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Hey, boys and girls, we had a delightful chat with actor Vincent Piazza. A rising star, known for his smoldering take on Lucky Luciano on HBOís jazz-age gangster opera, Boardwalk Empire, Piazza teams with the legendary Clint Eastwood for the big-screen version of the Broadway hit musical, Jersey Boys.

Stay tuned at the end of the interview for a few minutes more with a special guest appearance by the Good, the Bad and Dirty, Unforgiven Man with No Sudden Impact, Clint Eastwood, himself.

Dig it!

 

Jersey Boys

Vincent Piazza

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  At the press conference, you mentioned having eight guys teaching you how to dance.

Vincent Piazza:  {Laughs} Yeah, it was a crack team.  They got my limbs moving.

 

LMD:  Did you have any musical background at all?

VP:  Not really.  I mean, I DJed as a teenager, which is very different obviously than anything that was required in this movie, but the one thing is that I at least had a sense of rhythm coming into it from dancing socially or singing at karaoke, but never any training.  So, it was very, very different.  Knowing that and realizing that after I was cast, my first response was, I think I called my agent, ďI think they got the wrong guy.Ē  I didnít realize the other three guys are from the musical.  So I said, ďPlease call them and let them know that Iím not trained as a singer and a dancer,Ē cos I didnít want to get thrown under the bus. The response was, ďDonít worry heís in great hands.Ē  And I said, knowing the integrity of someone like a Clint Eastwood, I know Iím in good hands, so letís see what they have in store for me, and sure enough, thereís a Jersey Boys musical crack team: The choreography team was led by Sergio Trujillo and then Danny Austin and Chris Messina, and then I had a voice coach, Katie Agresta, and then I had a guitar coach, Robbie Mangano.  

So I was kind of parceling my days out - 30 to 45 days I had in advance of the shooting - to try and get the work to a place that was reasonable, because I wouldnít be so deluded to think that Iím going to be a great singer, or dancer, or guitar player in that period of time, but I can get to a place in the work where I fit in when needed to be.  And that was the goal and it was fun and I had a lot of great support to get me to where I was.

 

LMD:  At the press conference one could feel it was very much a family relationship on the set. I think everyone wants to know what itís like to work with Mr. Eastwood.  Is he someone who allows his actors to interpret freely, or does he have certain parameters? Whatís his approach?

VP:  Well, I can only speak to this experience, but he as a human being exudes this confidence and fearlessness that I found contagious on his set, and many of the people that are in his crew have been with him for, in some cases, decades.  So thereís a real shorthand; they have a relationship.  So it moves quickly, fluidly, friendly.  Everyone thatís there is really excited to be there and happy to be there.  

He creates this incredible environment for us to play and explore and I felt like he had given me an incredibly long leash to interpret and to find the life in the scenes, cos for these years now itís been on stage, and when youíre discussing the difference in the medium from the musical to the film, we were able to have sets that we could live and breathe in; Frankieís living room and all the great art design in bringing this era to life was there for us to play with and explore.  Maybe some of these props or items would help us in a scene and uncover something about the relationships.  Or even just what the other guys do; building relationships in these places, and he, along with the other guys, gave me a great opportunity to explore.

 

LMD:  Early on, your character, Tommy DeVito, is called a two-bit hustler.  Does a two-bit hustler ever know heís a two bit hustler?

VP:  I donít think a two bit hustler could be that self-aware, but perhaps they know in moments when theyíre getting over {Laughs}.  A lot of times if theyíre career hustlers, they find at justification adequately as to why they did do what they did.  Theyíre able to justify it and sleep at night.

 

LMD:  Are you an actor that needs to find something humanizing in the characters you play? And if so, what did you find humanizing or relatable about Tommy?

