MetroFocus/Danny Aiello: From the Streets to the Screen

You may know Danny Aiello from his roles in iconic films, from Moonstruck to his Academy Award-nominated performance as pizzeria owner Sal Frangione in Spike Lee’s 1989 Do the Right Thing. But ‘actor’ is not the only role he’s played in the course of his life. Recently he’s revealed more of himself in his autobiography I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else: My Life on the Street, On the Stage, and in the Movies. Tonight, he joins us to discuss his life and career in film, improv, and music.

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Spotlight shines on Aiello at Hoboken International Film Festival

By Richard J. Bayne/ Times Herald-Record
Photo Credit: Allyse Pulliam/For the Times Herald-Record

MIDDLETOWN — The packed house at the Paramount Theatre leaped to its feet for a standing ovation as Danny Aiello, who appeared in classics such as “The Godfather: Part II,” “Moonstruck,” “Hudson Hawk” and “Do the Right Thing,” stepped onstage to accept the 2016 Excellence Award, kicking off the seven-day Hoboken International Film Festival.
The presentation came after a 20-minute tribute, highlighting 40 years worth of films. Aiello shook his head as he looked at the screen, saying, “I can’t believe that was me up on that screen. Whenever I look at myself, the first thing I want to do is throw up.”
When he arrived in the theater lobby, Aiello, who grew up on West 68th Street in Manhattan, was mobbed by fans. He talked about how coming upstate brought back memories. He spent summers in Kerhonkson as a child.
In past years, the festival’s opening night attracted a good sprinkling of stars, including “Three’s Company’s” Joyce DeWitt, “Guiding Light’s” Mandy Bruno and Martin Kove (“The Karate Kid; “Rambo”). This year’s outing didn’t pull big-name celebrities, aside from Aiello, and the 1,100-seat Paramount Theatre had some empty seats. Actress Terri Conn (“As the World Turns”; “One Life to Live”) had the honor of introducing Aiello. Conn plays Diane in the short film “Jack and Diane,” which screens at the festival Saturday.
When he took the stage, the festival chairman, Ken Del Vecchio, noted that only about 10 percent of the 1,500 entries that were submitted were chosen. “This is a festival for winners,” Del Vecchio said.
This is the fourth year the HIFF, which brings Hollywood glitz, including red carpet arrivals, will be at the Paramount. When the festival is over, it’ll also be finishing its three-year contract with the city, and Mayor Joe DeStefano, who was at Friday night’s opening, said the city will be looking for its best deal. He expects the contract to be resolved by the end of the summer.
“We’re not saying ‘No,’” the mayor said. “But it’s nice to have options.”
The HIFF, which is actually in its 11th year overall, came to Middletown’s iconic Paramount Theatre after it was chased out of New Jersey by Superstorm Sandy. Del Vecchio has insisted on keeping the “Hoboken” name. He has said it’s a “brand,” and internationally known.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, who was also at the opening, said he’d like to see the “energy” of the festival stay in Middletown. “We should keep this going,” Neuhaus said.

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Clara Mamet and Rebecca Pidgeon on Two Bit Waltz

By Michael Dunaway

Screenwriting can be a very tough racket. Aside from the myriad complications in finding a story and producing a rough draft, the long road of revising and honing a script can be a very lonely one, indeed. Fortunately for director Clara Mamet, whose excellent debut film Two Bit Waltz is out now, she had a bit of an inside track on getting good guidance on her writing. Her mother is actress Rebecca Pidgeon, and her father is writer David Mamet.

Wisely, she took advantage of the pair. “We saw various early drafts,” remembers Pidgeon. “She shows us writing along the way. She was working on something really far out there, and then she changed her mind and decided to take inspiration just from our family. Not that that’s exactly what we’re like!”

That was important feedback for the young filmmaker as she began to shape the world she was creating. Viewers will notice a certain kinship to Wes Anderson, but Mamet swears she didn’t have him in mind from the beginning. “It’s interesting,” she says, “when I started making this movie, I didn’t know that this is what it would turn into. I mean, I guess you have that with any movie. But I didn’t really have Wes Anderson in mind, although I do get that a lot. What I do really like about him is the wideness of his shots, which I use as well. That has definitely made an impression on me.”

“And of course my dad’s films have influenced me, too,” she continues, “just in terms of the structure. Structurally his films are all so sound. I’d like to adopt that myself. At some point. I think my biggest problem is that I don’t write any outlines. I just start writing, and it gets a bit messy. And then I have to be like ‘Whoa, what was this about, again?’ And I kind of dial it back in a little bit.”

Mamet also used that time with her mother for more than just advice. “We’d go for walks,” Pidgeon recalls, “and she’d kind of audition me on the fly. She’d say ‘Say this line…’ And I’d say it, and she’d say, ‘Well, how would you do this?’ And I’d say, ‘Are you auditioning me right now? I’m your mother. Stop that. Cut it out.’” And she eventually got the role, in the film as well as in real life.

