Andy Garcia and Raymond De Felitta on twisting the crime genre in 'Rob the Mob'
Garcia, meanwhile, was willing to return to the genre to play a twist on a stock heavy character. “From the beginning, what we were talking about really was: Who’s the Don who you’ve never met? And Big Al, this grandfather in the kitchen, is that. He doesn’t really feel it in his soul anymore. He makes a fatal mistake because his heart is too big for the job.”
“The mob has been so glamorized,” adds De Felitta. “It’s also been shown in more of a disgraceful way. They’ve done everything but humanize it: they're just guys with a job, whether you like what they do or not. We thought it'd be interesting to start over and say, 'What’s your life like, Al Fiorello? What’s actually going on there?'”
Garcia was unfamiliar with the story of the Uvas, but “immediately saw its cinematic potential,” he says: “We kept making comparisons to things like 'Bonnie and Clyde' or 'Breathless.'” De Felitta adds that several people have mentioned 'Sid and Nacy' to him: “I can't say I really thought of that, but sure.”
Does De Felitta find the New York stories, or do they keep finding him? “If you only saw the trunkful of unmade scripts that I have...” he laughs, trailing off. “For some reason, the ones that I get made are these regional ones, and maybe that's by God’s design or whatever. But I’ve written Hollywood stories. Writing a big historical movie is a great ambition of mine. I mean, I’m running out of boroughs. I’ve done the Bronx and Queens. So I’ve got to branch out, get the train out of the city.”
De Felitta took a more improvisatory route than usual with his actors on “Rob the Mob,” which Garcia found stimulating: “Even with stuff that's scripted, you have to be impulsive. Because at that point it’s the character talking. The character’s something that’s already been created by what’s been written, and what’s been worked on between the actor and the director, so it’s a question of letting things naturally progress as they should. We didn’t have the luxury of a rehearsal period, so the time you’re shooting is also your rehearsal and your exploration. You have X amount of time for a scene, so you want to walk away feeling you’ve squeezed as much juice as you can out of it.”
De Felitta agrees, describing his “looser approach” on this film as something he wants to continue in future work. “Some actors believe in the words and want to do that, which is fine. But if a really good actor likes to play a little, you’re a foolish director not to let them do it. They’re gonna bring you great things. Once actors feel free of that constraint, the performances become genuine, the moments become human. At the end of the day, you get to sit in the editing room and decide. And even if you don’t wind up using the improv, what’s there that’s scripted doesn’t feel scripted anymore. Many really soulful elements in the film are not ones we could ever have just set up and directed.”
“That’s the beauty of working in the independent cinema or spirit,” adds Garcia. “If it’s a studio movie and you propose that, people on set will be going, 'What are we doing here? In the studio world, there are so many more eyes on the thing. In an independent movie, as long as you stay on time and on budget you can do whatever the hell you want.”
They both laugh. One wonders where – or to what borough – that freedom will take them on their next collaboration.