Andy Garcia and Raymond De Felitta on twisting the crime genre in 'Rob the Mob'
MIAMI - We've so often seen Andy Garcia performing in an Italian-American gangster guise – from “The Untouchables” to “Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead” to, of course, his Oscar-nominated breakout role in “The Godfather Part III” – that it's easy to forget the Havana-born actor's Cuban heritage.
Or perhaps not so easy in Miami, Garcia's hometown from the age of five. Back in town for the Miami Film Festival premiere of his new film “Rob the Mob,” Garcia is greeted with a collective roar of affection by the local crowd packing out the city's spectacular Gusman Theater; earlier that day, when we meet for a chat in the Standard Hotel restaurant, he has the breezy assurance of a man who knows his way around. His old high school, he points out, is a short distance down the street, while a number of his films have played the festival; when I ask if he ever feels like a homecoming hero, he shakes his head. “I still identify, I'll say that,” he laughs.
“He’s actually being modest,” interjects “Rob the Mob” director Raymond De Felitta. “To be with Andy Garcia in Miami is sort of like being with the President somewhere. I once said to his brother, 'You know, Andy could be mayor of Miami.' And he replied, 'Look, I could be mayor because I’m his brother.'”
The men have an easy, jokey rapport that has been cultivated over two features together: “Rob the Mob” follows 2010's “City Island,” a jaunty ensemble comedy in which Garcia played the paterfamilias of a loving but chaotic New York household. Garcia acted as producer on both films; for New York City native De Felitta, they continue an engaging run of warm, character-focused stories set in and around the Empire State. He was Oscar-nominated (in the same year as Garcia, funnily enough) for his AFI graduate short “Bronx Cheers”; 2000's “Two Family House” was an Audience Award winner at Sundance.
“Rob the Mob” is a return to that territory, though it's De Felitta's first foray into crime drama. It tells the true, tabloid-headline story of Tommy and Rosemarie Uva (played with vigor by Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda), a young, destitute couple who resorted to raiding Mafia social clubs to make their fortune – a short-lived scheme with an inevitably unhappy outcome. Garcia takes a supporting role this time, once again donning his Mafioso fedora as weary crime boss Big Al Fiorello, whose initially passive response to the Uvas' Bonnie-and-Clyde is tested by deeper violations of Mob privacy. It's a tale that benefits from De Felitta's natural affinity for local color, though he'd like to venture further afield at some point.
Having enjoyed their collaboration on “City Island,” the star and director immediately sought a reunion. “We talked about doing a very ambitious project that I would still love to do,” says De Felitta. “A big story about Cuban history based on a novel by the late Oscar Hujuelos, which would be a perfect big scale thing for us to do. We just haven’t found the place to do it yet.”
In the meantime, New York came calling once more, when De Felitta – who usually writes his own work – found himself intrigued by Jonathan Fernandez's “Rob the Mob” script. “One of the guiding things we wanted to do with this film was not make anything a cliché in it, to find an original wrinkle on mob guys,” he explains. “Because you can’t do the normal mob movie anymore. You’re not gonna beat the 'Godfather' movies. You’re not gonna beat 'Goodfellas.' What can we do that’s different?”