VP:  There was a lot, actually.  I think he has a really big heart.  I think he is someone who would bend over backwards for his friends, and heís the guy youíd want to go down the dark street with cos heíd protect you.  There were some really wonderful qualities about him, however they were coupled with some other weaknesses.  So I would search for what I would have in common with a character like Tommy DeVito and what I needed to work for.  You know, I say he has a big heart, but he has a very tender ego, which can make people emotionally violent; if you donít say thank you the right way, and itís like, ĎWould you believe these people, not giving me this respect that I deserve?í  And things like that. So, it was a really fun character to explore and I call it a character because I was only able get to know the Tommy DeVito in the script; I never got to meet the man, who is still alive.  So Iím very excited to see what he thinks.  Iím scared to see what he thinks and I hope he likes it.

 

LMD:  Are there plans for you to meet him?

VP:  I would imagine at some point I would get to meet him, and in some ways, I hope I do.  He was a real fascinating human being and certainly itís undeniable what they accomplished together.

 

LMD:  I know you represent QueensÖ

VP:  I represent Queens.

 

LMD:  Öbut the accents in this film are a big deal and a Queens accent does not equal a New Jersey accent.  How careful were you about yours and how much did you work on it?

VP:  You know, I felt a bit of confidence growing up in Queens and knowing a bunch of characters that may have had the essence of a Tommy.  But what I concerned myself less with was the New Jersey versus the New York, and what I was kept mindful in the film is that Frank Sinatra was a great influence at this time on New Jersey.  Kids growing up musically wanted to break out like Sinatra did.  And there were those rumors that the mob helped him get his start, and Iím not here to say whether they are true or not, but certainly these guys in this movie had some support from some very nefarious characters.  So getting to the accent, I wanted to really explore that period and the vernacular of that time, and how guys like Frankie and all of them talked, because that was really going to influence guys like Tommy DeVito and Frankie and the others, so it was more about period than it was geography.

 

LMD:  This is not the first time youíve played a somewhat shady Italian guy.  Is there a difference in your approach playing someone like Lucky Luciano, who was real, but no longer alive, as opposed to Mr. DeVito, who is still here?

VP:  Oh very much so, and in a way, I feel that all the work that Iíd done to try and find Lucky helped shorten the work to find Tommy, because Luckyís career went from the late teens to when he died in 1962, so when I was researching that over the last four or five years, I was uncovering a lot.  And you know, these guys had relationships with gangsters in New Jersey, not just the real Nucky {Thompson}, but guys like Willie Moretti, who had these little fiefdoms in New Jersey, and it was exploring the 40s and 50s, as well as the 1920s, so I felt that saved me a lot of time.  So there was much more work that I had to do for Lucky than there was for Tommy.

 

LMD:  You did a lot of theatre when you began acting.  What do you think makes for a good stage to screen adaptation, and what do you think made Jersey Boys such a good property to film?

VP:  I thinkÖ Itís a great question and I donít know the umbrella answer, but what I can tell you in this case is that Jersey Boys seemed to me like an incredibly well-balanced musical; there was a strong dramatic spine and there was incredible music that so many people can identify with, so it seemed like a very logical adaptation, and in the hands of someone like Mr. Eastwood and honoring the play to adapt it as a screenplay.  

But thereís also a special quality, I think, of the filmmaker; Elia Kazan would do it all the time, he did Streetcar {A Streetcar Named Desire} from stage to film.  Itís understanding the difference in the medium and not to get caught up in trying to make it the stage play.  It has to be faithful to it, but yet honor the difference in the medium, and I felt like that was achieved here.  I think that at least from my standpoint, it was a very faithful adaptation, but yet breathes differently, and lives differently for the viewer.

 

LMD:  What are you walking away with after the experience of making this film?  What has Jersey Boys given you?

VP:  So much.  In many ways, I feel Iím still digesting it, because here we are in a junket and weíre having this interview and I feel like itís about to be born.  Iím trying to take in the enormity of it all for me as an actor.  Some of the things that Iíve learned on set of this and watching how Mr. Eastwood works; he brings to life for an actor an idyllic scenario to work in.  As an actor - as Michael Lomenda pointed out in the larger press conference - you can never duplicate something, but you can certainly try to achieve that in a different setting for yourself, and I think thatís something thatís very true. 

