The 31st Annual Miami International Film Festival is long over now. One small drawback to the festival is that some of the bigger films only had one screening and it was not always easy to get a ticket. One example was the closing night film, "Rob the Mob"; but, luckily, the movie is now playing in theaters. While MIFF was still in session, Andy Garcia and the film's director, Raymond De Felitta, did a round table interview to discuss their newest collaborative effort and shared, among other things, how the two first started to work together. This interview contains spoilers about the movie.
*How did you two meet and when did you decide to work together?
Raymond De Felitta: I remember it well. I had this script, "City Island" that I had been trying to put together and the head of the family, the lead character, is an Italian guy. For whatever reason I got stalled in thinking I had to get an Italian actor for it and I wasn't really able to. They were busy and they were doing something. One was James Gandolfini and he did not want to play an Italian guy again. So my agent said, "We have a great actor in our agency, Andy Garcia." I said, "That's funny. Andy, he's like an honorary Italian. He's in The Godfather (Part III)." Then I started thinking I really didn't have to worry about that. It taught me a lesson, really, which is don't get caught up too much in your casting things with how old someone is or ethnic type, just what good actors can help you. So we sent it to him and then I got a call one day and heard the ominous voice on the other line say, (trying to impersonate Andy Garcia) "This is Andy Garcia." We met a few weeks later in LA. I said that if you want to do this, we really should do it together. We should produced it together and become partners on it and so that was it.
Andy Garcia: That's the story. I can just nod. I responded to "City Island". I fell in love with the character and the potential of the film.
What to do you like about each other that keeps making you to continue working together?
RDF: For me, to find an actor who has a big range and a big heart and personally you also have interests that are similar. You speak the same language. It doesn't happen every day. A director, writer always looks for that actor you are always in sync with and you can develop a shorthand with. I felt that way very early on before we even worked together. So it was natural to me when the project came up. Of course I want to work with Andy again. It would be great.
AG: It has to do with the chemistry and the necessities of what we are inspiring to do; the manner in which we work. Raymond comes from a musical background. He's an incredible jazz pianist. So we approach the work in a way kind of musically with an experimental improvisational spirit to it. We try to explore the ideas even if they come on in a moment. Let's just do them, let's not judge them or intellectualize them. Let's just try it! That kind of spirit is very attractive to an actor; to have an actor that you can have that shorthand or that trust with. An indication is this movie ("Rob the Mob"). This character was not really developed in the script at all, but he had an idea on how to develop him in a certain way. When I read the script I thought, "There's no part there." But he said he had notes and an idea and we started spit balling about who this guy was more of a tragic father figure and grandfather and cook. We started doing research on the real guy and what his background was and we came up, based on our reading, writings and musings with the character that you saw. There were even improvisations on the day.
"Rob the Mob" is a love story, a comedy and a crime drama. Yet, there is very little violence and no blood. Was that as scripted or was a directorial decision?
AG: That's a budget decision (everyone laughs).
The ending was quite stunning, can you speak about the shooting of the film?
RDF: I have a slightly schizophrenic side to myself so the fact that the movie has a few different tones reflects my own disturbed life and sensibilities. I like when a movie can cross a few different genres. As for the violence, again, I'm slightly schizophrenic. I love the idea of doing a movie with an Uzi. I've never done that before. I'm not a huge fan of violence. When we got to the ending, which was the only violent scene because the club scenes were basically shooting up the walls, I started to think that by the time you take this journey with Tommy and Rosie, if you really do like, if not fallen in love with them, ending this movie with their blood and guts all over the road is just going to be too dark and too weird. I didn't want to leave the audience with that much of let down. So I started to think of what movies have successfully transcended that. A tragic ending that is really not tragic, but really quite beautiful. The one I really came back to was the ending of "The Wrestler." Because when Mickey Rourke goes in the ring and he's been told not to and he gets up on the ropes and he's going to do his finisher, you think, "This is it. The guy's decided just to go out." They didn't bother to show you the ambulance coming and the guy's pounding his chest. They just left him. They freeze framed him in mid-air. I thought that's right because now you leave with him as a hero. That became the way we developed the ending as we were getting ready to shoot. And, like you said, we did not have the money to do what Arthur Penn did with "Bonnie and Clyde". I didn't want to anyway. I wanted to leave them together alive with what they had.
