Reading like a Hollywood script, the real life story of Lillo Brancato will begin a new chapter for 2014. While millions of revelers in Times Square will be counting down the last seconds of 2013, the Brancato family will be celebrating the return of Lilo as he was released from the Hudson Correctional Facility today.
The 37 year old actor struck gold in the early 90’s when he impressed talent scouts at Jones Beach in Long Island with his impersonation of DeNiro from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. His uncanny resemblance to a young Robert DeNiro garnered him an audition for Chazz Palminteri’s film, A Bronx Tale.
In 1993, Lillo Brancato made his feature film debut in the DeNiro directed film, A Bronx Tale. Brancato portrayed Calogero Anello in the film. Chazz Palminteri who wrote the screenplay which was also based on his life growing up in the Bronx was impressed with Brancato’s acting ability.
In numerous interviews, Palminteri has stated that Brancato was a natural. At a 92nd and Y interview in NYC, Palminteri told the audience that if Brancato’s career didn’t get sidelined by his drug addiction, he could have been right up there with Leonardo DiCaprio.
After his debut in A Bronx Tale, Brancato went on to appear in other films and television shows such as Renaissance Man, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, R Xmas, NYPD Blue, Slingshot, The Sopranos and Searching for Bobby D.
Brancato claims to have started experimenting with drugs during the filming of A Bronx Tale. His drug problem would get the best of him on a tragic night in December of 2005 in the Bronx. After a night out with friend and father of his girlfriend, Brancato and Steven Armento went looking for drugs and broke into a house. Next door neighbor and off duty NYPD Police Officer, Daniel Enchautegui went out to investigate after hearing a window break and was shot and killed by Steven Armento. Brancato was shot as well during the fracas and would get sentenced to ten years in prison for first degree attempted burglary but he was not convicted of murder. Armento was sentenced to life in prison.
Both DeNiro and Palminteri tried to protect the young Brancato from the evil that can exist in the entertainment business. They tried to make him realize that he got a break that is a one in a million shot and not to get mixed up with the wrong people or give in to the fast life which happens to so many young actors in the business.
In the closing moments of A Bronx Tale, Palminteri wrote the ironic line, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent and the choices you make will shape your life forever.”
In recent days, Brancato left some tweets for his supporters on his twitter page: “I should be really happy to be going home but in all actuality I’m not,” “I’m nervous & scared. Been a long time. I don’t know what to expect. “With that being said, this will be my last tweet from prison. Thank you for your love and support. I love you all!”
Brancato has a chance to make a change, with his family, friends and fellow actors providing support, it is now up to Lillo to not waste anymore talent.