11 Surprising Facts About A Bronx Tale

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

On September 29, 1993, the now-defunct Savoy Pictures distributed the coming-of-age crime drama A Bronx Tale, starring Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri. It was based on a one-man show Palminteri had started performing in Los Angeles in 1989, and then performed it Off-Broadway the same year. Palminteri ended up writing the screenplay and using it as a vehicle to act in the film, whereas De Niro used the script to make his directorial debut.

The film, which is set in the Bronx in the 1960s, centers on a kid named Calogero “C” Anello who witnesses a mafia boss, Sonny (Palminteri), murder someone. As Calogero grow ups, he sees Sonny as a father figure but also copes with his own father’s (De Niro) advice. Partly based on Palminteri’s own life (yes, he really witnessed a murder), the semi-autobiographical film grossed $17.2 million against a $10 million budget.

In 2007, Palminteri resurrected the play on Broadway, and in 2016 A Bronx Tale: The Musical began performances on Broadway. Palminteri wrote the book and De Niro co-directed with Jerry Zaks. After 700 regular performances, the musical closed on August 5, 2018 (though it's now on tour). To celebrate the film's 25th anniversary, here are 11 things you might not have known about A Bronx Tale.

1. A BAD EXPERIENCE AS A BOUNCER INSPIRED CHAZZ PALMINTERI TO WRITE THE PLAY.

While living in Los Angeles and trying to be an actor in the ’80s, Palminteri worked various jobs, including a gig as a bouncer at a nightclub. “One night a guy was going to come in, and he was very rude to me,” Palminteri told The A.V. Club. “I told him I wasn’t going to let him in, he got mad and told me that I’d be fired in 15 minutes. I said, ‘Sure sure, everyone tells me that.’ That man turned out to be Swifty Lazar, the biggest agent in the world at the time—this was 1989—and sure enough, 15 minutes later I did get fired.”

Palminteri went home and considered his options. “I thought that if no one was going to give me a great part—and it was very difficult to break into film, obviously—then I’d write one myself.” He wrote the play in increments—every week he wrote more and performed the material at Los Angeles's Theatre West. “I really honed it and sharpened it,” he said. “About 10 months or a year later, I had a 90-minute one-man show.”

2. PALMINTERI WOULD ONLY SELL THE FILM RIGHTS IF HE COULD PLAY SONNY.

Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri in A Bronx Tale (1993)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Palminteri's play garnered enough buzz that studios offered anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million to purchase the story rights, but they didn’t want Palminteri to act in it, as he wasn’t a big enough name. De Niro saw the play and decided to help Palminteri out. “At first, I didn’t want anything in the ingredients if I did a film of it—I wanted a totally clean slate—but I saw it and liked it and liked Chazz,” De Niro told Interview Magazine. “While he was writing the screenplay I said, ‘Let me make this clear. If you give it to a studio, they’ll pay you for it and people will get involved and they’ll give the Sonny part to another actor. If you give it to me now, I can guarantee you’ll be in it and we’ll set it up our own way and I’ll have more control, which is what I want. I don’t want any producer getting in the way and telling me what to do.’ I didn’t want all that mishmoshing—I knew what had to be done.”           

3. PALMINTERI WANTED TO MAKE A FILM ABOUT “THE WORKING MAN.”

In real life, Palminteri’s father was a school bus driver and a saxophone player. “Too many movies speak about us as just gombas or Mafioso,” Palminteri told Roger Ebert. “I wanted a movie about the working man, about a real Italian-American community. The real fabric comes from working men. My dad was similar to Lorenzo. I used to see him put his boots on in the morning to go out and drive the bus. He’d get up in the rain, the snow, smiling, just to make his children’s lives better. That's all he wanted. No dreams to be this, or that. To me, a man like that is a hero, and I wanted the movie to reflect that.”