“And she got to dress me up,” she continues, “which was something she wanted to do all her life. She’d come into the closet when she was little and say ‘Mommy, put this on!’ And she’d give me some sort of gold lame helmet with fishnets and high heels. Always stuff that I couldn’t really wear out for dinner. But in this movie she said, ‘All right. You’re wearing all of this stuff.’”

Still, it didn’t feel strange to Pidgeon. She was able to separate out Clara her director from Clara her daughter. Most of the time. “It was quite natural, “ she maintains, “because she’s an artist, and she has a vision. She really had a quiet authority on that set that everybody was really grateful for. You immediately got the sense that she knew what she was doing. So it was quite interesting for me just to say, ‘Oh, here’s this fantastic, professional young woman, who’s got very useful things to tell me in this scene.’ She’s very simple, and direct. She’s been brought up in our family, so she knows what our process is, as actors and directors. So she just slipped right into that.”

“But you know,” she continues with a smile, “I am her Mom as well, so sometimes there was eye rolling, if I forgot a line or something. A small sigh, and an eye roll, and ‘Let’s take it again, so Mom can get her lines right…’”

But maybe that’s just payback? Was there some eye rolling on Pidgeon’s part, say, when Mamet was in her teen years? “Probably, yeah,” she says with a chuckle.

“It was awesome,” Mamet says. “Totally awesome to boss her around. And she just had to take it, or I would have fired her.”

Pidgeon is also a singer/songwriter of no small acclaim, although she’s arguably better known as an actress in the U.S. But her twin careers have developed on an interesting path in relation to each other. “They sort of started at the same time,” she says. “I was at drama school in London, and I was also making a record with my musical partner, and we started to build up as a band at the same time that my acting career was building. Then there was this sort of break where I got married and transferred everything over to the States and started to work with my husband, Dave. And I began to pursue a career as a solo musician on a much smaller level. And then we had our family, and both things got put a little bit on the back burner. But the acting, I think, was always a little more visible—at least, in this country.”

Once again, her acting and music are moving forward together. “I’ve got this new record out called Bad Poetry, done on my own,” she explains. “The last couple of records, I’ve kind of taken a departure and gone down an edgier musical path. Hearkening back to my early love of punk, a little bit like that.”

She’s experimented with many different processes for songwriting, but collaborating is one of her favorites. “I like to co-write,” she says. “That’s a lovely journey to take. And it gets you out of your own head. It’s more painful and lonely, writing on your own. Although, it can bring great joy too, once you crack the code. But sitting there struggling with yourself is sometimes not much fun.”

I asked her if her songwriting and acting informed each other, or whether they felt like two segregated forms of expression for her. “That’s a good question,” she says, pausing. “I used to think that performing songs was more about presenting a true part of yourself, but now I’m enjoying performing them by experimenting a little bit with character. And I find it’s closer to acting, actually, than I had thought initially. I suppose it does inform my acting. I don’t really know how, but I’m sure it must. It’s a completely different arena, a different journey. Because you’re not leaning back on a text.”

Speaking of leaning back (and, come to think of it, of trust and vulnerability), there’s a scene in Two Bit Waltz where Pidgeon is hanging upside down from a tree in a full-on white Victorian dress. But it’s all movie magic, I was disappointed to learn. “That was a hard part to do actually,” Mamet says. “She’s not actually hanging from the tree. We had to CGI out a ladder. And we had to strap her legs down. But she was a good sport.”

So does Mamet have the CGI bug now? Will her next film be a sci-fi epic? “Kind of, actually,” she answers cryptically. “It’s funny that you say that. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be a trilogy.”

I can’t really tell if she’s joking. Who knows, maybe we will get that “far out there” story Pidgeon teased. But after Two Bit Waltz, viewers will be ready to go wherever Clara Mamet wants to take them.

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Huffington Post: Danny Aiello Took Me Off the Hook

Written By: Robbie Vorhaus

In 1979, I worked for the producer of a short-lived Broadway play, Knockout, starring Danny Aiello and David Patrick Kelly (presently Da, in Once the Musical). For several months, we became friendly, hanging out together at the producer’s office on Park Avenue. Knockout opened and closed within months, and everyone involved in the production went their separate ways.

Two years later in 1981, Danny Aiello was starring in Woody Allen’s play, The Floating Light Bulb, and I was writing comedy for network TV, while also performing at New York City’s comedy club, Catch A Rising Star. On busy nights, undiscovered comics like me often worked the entry door to the main room, and one crazy night between sets, I was on “the rope,” that magical divide between the bar and the stage.

