasure to meet you. And good luck with this film.
AG: Thank you, man. All the best to you. Thanks for coming out.
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March 30, 2010, 7:57 a.m. CST
March 30, 2010, 8:29 a.m. CST
by dr sauch
March 30, 2010, 8:53 a.m. CST
by Sailor Rip
...all of them. TTDiD does indeed rule. Treat Williams finest moment.
March 30, 2010, 12:50 p.m. CST
March 30, 2010, 12:50 p.m. CST
March 30, 2010, 12:52 p.m. CST
the international bankers control the media over here. the reason 'recent history is escaping our grasp' is because all the news, magazines, tv shows are all propaganda. Google BILDBERBERG GROUP to discover who really controls the world. we need to Free The Republic from their elitist control
March 30, 2010, 1:46 p.m. CST
Now I gotta buckwheats you too Jimmy.
March 30, 2010, 11:08 p.m. CST
Not to steal Capone's thunder (great interview by the way), but I also recently talked to Andy for CITY ISLAND, and managed to work in a little THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD bit. If you go to http://bigfanboy.com and click on the interview, watch the second interview clip (you can watch the first too, but the second clip has the TTDIDWYD stuff). That film has always been a favorite of mine, and I couldn't let the interview end without bringing it up. Hope you enjoy! Kudos to Capone for getting Andy to talk about THE UNTOUCHABLES. That was one movie I really wished we had time to discuss.
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