Interviews - Movies

Michael Rispoli – Untouchable

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Q) What are the current projects that you are working on?

A) The project I’m working on right now is called Invincible and it takes place in 1976. It’s about a real life guy named Vince Papale who was a local Philadelphia guy. The Philadelphia Eagles had an open try out and he’s a guy that walked on as a big Eagles fan at 30 years old. He actually walked on to try to make the team and against all odds he makes the team. It’s an inspiring story how he was encouraged and discouraged, but over came it all and made the team. Mark Wahlberg plays Vince and Elizabeth Banks plays his love interest who is my cousin in the film. We all play football out of a local bar called Max’s Bar where Vince was a bartender. I play the owner of the bar, Max. We all play on a bar league together and we’re all good friends. Greg Kinnear is in film as well playing Dick who was the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Q) Please tell us the premise of The Weather Man and your character Russ.

A) The Weather Man has Nicolas Cage and he’s terrific in it. He’s a weatherman in Chicago and he points to the board and says the weather. He’s made some mistakes in his life and is separated from his wife and two kids. He’s kind of estranged from them a little bit, but he wants to get that back. I guess he got caught up in the minor celebrity of being the weatherman in Chicago of a morning show, but now wants to reconnect with his wife and get back with his kids. My character, Russ, is now engaged to his wife and so Nicolas doesn’t like me in this movie. Michael Caine plays Nicolas’ father, who is a very accomplished poet laureate man that makes him look kind of slow and confused since all he does is point to a weatherboard. His father is actually an accomplished intellectual. Nicolas Cage is a weatherman who is trying to readjust his life, but is a little bit too late since certain things have already passed by. Of course, by the end of the movie he realizes that and readjusts properly and everyone gets along. Michael Caine is great! That’s why they waited for the Fall, apparently, because there is some Oscar contention for Nicolas Cage maybe.

Q) What made you want to be a part of this project?

A) I wanted to be a part of this because of the director, Gore Verbinski. He’s inspired The Pirates of the Caribbean and he did The Mexican. I just like his work a lot and he was directing this.  The film is kind of a slowish film, but there are nine main characters. The story is pretty much about Nic with his kids, Nic with his father and Nic with his ex-wife. I am affected in their thing. It was a nice project to be a part of. It’s not a big project, but it’s a story that everyone follows. Gore did The Pirates of the Caribbean, which is obviously this swashbuckling big sort of costume drama (that I thought is great). This was a more intimate film so I wanted to do it because of him.

Q) How did you feel being directed by Gore Verbinski?

A) It was great! He has a great eye and he watches close. Sometimes you find directors who come out on the technical side of things, which is also artistic if there are directors of photography. Some directors come out of music videos and can’t be associated with any sort of depth of art, as far as film making goes. I mean, they certainly look great, flash and do everything that they are supposed to do, but other directors can come out on technical side and have a real heart and soul to them. I think that Gore Verbinski does. I think that he actually looks at the minor details as opposed to lighting the actors and forgetting the actors in order to light the film. So, he was great and this is my second movie with Nic. It was nice to see him again.

Q) You’ve worked with Nicolas Cage on this project and on the film Snake Eyes. What was it like working with such a talented actor? 

A) It was great to see each other again, but it’s not like we’re long lost Siamese twins or anything. Nic Cage is a major movie star and is an industry unto himself. He’s always working and doing different films. What happens on a film set is you are punching a clock. You go into work and there is an idea that you do a movie with people and all of a sudden you’re at their house every weekend for Sunday dinner or you’re hanging out all of the time and going to their kid’s communions, baptisms and weddings, etc. Actually, on a movie you are punching a clock. You go in and say, “Hey, how are you doing? Nice to meet you.” You have to warm up because you’re supposed to be playing best friends, but you’ve literally just met the guy the day before and then you have to act as though you’ve known each other forever, which is part of the challenge. Only a few films do you come away from with any sort of lasting friendship like if you’re in town they will come stay at your house. By this time, everybody has their friends, acquaintances, business associates and whatever else. As far as on the set, you go on and talk about the piece, the last piece you did, boxing, New Orleans (since Nic loves that place), but at the end of the day when they say it is a wrap I go off my way and he goes off his way. At the end of the movie, you say, “Great to see you again. We’ll see each other again on the next project.” Of course, who knows when that is because it could be next month or four years from now. There is a respect and a genuine, “Good to see you and I’m glad to see you’re doing well.”