It was late, and unannounced, Danny Aiello walked in off First Avenue with Robert Duvall, still riding high from starring in the films Apocalypse Now and The Great Santini. I, along with everyone else in the room, was star struck seeing Duvall and Aiello together, and without thinking, and out of sheer excitement, I loudly blurted, “Danny Aiello! You old schmuck!” Translated, in Yiddish, I essentially said, “Danny, you old penis.”

The instant the words left my mouth, I knew I had screwed up. Danny grimaced, and to make it worse, as the two passed through the red rope, Duvall nodded toward me and said to Aiello sarcastically, “They obviously love you here.” It was a terrible moment.

Management at Catch was upset with me and I was asked to go home for the night. Devastated, I barely slept for several nights. Returning a couple days later, I asked a now-famous comic what I should do. He suggested I write Danny an apology.

In my note to Danny, I expressed remorse for embarrassing him in front of Duvall and others. I wrote that I respected his work, congratulated him on his success. I reminded him of the fun we shared together several years earlier, and profusely apologized for my very public gaffe. Once finished, I personally delivered the typewritten letter to the stage door of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center and waited for a response.

Several days later Danny called. In his typical New York tough guy voice, Danny sweetly let me off the hook. Danny told me his reaction to my inappropriate outburst was more out of his own insecurity for being heckled in front of Duvall because he said candidly, “I was trying to impress him.” Danny went on to tell me he had already called “Catch,” to make sure they didn’t “punish” me, and not to worry about any repercussions. He finished the conversation saying he was “grateful for our friendship,” and as his guest, to please come to his play and after the show, come backstage “for a hug.”

I thanked Danny for the call; hung-up, and broke down crying out of sheer relief.

Now, more than thirty years later, we’ve both released our first book. Danny’s, I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else: My Life on the Street, On the Stage, and in the Movies (Gallery Books, 2014), is a wonderful memoir of a very special man. Buy it.

And my book, One Less. One More. – Follow Your Heart. Be Happy. Change Slowly. (Storytelling, Inc. 2014), is an ageless solution to solving life’s problems, including an entire chapter on the power of gratitude and forgiveness, which Danny Aiello taught me about a long time ago.

Today, whose life can you heal through forgiveness? Who, over the course of your lifetime, inspired you to become a better person? And, who in your life needs to hear you’re grateful for their friendship? As no one is perfect, you can at the very least be kind.

With compassion and forgiveness, Danny Aiello changed my life forever. Now it’s your turn: Who can you take off the hook?


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Do The Right Thing 25 Year Anniversary: A Beats Music Experience

5 years ago, Do The Right Thing was released. Follow Spike Lee as he strolls down memory lane (in this case, Stuyvesant Avenue) with the cast from the iconic film and residents of the legendary block.

Then, enjoy the 25th Anniversary Block Party with guests Dave Chappelle, Wesley Snipes, Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), Erykah Badu and one very special performance from Public Enemy.

‘Do the Right Thing’ still shines brightly

(CNN) — You can still feel the heat from “Do the Right Thing.”
Though the Spike Lee Joint, about the angry events of a scorching hot day in Brooklyn, looks a bit dated these days — gone are the boomboxes and fade haircuts of the late ’80s — there’s no fighting the film’s power.
The issues raised by the film — gentrification, ethnic clashes, police presence, the impact of violence — remain topical.
So does its thoughtfulness, something that was overlooked, both then and later. “Do the Right Thing” was released 25 years ago Monday.
It had a reputation before it even opened. “Do the Right Thing” would doom race relations, said critics. Riots would engulf the multiplex. One can only imagine the fear that would have been stoked in the Internet age.
Instead, what audiences found was a film more infused with sadness (and humor!) than anger, less black and white than shades of gray.
Sal, the pizzeria owner played by Danny Aiello, was gruff but fatherly. Mookie, Lee’s delivery man character, was immature but not mean. The rest of the characters — the music-loving Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), the drunken Mayor and Mother Sister (Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee), even the pot-stirring Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) — were humans, not props.
New York has changed in 25 years. Today blacks and Italians both listen to hip-hop, the pop music of our times. The Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, where the film takes place, was once considered rough — now “the people who once considered Bed-Stuy a jungle lazily walk their tiny dogs past me,” wrote Jason Reynolds in Gawker.
Even Lee, who can still get fired up about gentrification, acknowledged the barbed world of “Do the Right Thing” has lost some of its prickliness.
“When I wrote the script … New York City was a very polarized city, racially,” he told CNN in 2009. “I wanted to do a film that would try to show what was happening at the time.”
On the other hand, look at the vitriol on the Web. Look at the battles between red and blue states. Look at the ever-present conflict between violence and nonviolence.
The movie still haunts our culture. As Lee said in 2009, “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Still, he can admire his handiwork. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he talked about “Do the Right Thing” with pleasure.
“It still holds up!” he said. “But we look real young.”