4. ROBERT DE NIRO WANTED TO WORK WITH KIDS FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

In casting the film, De Niro wanted to hire non-actors from New York. “One day Marco Greco, who was casting for us, was on Jones Beach and he saw this kid and asked him if he wanted to audition for us,” De Niro told Roger Ebert. “The kid says, ‘You’re not looking for me. You’re looking for my brother.’ And his brother, Lillo Brancato, came out of the water, and started doing impersonations of me and Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. He was great. He was perfect for C. It always excites me to work with people who are new, who fit. To create this world—this medieval village in the Bronx—I needed real teenagers, not actors trying to be teenagers.”

5. DE NIRO WARNED LILLO BRANCATO ABOUT THE DANGERS OF FAME.

Soon after the film’s release, Brancato became an in-demand actor, even starring in season two of The Sopranos. But his on-screen father warned him about the trappings of fame. “De Niro came to my house in spring or summer of 1993, not only to warn me, but also my parents,” Brancato told People. “My parents are Italian immigrants and knew nothing about show biz and the temptations that lie ahead. De Niro talked about the changes that will occur in my life. He said this can be very dangerous if not handled the right way.”

Unfortunately, Brancato did not heed De Niro's advice and ended up serving eight years of a 10-year prison sentence following a 2005 attempted robbery that led to the death of a New York City police officer. Brancato was found guilty of attempted burglary but acquitted of murder. His co-defendant was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

6. DE NIRO ASKED MARTIN SCORSESE FOR DIRECTING ADVICE.

Because it was De Niro’s first time directing, he turned to regular collaborator Martin Scorsese for some tips. "I asked certain things about the way you do this or that," De Niro told Interview Magazine. "I also talked to other actors who have turned directors, like Danny DeVito. I guess I felt that I’d be okay. I didn’t want to build up some kind of fear of it. Directing yourself isn’t stressful—you’re just a bit uncomfortable, because [when you’re acting], you have to set your mind in a certain way, and then you have to direct everybody else."

7. THE REAL EDDIE MUSH PLAYED EDDIE MUSH.

Eddie Mush was a gambler both in the movie and in real life. During a racetrack scene in the movie, Mush, Sonny, and Calogero bet on the same horse, Kryptonite, and lose. “We were looking for someone to play Bad Luck Eddie Mush, the guy who is a jinx,” Palminteri told Roger Ebert. "We couldn’t find anyone. Finally I told Bob [De Niro] the real guy, Eddie Montanaro, was still around, 63 years old. Bob saw him and cast him—but I was worried, because Eddie really does bring bad luck, and sure enough, the first day he worked, it rained."

8. DE NIRO WANTED TO PLAY AGAINST TYPE.

In 1993, De Niro told Interview Magazine he thought casting himself in the movie would “get it off the ground more easily.” He had already promised Palminteri the role of Sonny, a part De Niro could’ve played, but the role of Lorenzo—Calogero's father—was more interesting to De Niro. “I hadn’t done this kind of part, and it’s something really different, and I wanted to do it for that reason, because people would expect me to play Sonny. As Lorenzo, I had my own experiences to draw on, and it’s something closer to me because of my kids. I have a son Lillo’s age.”

9. THE CALOGERO-JANE ROMANCE ALMOST GOT CUT.

Lillo Brancato and Taral Hicks in 'A Bronx Tale' (1993)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

One of the film's main storylines focuses on Calogero's romance with Jane (Taral Hicks), a black girl from the neighborhood. De Niro told Interview Magazine the plotline almost got excised, but he wanted to keep it in. “People would say, ‘Just make it between a father and a son—that’s really a story in itself,’ which it was. But I felt that to take away any one of those elements would be wrong. The part with Jane is the one part that you didn’t expect, and for that reason alone I didn’t want to take it out. There’s a beginning, middle, and end to this whole relationship. It happens fast. They meet and fall in love and boom!—they come together.”