Q) What is your most memorable moment from filming The Weather Man?

A) We had to do a scene where Nic had to make an Abraham Lincoln appearance for his daughter. It’s history day at school or something. As he starts to reconnect with his son and daughter he offers to help play Abraham Lincoln in the school play. It was a great scene and afterwards he comes back to the house because something else happens where we confront each other, but that was a really good scene. It’s with him wearing the Lincoln mask and everything, with the pipe, hat and old clothes.

Q) Why should people go see The Weather Man?

A) You should see it because you’re going to see terrific performances by legendary actor Michael Caine. I wish I had more time on the film to talk to Michael Caine. We would talk, but he’s just a terrific guy. He’s a regular guy, but this is Sir Michael Caine. He’s been around for so long with tremendous performances and there’s no high and mighty thing that could happen. People can be that way and say, “I don’t have time to talk to you,” but he was really quite the opposite and that is very refreshing. It’s amazing to see someone who has been doing this for forty years, or for however long, and he’s still just a regular bloke. You’re going to see some terrific performances and Nicolas Cage is always interesting. You never know what is going to happen when he is on the screen, which is exciting to watch. Hope Davis is great, too. If you ask an actor why to see a movie, I always see a movie because of performances.  It’s a great story and people are going to like it.

Q) What has been your favorite project to work on?

A) I did a film called Two Family House and it was a movie that took place in the 50’s. It was a great story and the director (who also wrote it) named Raymond De Felitta did it for a million dollars in twenty-five days. It won the Sundance Audience Award and got terrific awards. It’s a great film and that was my favorite thing to work on. As far as a studio big budget to work on, I did While You Were Sleeping years ago because of the director John Turteltaub. He’s just keeps the set alive and funny. He was great and that was Sandra Bullock’s big break out film. That was a lot of fun and more recently I likedDeath To Smoochy, which Danny DeVito directed with Ed Norton and Robin Williams. That was great because I got to improvise. They just said, “Keep going” and kept the camera rolling. When you say to an actor, that’s a gift.

Q) Who would you most like to work with in the future?

A) You know, I don’t know. I admire and respect too many actors and actresses. I don’t know because I mostly like to look at the scripts. Whatever the script is, if it’s good, then you get excited. Right now, I’m working with Mark Wahlberg, Greg Kinnear, Elizabeth Banks and Kirk Acevedo. I’ve admired Kirk’s work for years. I saw him on stage ten years ago in New York. We come from New York and stage. That’s my favorite thing is doing stage, as opposed to doing film or TV. I remembered seeing him and I thought it was great because I’ve always liked his work. I could tell you the normal/usual suspects like DeNiro, Pacino and those guys. I kind of like to see who is coming up and around so I can mix up the energy so there are no preconceptions.

Q) What show would you most like to work on?

A) It’s not a popularity thing with me. It’s really got to do with the script. I could say that I’d love to have Terry Hatcher be naked in front of me or have to drop her robe in front of me on “Desperate Housewives.” The truth of the matter is that if it is a lousy story then I don’t want to do the show. It has everything to do with script. I don’t watch enough TV to pay attention to what show I’d want to be on. If somebody said, “There is a great role on ‘West Wing,’ it’s a three episode part for a guy who is a covert operator that gets exposed and is dying, etc.,” you’ll get excited for it if it’s good, dramatic and well written. It doesn’t matter what the network is or the status of the show, but if it is a well-written part than it is something I’d want to do. I don’t really care what show I’m on. I generally don’t do an episodic part. I have been on “The Sopranos” and we all came up together in New York. Michael Imperioli, James Gandolfini and Edie Falco are all theater trained New York actors. We were pounding the pavement years ago together. I get a call once in a while from “The Sopranos” asking if I’m available for an episode. Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not and sometimes they just want me to sit in the car (because my character is dead now on the show) and Tony Soprano sees me in a quick flash that goes away. I say no because there is no reason to do that since there is nothing to it. That’s one of the hottest TV shows on right now. I don’t care if it’s some silly show, but if it’s well-written then I’ll do it because you don’t find really well-written stuff. TV is so fast it’s like brown and serve writing. When you get some good writing you jump at it. In “Six Feet Under,” pretty much every time a character came on they had some great writing for them. Of course, that’s not on the air anymore.