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Vibe: Spike Lee Celebrates ‘Do The Right Thing’ With Q-Tip, Michael Ealy, Danny Aiello And More

One of Spike Lee’s most iconic films is celebrating its 25th anniversary on June 30. On a hot almost-summer day, the famed director toasted the occasion at the Crosby Street Hotel. The event, in conjunction with Grey Goose and its new Le Melon flavor, included a screening of filmmaker St. Clair Bourne’s documentary on the making of Do The Right Thing and the unveiling of commissioned artwork from Kehinde Wiley.

Flip through for more photos of Spike Lee, Michael Ealy, Victor Cruz, Michael K. Williams and more in attendance. (Danny Aiello pictured above).

Photo Credit: Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Grey Goose.

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Variety: CANNES: Kyra Sedgwick-Sylvester Stallone Comedy-Drama ‘Reach Me’ Gets U.S. Release

Dave McNary
Film Reporter


Millennium Entertainment has acquired all U.S. rights to drama-comedy “Reach Me,” starring Sylvester Stallone, Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin Connelly, Terry Crews, Thomas Jane, Danny Aiello and Tom Berenger.

Producers are Rebekah Chaney, Cassian Elwes, Buddy Patrick and John Herzfeld, who directed from his own script. The film will be released in select cities and on demand on Oct. 24.

The movie explores the results of a self-published motivational book by a reclusive author (Berenger) on a tabloid journalist (Connolly), his editor (Stallone), an arsonist ex-con (Sedgwick), a gunfighter cop (Jane), an alcoholic priest (Aiello) and a dimwitted gangster.

The movie also stars Lauren Cohan, Nelly, Omari Hardwick, David O’Hara, Ryan Kwanten, Tom Sizemore, Elizabeth Henstridge, Danny Trejo and Kelsey Grammer.

Millennium Entertainment’s Tristen Tuckfield negotiated the deal with Cassian Elwes on behalf of the filmmakers.

Red Granite International is handling international sales at  Cannes.

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4th Annual Ridgewood Guild Film Festival This Week

Two-day event is set to feature student and pro films, creator Q&As, and an appearance by Bergen County actor Danny Aiello.

Posted by Jessica Mazzola

The Ridgewood Guild is proud to present the 4th Annual Spring Film Festival Wednesday, April 23 and Thursday, April 24 at the Bow Tie Cinema (formerly the Clearview Warner) in downtown Ridgewood.

Red carpet festivities begin at 6pm each night, with film programming, running in two theaters simultaneously, beginning at approximately 7pm. Attendees will be treated to short subjects, animated films, documentaries, music videos, as well as feature length films.

Select filmmakers will hold Q&A sessions and local professionals will be on hand to answer questions regarding their films and the movie industry in general.

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Rene Marie – Black Lace Freudian Slip Tour

Saturday, November 12, 2011, 8:00 PM

BlackRock Center for Arts in Germantown

Marie layers her music with a spirited sophistication not unlike that of a fine wine. Perhaps that accounts for the Los Angeles Times observing that Marie has “the talent, the imagination and the sheer presence to be included in the very top level of performers.” Or, as the Washington Times so aptly put it: “When the sounds and emotions she has kept bottled up for two decades burst forth, the experience is electrifying.” Marie layers her music with a spirited sophistication not unlike that of a fine wine. Perhaps that accounts for the Los Angeles Times observing that Marie has “the talent, the imagination and the sheer presence to be included in the very top level of performers.” Or, as the Washington Times so aptly put it: “When the sounds and emotions she has kept bottled up for two decades burst forth, the experience is electrifying.”

$30.00 Balcony (Child or Adult)
$35.00 Orchestra (Child or Adult)

Robert Cray September 2011 Tour Dates

09-08-11 Club Fever
222 South Michigan Street
South Bend, IN 46601 Buy Tickets

09-09-11 Norton Center For The Arts
600 W. Walnut
Danville, KY 40422 Buy Tickets

09-10-11 Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ Festival
Columbia, MO Buy Tickets

09-11-11 Old Rock House
1200 South 7th Boulevard
St. Louis , Missouri 63104

09-13-11 House of Blues – Texas
1204 Caroline St.
Houston, Texas 77002 Buy Tickets

09-16-11 The Canyon – Scottsdale
16203 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85254 Buy Tickets

09-17-11 SOL @ Santa Fe Brewing Company
27 Fire Place
Santa Fe, NM 87508 Buy Tickets

09-18-11 Telluride Blues & Brews Fest
Telluride Town Park
Telluride, CO 81435 Buy Tickets

09-29-11 Ziggy’s
821 North Trade Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27101 Buy Tickets

09-30-11 The Clayton Center
111 East Second Street
Clayton, North Carolina 27520

Check out all Robert Cray Tour Dates and more @