10. TOMMY MOTTOLA MADE THE MUSICAL HAPPEN.

The chairman and CEO of Sony Music—who’s also known as Mariah Carey’s first husband—helped get the musical off the ground. In an interview with The A.V. Club, Palminteri said it was the Bronx-born Tommy Mottola who suggested adapting the film into a Broadway musical. (He ended up producing it.) “Even though I had been trying to do one for years, it was him who put it on his back and made it happen,” Palminteri said. “If not for Tommy Mottola, it would not have happened. He put his money where his mouth was.”

11. PALMINTERI THINKS THE FILM IS ABOUT CHOOSING LOVE OR FEAR.

During a 2016 interview on The Today Show, Palminteri explained why he thinks the film and musical still resonate today. “There’s the black neighborhood and the Italian neighborhood, and what A Bronx Tale talks about is how people can come together,” he said. “One of the main aspects of the play is: Is it better to choose love or fear? Because Sonny studied Machiavelli in jail. He tells the boy, ‘What do you choose, love or fear?’ In the end, Sonny ends up choosing love. So I think that’s why it’s so relevant today.”

Welcome to the Party, Pal: A Die Hard Board Game is Coming

Win McNamee, Getty Images
Win McNamee, Getty Images

On the heels of the 30th anniversary of the classic Bruce Willis action film Die Hard last year, tabletop board game company The OP has announced that John McClane will once again battle his way through Nakatomi Plaza. Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist is a board game officially licensed by Fox Consumer Products that will drop players into a setting familiar to anyone who has seen the film: As New York cop McClane tries to reconcile with his estranged wife, he must navigate a team of cutthroat thieves set on overtaking a Los Angeles high-rise.

The box art for the 'Die Hard: The Nakatomi Heist' board game is pictured
The OP

The game is expected to have a one-against-many format, with one player assuming the role of McClane and the other players conspiring as the thieves to eliminate him from the Plaza.

The OP, also known as USAOpoly, has previously created games based on Avengers: Infinity War and the Harry Potter franchise. Die Hard has spawned four sequels, the latest being 2013’s A Good Day to Die Hard. Willis will likely return as McClane for a sixth installment that will alternate between the present day and his rookie years in the NYPD. That film has no release date set.

The board game is expected to arrive this spring.

[h/t MovieWeb]

Ralph Fiennes Doesn’t Want to See Anyone Else Play Voldemort

WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. // HARRY POTTER PUBLISHING RIGHTS J.K.R
WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. // HARRY POTTER PUBLISHING RIGHTS J.K.R

Who knew actor Ralph Fiennes would be so possessive of his Voldemort role from the Harry Potter movies? After all the hours sitting in a makeup chair, putting on a bald cap, and making his nose disappear day after day, you’d think Fiennes would be ok with never playing this evil character again—especially considering that he almost turned down the role in the first place. But it seems that the character really grew on the two-time Oscar nominee. As Screen Rant reports, Fiennes has made it clear that if Voldemort is ever needed in a future film, he's ready to come back.

“Well, there are variants, aren’t there? Fantastic Beasts and things. I feel a kind of affection for Voldemort," Fiennes said while appearing on Newsnight. "So if there was a world in which Voldemort came back, I would be very possessive about wanting to reprise that."

Voldemort coming back was always a lingering danger in the early Harry Potter books and movies, as fans waited eagerly to see the Dark Lord reborn and return to full power. It was definitely worth the wait when we were finally able to watch Voldemort return toward the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book—and movie—in the series.

As of right now though, it's uncertain whether Fiennes will ever get the chance to reprise his role. The only movies exploring the Wizarding World currently are the Fantastic Beasts films, which take place in 1927. Voldemort was born in 1926, so even if there would be a substantial time jump, Fiennes might be too old to play Voldemort. But at least we know that he is dedicated to the character, and that if Voldemort ever did come back, fans could count on him to jump right back into the role.

[h/t: Screen Rant]

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