Q) Why did you become an actor?

A) That’s the million-dollar question. I don’t know. I’ve remained an actor because I’m either too stubborn or too stupid to stop. It’s a tough business. You become an actor because of artistic expression and remaining an actor is when you are pummeled with the business side of it. The reality is how are you going to pay your rent while you are coming up. A lot of friends of mine, we started acting years ago, aren’t acting anymore because it got to the point where they couldn’t pay the rent and you don’t feel like dodging the landlord yet again. You definitely start out with this artistic impression and this great respect. You have admiration for this art where you could become someone else and really feel someone’s pain, make people laugh or bring them to tears because it is such a great story that you want to put across. Remaining an actor is really when the whole fortitude comes in and that’s where students want to take acting classes. When I go up to speak to acting classes I say, “That’s great that you work on your craft because that’s something that you need to do. You also have to have a great center because you’re going to be thrown for a loop over and over.” It might sound unglamorous, but it’s a profession of rejection. You have to be able to put up with the rejection and still keep your balance in order to move forward. So, I have great respect for creative people that act and write. They stick with it and still manage to put a good and productive life together.

Q) How has your Italian-American culture shaped you as a person?

A) It’s given me great passion and it gives me great anger. It also gives me a great belly laugh. You can say what you want to say, but there is a certain amount of histrionics to being Italian. You can yell and scream and then be hugging and kissing after it. Down through history, when Shakespeare would write about Italians like in “Two Gentleman of Verona” and other plays that took place in Italy the Italians were always amusing because of their wide range of emotion. I guess maybe the British are not known to be as quite as open with their emotions, but Italians will go, “Ahhh! Oh my God! I can’t believe it!” That’s how they are with one side of things and then they are kind of comical with the other side. I love being Italian-American. I don’t know what it’s like to be anything else! As far as the business goes, one gets typecast and that’s what happens. You have to get typecast if you’re going to start working because they have to know what you are and what you can do. It’s very important for casting directors, directors and the public at large to say that this guy does that and he’s good. As soon as you want to get out of it, that’s when it gets tough to break out of that. Stallone was the biggest action star of the 80’s and he had the power to tell the studio that he wanted to also do comedies. He went and did comedies, but they didn’t turn out so well since people didn’t want to see him in those roles. They wanted to see him outrun and arrow and dive off a cliff. Even the big stars get typecast in these things. Of course, they make a better living at it though. Someone who is like Tom Hanks that played “Bosom Buddies” on TV and then played the smirky wise guy everyman on the movies and does great, but then says he has to change it and comes up with Philadelphia. He comes up with different things like that because if you don’t then you get pigeonholed. On one end you get work, but then on the other hand you look to artistic impression as why you started. You don’t want to be defined by who they say you are. Will Smith has become a major movie star and he was a TV star that was a rap kid in a television show. He was typecast and yet he has taken the initiative and shows he has the acting chops so he moved on from there.

Q) What do you do in your spare time?

A) I play golf and play with my kids. I work around the house. I have some grapevines in the back of my house. I’m trying to perfect making wine. I’m pretty good so far, but I need to make it better. I also teach some acting classes here and there, which is real good because I get to watch people who are trying to be actors and actresses learn. When you are coaching them you learn from their expressions. Here I am telling them to try it this way, try it that way or think of this while you’re doing it. In the mean time, you say I have to do the same thing. This is reminding myself of the same thing that I have to do. I do some writing and I occupy my time.

Q) What would you like to say to your fans and supporters?

A) I would like to say thank you very much. I appreciate anybody who likes my work and I don’t always like my work. I always want to try and perfect it and make it better. Thanks a whole lot and God bless for liking my work. I’m going to keep working and I’m always looking for the big role. I don’t mean big as in size, but the one that you can chomp down on and really reveal yourself to the world somehow or another. You want to make your contribution. Anybody who is watching me take that journey, I really appreciate the company. Thank you!

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