By Darlene Donloe
Award-winning actor John Turturro has been in the showbiz game for decades. He has extensive credits on television, on the stage and in films. He’s been an actor. He’s been a director.
In his latest film, Turturro pulls a trifecta out of his hat serving as the director, the writer and the lead actor in his latest film, Fading Gigolo, set for release April 18.
The story goes something like this. When his friend, Murray (Woody Allen), suggests he become a gigolo, Fioravante (Turturro) at first rejects the idea but eventually finds something he didn’t know he was looking for.
It all begins when Murray’s dermatologist (Sharon Stone) mentions how she’s looking for a man to participate in a ménage a trios with her and her equally gorgeous friend Selima (Sofia Vergara). Murray, recognizing the financial potential of this proposal, convinces Fioravante to come on board. Eventually Murray meets Avigal (Vanessa Paradis) the widow of a revered Chasidic Rabbi who, after 20 years of being alone and the mother of six children, is yearning to experience something new.
Fading Gigolo is the brainchild of Turturro who decided to write the script after a playful improvisation he did for a friend’s amusement over lunch.
I caught up with Turturro recently to discuss the film.
Q: This is about a rather racy subject matter. Your character is a gigolo. But, on the other hand, you interject religion into the proceedings as well. Interesting combination.
JT: I use prostitution and the religion angle as a metaphor about why do people pay for sex.
Q: The pairing of you and Woody Allen is interesting.
JT: When I met with Woody I thought we could be good together doing something on the sex industry. I thought maybe it would be an unlikely pairing.
(l-r) John Turturro and Woody Allen
Q: What was it like directing yourself and Woody Allen?
JT: In this case I’d be the quiet one. Some days it was easy, some days the pressure gets to you. Woody was easy. Vanessa was easy. Everybody was easy.
Q: How did Woody help you?
JT: He gave me brutal notes about what worked or was believable. I could withstand his brutality. I could learn something from him. You are aspects of yourself and others.
Q: Is it hard writing a character for someone like Woody Allen?
JT: He liked how I wrote his character. I gotta say he’s in my head now.
Q: Do you like directing yourself?
JT: I’ve done it before. There are moments when it’s very simple.
Q: Your character is a very interesting character. He’s a loner who definitely comes out of his shell.
JT: I like the idea of a guy being a physical person. He was an un-ambitious, but confident and lonely person interacting with women who are lovely. You can sometimes meet someone who is beautiful, but not attractive.
Q: Notwithstanding the ones you have, there are several interesting relationships in this film.
JT: I’m interested in relationships. You can be lonely and in a relationship.
Q: How did you prepare for the role of a florist?
JT: I worked at a flower shop for a week.
Q: Is what we see on screen your initial vision for the film?
JT: The original idea was more broad and bawdy. I had a character I wanted Elaine Stritch to play. I wanted Elaine to play a nun who was a virgin, who wanted to have sex before she died. You can’t have sex without religion and laughter.
Q: Was there anything else?
JT: I wanted to make it personal and imaginative. In this whole concept there is something that is exposing about it [prostitution] and not just physically. There is a direct transaction. I've always been interested in movies about prostitution.
Q: What I like about the film is the fact that you’re not dealing with really young people. These are all people who have lived and have some experience under their belts.
JT: Life isn’t over when you’re over a certain age.
Q: How did you develop Sofia Vergara’s character?
JT: Sofia reminds me of a friend. She is really a gifted comedienne. Something about the character speaks to me. We think we are so advanced with women. It’s actually gone backwards in relation to women.
Q: In this film did you say everything you wanted to say about the subject?
JT: I have enough material for a sequel.
Fading Gigolo (Millennium Entertainment) is written and directed by Turturro and stars Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber, Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara.
Running time: 90 minutes; Rating: R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity.