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Interview: Vincent Pastore (Revolver)

Probably best known for his role as Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, the wiseguy-turned-informant who Tony guns down on a yacht and sinks off the coast of Jersey at the end of Season 2 of The Sopranos, Vincent Pastore has appeared in nearly 100 films and TV episodes.

Probably best known for his role as Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, the wiseguy-turned-informant who Tony guns down on a yacht and sinks off the coast of Jersey at the end of Season 2 of The Sopranos, Vincent Pastore has appeared in nearly 100 films and TV episodes and currently, audiences can see Pastore on stage in the Broadway production of Chicago.

In writer/director Guy Ritchie’s Revolver, Pastore plays Zack, and enigmatic loan shark who, along with his partner Avi (Andre Benjamin), comes to the rescue ex-con, gambler, and chess master Jake Green (Jason Statham). Other characters include names like The Caddy, French Paul, Fat Dan, Howard The Indian, Johnny Walker and a guy named Dorothy.

I had the chance to speak with Pastore at a recent roundtable interview in New York City where he discussed his career, The Sopranos, and working with Guy Ritchie.

Vincent Pastore

Vincent Pastore Revolver

Question: Did the script change and mutate a lot?
Vincent Pastore: Yeah, it did, because Guy, as he was shooting, like many directors, said, ‘Let’s try it this way instead.’ Because it was starting to work. I think what happens is that when you get a cast, and you get the input from the actors, sometimes the writing does change. That happened with us on The Sopranos. We were given a script at the beginning, before we shoot the episode, but Chase didn’t know what he was going to write up until the last minute, because he was discovering what he was getting from his cast.

Q: Do you think that fans of the HBO series will be able to follow this film? Because on that show, every move was scrutinized, right and left, and…
VP: Not the last episode.

Q: You’re right, that one didn’t give us a lot to grasp.
VP: Yeah, but the last episode keeps people wondering and keeps people talking about what happened, and will there be another one. It’s almost like David Lynch in a sense. But what we have with Revolver is a movie will say ‘I got it,’ or ‘I didn’t get it,’ and it’s something that if it’s on TV again, or if they go and buy the DVD, they’re going to sit through it and say ‘Let me catch it this time and see if I pick something up.’

Q: It’s the kind of movie you have to sit through three or four times…
VP: I’m not saying you need to see it three or four times. What I am saying, and I think Guy would agree with me, is that we don’t get it the first time.

Q: Would you want to do a sequel to this film? I feel that the mystery and intrigue are what drives it.
VP: Would I want to do it? As an actor yes, but I don’t think Guy Ritchie wants to do it as a director.

Q: As a viewer then, would you like to see a sequel?
VP: Well, I almost see Ritchie’s work, in a sense, as a trilogy. With the gangster genre he’s done Lock, Stock, Snatch, and now this. And I kind of think that if he does do another mob-type oriented film, some of the characters could come back into that. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sequel.

Q: How different is the Jersey mob from the mob in Revolver?
VP: Well, in Revolver there is no real world. You don’t know what country it is. It could be anywhere.

Q: Where was it filmed?
VP: We shot in London and on The Isle of Man. But it’s not specified whether it’s London, or Scotland, or wherever. So when I worked on my character, I didn’t play him as say, the guy from Jersey or the Bronx or from Brooklyn. I was someone who was in this world.

Q: Do you have a favorite scene in the film?
VP: The whole sequence with me and Andre [and Jake], and we’re going up and robbing the guys, and it cuts back to the animation, and then it cuts back to us, and the elevator, and he doesn’t want to take the elevator, and I tell him to shut up. And a guy like me picking up Jason and throwing him around, it’s pretty cool.

Q: What scenes did you have the most impact on? Which ones did you most improvised?
VP: Improvised? The first day on the set, my first day on the set. He gave me a machine gun and said, ‘Say what you want to say.’ And it’s nice because it’s in the trailer, ‘Get in the car. If I wanted to kill you, I would have shot you by now.’

Q: So can you write the primer now, on the gangster genre?
VP: When we did Sopranos, and I’ll talk about it now, when we did the pilot, me and Michael Imperioli were trying to lift that body and throw it in the dumpster all night long, and I just wanted to get out of there. Because they made that body a little too heavy. And I said, ‘Come on, let’s take it over to Staten Island and cut it up.’ And that’s what we ended up using, that line.

Q: Are you and your cast-mates from that show ever worried about being typecast as mobsters?
VP: Well, I’m doing Chicago (see pic below) now, and I’m not playing a gangster, I’m playing Amos Heart, and Aida Turturro is playing the matron. Jimmy is directing and producing HBO projects. We just saw one about the wounded soldiers coming home from Iraq. Stevie is stepping away from acting and focusing on The E Street Band and the Underground Garage and all his radio stuff. Michael is focusing on the theater and he’s got some great movies coming out. He’s got a movie coming out this weekend I think.

Chicago Vincent Pastore

Q: Something about a baseball…
VP:  Yes. And he played a pool shark that ended up a loser or a dealer or something. No, I don’t think we’re all going to get stuck into that. I think if anything people are going to realize that we can act, and that we can do other jobs.

Q: Is there a day that goes by that you don’t get called, ‘Hey Big Pussy!’?
VP: No, there’s not a day that goes by. Everyday they call me Big Pussy. And I was saying before, to my publicist, that I could probably run for mayor in New York. I don’t know who is going to vote for me, but I could see the banner right now, ‘Big Pussy for Mayor.’

Q: Any classic roles you want to play?
VP: Yeah, I want to do Eddie Carbone from A View From the Bridge. And Tony Lo Bianco said I should do it now. There’s a play I’m working on and I have the rights to do, it’s called Lampost Reunion, which was done originally by Danny Aiello in the 70s, and it’s a Louie Russo play. Do you remember that play? It’s about Sinatra and homecoming, and we’re already in rehearsal for that. And yeah, there’s things I want to do. We have ideas that run through us, and basically the easiest thing for me to do now, economically, is for me to start producing some plays.

Q: Were you aware of Ritchie’s cult following?
VP: Guy Ritchie? I thought you were talking about Ritchie Palmer on Mulberry Street [Everyone laughs]. Yeah, of course, I’m one of his followers. Not in Kaballah, but I’m one of his followers.

Q: Had you seen Snatch and Lock, Stock?
VP: Yeah, yeah I’d seen them. That’s what attracted me to working with Guy Ritchie.

Q: How did you get involved with Revolver?
VP: The truth is, and you can ask Guy Ritchie the same question, he will back me up. He was driving down Sunset and he saw my Puff Daddy, my P-Diddy ad on Sunset Boulevard. And he contacted me, and I went in for an interview, and I was the first one he cast in the film. I think he said, ‘Oh, there’s the guy that’s going to play Zack. This guy right here. All because I was on that big billboard.’

Q: You started acting later than…
VP: I started acting later than a lot of people, yeah.

Q: Was it always an ambition, always something you wanted to do?
VP: Well, I had done community theater in the 70s, then I went into the nightclub business. And I ran nightclubs up until 1988, and I phased out of the nightclub business and I was acting and driving a limo, and eventually I didn’t have to… I just ran into Bonnie [Finnegan], and she was giving me a lot of bit players, and stuff like that, and she got me Carlito’s Way, and then I didn’t have to drive the limo anymore.

Q: Are you writing?
VP: No, I’ve been focusing a lot on radio and a lot on music. I like to do what you guys are doing right here. With my radio show I just interviewed Franki Valli, I had Davie Jones last week… so I’m starting to get into that sort of thing too, as a side thing. It’s a good paycheck.

Q: Are you on Sirius?
VP: Yeah, Sirius, Wednesday night, ‘The Wiseguy Show.’

WiseGuy Show

Q: Who are your fellow wiseguys?
VP: The Wiseguy show is Joe Causi, and ChaCha from Mulberry Street, and Uncle Floyd, and Joe Rigano. And it’s produced by Van Zandt. We’ve been on for three and a half years. And it’s a lot of fun.

Q: Can you talk about working with Andre Benjamin? He’s not a trained actor…
VP: No, but he’s smart, and he learned his lines [snaps fingers three times], and he’s a smart guy.

Q: I actually forgot he was the guy from Outkast…
VP: Yeah, but I mean, he knew his lines. A lot of the time you work with a musician, and they’re too busy smoking dope…

Q: Is that Van Zandt?
VP: No, Stevie don’t believe in that stuff… I was very surprised with Andre. And he was very good to work with.

Q: How did it work between you guys? Did you talk about your characters with one another?
VP: You know, actors don’t talk to other actors about their character. They create something, and you play off of it. Like last night, I’m on stage with Maxwell Caulfield and he’s playing Billy Flynn, and something started to happen between the two of us, and we noticed it. We picked it right up. Because as soon as the scene was over he was backstage and he said, ‘Vinnie, I’ve never seen anybody do that with that character before.’ And that’s what happens. Because acting is reacting. I mean, you can see people do monologue after monologue, but even a scene like… in No Country For Old Men, when Tommy Lee Jones is talking to his wife at the end, he’s still talking to her, so it’s reaction. So what happened when you put me and Jason and Andre together? I think it’s good stuff, because Jason is a very talented person and Andre is a listener, and I’m beginning to learn how to do this thing myself.

Q: How is Guy Ritchie as a director? He seems to have a very specific vision. Does he do a lot of takes?
VP: He doesn’t do a lot of takes. He’s got the same crew that has been working with him on all of his movies. And these guys know what he wants. So he tells them to set up a shot, he’ll come in and say, ‘Okay, I got ten guys sitting around a table, I want this, this, this, and this. He’ll walk out, play chess with Jason, come back, and they’ll shoot… He does do a lot of steadicam stuff, he likes to move the camera around.

*************MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*******************

Q: When you first read the script, was the twist at the end, involving your character, one of the things that attracted you to the film?
VP: We’re telling the public then end of the movie…

Q: Don’t worry, we’ll warn them.
VP: When I read the script and realized we were the guys? No, he wrote that in as we worked. In the original script that didn’t happen.

Q: What other ways did the original script differ?
VP: In the original script we meet Sam Gold.

Q: And what was that like, what was Sam Gold like?
VP: He was like a big thing of light… I’m serious. The original script, we meet Sam Gold. That’s why I just said to Guy, ‘Are we doing a sequel so we know who Sam Gold is?’ Because we never find out. We know in our minds who Sam Gold is. He’s the powerful, spiritual, whatever, I guess. But everyone is afraid of Sam Gold except for me and Avi. Now how come me and Avi aren’t afraid of Sam Gold?

Q: What do you make of that? That everyone fears him but you and Avi?
VP: Why we don’t fear him? Because it’s like the devil versus the angels. In my opinion. I definitely thought me and Avi were the angels, and Sam Gold was the devil.

Q: Did you play your character with that in mind?
VP: I played it as if we were redeemed already, as if we had saved ourselves, and it was very important that we saved Jake. That was our mission, especially when he figures out that we were the guys who taught him the con and the game of chess. That he never saw in prison.

Samuel Goldwyn Films releases Revolver in theaters this coming Friday, December 7th.

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