He {Eastwood} created a wonderful environment to work in and itís something that one day, if Iím ever lucky enough to direct, something that I would want to create for actors, because it was really a beautiful place to work.

 

LMD:  I wonder if youíre spoiled now?

VP:  Spoiled rotten! {Laughs} Are you kidding?  Spoiled rotten.  Iím just wondering what happened in my past life to have this series of things? Címon, Boardwalk {Empire} and now this and all that other stuff.

 

LMD:  Perfect segue: Are you aware of the momentum that Boardwalk Empire has created?  Has it really changed things for you?

VP:  Truly.  I mean, without Boardwalk, there would be no Jersey Boys for me, I donít think.  I always hope as an actor that the work we are able to do together can endure.  You can put trophies or any of that other stuff to the side for the acting community, in general.  If you make something that people talk about 50 years later, or 70 years later, or like I said, Streetcar, and here we are talking about it, and itís a piece of work.  Kazanís gone, Brandoís gone, but here we are sitting, talking about that work.  And if you can make something that people can talk about way into the future, thatís the great goal.  

So, Boardwalk had given me an opportunity to work on an incredible series; I got to work with Mr. Scorsese on the pilot, I get to work with writers like Terry Winter and Howard Korder throughout.  Itís amazing.  So that alone was like, ĎAll right, I guess this is it. Iíve hit Everest.í  And then, all of a sudden out of that, I get ushered into studio film through the hands of Mr. Eastwood.  It was like, Iím just a guy from Queens, and I feel really blessed.

 

LMD:  Last question, whatís next?

VP:  Itís a great question, cos this year Ė I donít know if you know when you go into New Yearís and you start to wish for what the year is going to be like, thereís a theme that forms, and this year was like Ďseeing it through.í  This is the last season of Boardwalk, so I want to see it through well.  Jersey Boys was shot last year, but itís coming out this year, I want to see it through.  Thereís another film I had worked on.  Yeah, I just was see it all realised and Iím writing a lot and Iím working on some screenplays.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

June 8th, 2014

 

Super Bonus Easter Egg: LMD speaks with Clint Eastwood at the Jersey Boys NY press conference

The Lady Miz Diva:  Mr. Eastwood, during Jersey Boys, one of the characterís TV sets shows a quick glimpse of a familiar fellow from the Western show, Rawhide.  It reminds us that you were of a similar age to the young men in this film.  What was it like for you to revisit this era as someone who was also striving to make a mark in the entertainment industry? 

Clint Eastwood:  Are you talking about my Hitchcock moment? {Laughs} that was actually Erich {Bergen}ís suggestion; that was his moment.  We were sitting and talking about doing the scene where he was going to be sitting there watching television, when this woman walks in the room, and he said, ďIíll be sitting there watching Rawhide.Ē  I started thinking, ĎYeah, it could be,í because after all, it was about the right era, about the right timing, and so I thought maybe this is a way.  But then I put it out of my mind, and then somebody who works for me, a woman who handles all of our television stuff just went ahead and did it, and afterward I just said, ďOkay, Iíll live with that, thank you.Ē  But Hitchcock moments are distracting and heíd managed to disguise himself some of the times, until he became a television star later on.

{Regarding starting out at the same time as the Four Seasons} Yeah, it was about the same time. About 1959- 60, that was my first break after doing years of bit parts and unappealing roles, so it was a chance to gain a lot of experience and spend five or six years working with various directors and stuff before Sergio {Leone} and {Donald} Siegel, and all those guys.

 

LMD:  Do you think itís ironic that the Japanese are now making samurai films based on your Westerns?

CE:  Yeah, that is ironic cos so many Westerns were made from Japanese films {Laughs}.

 

LMD:  Have you seen the Japanese remake of Unforgiven {Yurusarezaru Mono}?

CE:  Yes I did see it.  I thought it was a very beautiful film.  I saw it in a very early thing, I havenít seen it finished.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

June 8th, 2014

 

 

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Photos  

Exclusive Photos by L.M.D.

Stills courtesy of  Warner Brothers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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