AG: On independent movies you always have budgetary parameters. We talk about them like a joke, but that's the reality. Sometimes it creates alterative ways of doing something, of telling a story or staging of something that is ultimately more interesting than what you has scripted. If only I had all of this, I could have done it this way, but I didn't.
Andy, what was your favorite moment in the movie with the grandson that was played by Luke Fava?
AG: Well, very early on we talked about who this character was. We started talking about more on how he was a father and a grandfather and a cook. The person on who he is based did have a food truck business and eventually got involved in the mob. I had been telling Ray about this thing that happened to me in New York about a driver that I had. He used to take me to work on a movie, but he would stop periodically in liquor stores in Manhattan to pick up these manila envelopes. I would go, "What are you doing?" He would say, "I have to go and pick up a manila." He would go in and pick up and envelope or he would deliver an envelope. "I have to get to work. What are you doing?" He would say, "Don't worry about it, Commander." So it stood in my head that this guy was dropping off like numbers money. So we thought maybe that's how my character got in to the mob. So we started elaborating on what this guy's back story was and how did he become the head of the mob and that he got in there to provide for and protect his family. Ultimately that choice is what destroyed his family. The fact that he lost his son to a mob hit and now he had the grandson. Those were the things we were really interested in, not so much the mob guys. He is the head of the mob, but he wishes he could go back in time and not make those choices anymore. That to me was the way of the beauty of that exploration. You see a guy who realizes that he has all these regrets about he chose to live his life.
And the scene with the grandson?
AG: I had come up with an idea that I shared with Ray. I said I think he should say something to the grandson. "One day you are going to find out things about your grandfather and you might not understand what they are. Just so you know, I have done a lot of wrong things in my life and I have to pay for them. So the way to avoid that is to not do anything wrong in life because if you do, you are going to have to pay for them." And Ray, we kind of hit on that and he went off to write and it's in the film. When he knew they are going to come for him, what is the last thing he is going to say to that boy? This whole thing evolved based on these series of conversations and lunches we had and ideas about how best to serve the movie with this character's arc.
*Is there any genre of film you haven't worked in yet, but would like to?
RDF: There's that Santa Claus we want to do, right? (Everybody laughs)
AG: I did a Christmas movie. My wife is dying of cancer, but it was a Christmas movie. I've recently written a film noir that I would like to do.
RDF: I have a relatively limited range of interest in my film going and I would never want to make a film I wouldn't want to go see. I just don't have the skill set to be that broad in anything. I love movies that are dramatic, romantic, funny and real. I do love film noir too. I think they could be all of that. I haven't been able to make one yet, but I would like to. I'm not interested in space or sci-fi. I'm not interested in superheroes. It doesn't get to me and it's no disrespect at all to the people who make those films because they are enormously hard and challenging pieces of storytelling.
*You do documentaries sometimes.
*What do you like about making a documentary over making a fiction film and what do you like about making a fiction over a documentary.
RDF: Well, two things. Documentaries are also sweet to my interests: in life and humanity and history. That's great. The other thing is, I came to documentaries rather late. I made my first documentary five years ago; but the great thing about them is you don't have to wait years to put together the money to do it. Especially now-a-days. You can go out and shoot and you can start to compile footage. It gets you out of the house. I live the life of a writer, which means you basically stay home and nothing happens to you until every few years you get a movie going, hopefully. So a documentary gets you out. It gets you shooting and, so far, I've made two and I'm making a third now. It introduces you to people you would normally never meet. It's thrilling! I've met some of the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived, which meant a lot to me and my film about the south. I've met living history. I've met grandchildren of slaves. I've met famous southern politicians. That's a great privilege that way to make docs.
*Is there a chance one day of a third collaboration between you two?
AG: I hope so, yeah!
RDF: I hope so, yeah.
Perhaps they will make Andy Garcia's film noir. Until then, you can see "Rob the Mob" in your area theaters.
* Denotes questions asked by West Palm Beach & Miami Movie Examiner