Posted at 5:34 PM on June 1, 2009
by Euan Kerr
Chazz Palminteri makes for an imposing figure. He's a tall man, but slender, which surprised me, given the heavy characters he plays on screen.
He came into the MPR studios a couple of weeks back to talk about "A Bronx Tale," his one man show which he wrote and starred in on Los Angeles and on Broadway. The play, is a retelling of Palminteri's journey into adulthood in a tough Bronx neighborhood.
"What's great about those neighborhoods is that they give you a foundation, they give you great strength, especially if you have great parents, like I did," Palminteri said. "I'm not saying you can't make it without great parents, but it's just that much harder I think. You know, it's just harder. My parents gave me a lot of great confidence, self-love - taught me to love myself. They loved me. But you know, the gift of poverty can be a great gift."
"A Bronx Tale" was designed to showcase his talents and he hoped snag him some movie roles.
It almost worked too well. The play was such a hit movie producers were tripping over themselves to get the rights. But they all baulked when Palminteri insisted that he write the script, and play the role of Sonny the mobster who was his friend growing up.
It was only when Robert DeNiro came to see the show and immediately agreed that Palminteri should both write and star in the film that the project moved forward.
The film was a hit, and launched Palminteri's screen career. Now Palminteri is remounting the show, and is on the road with a national tour. He says it's a tough gig, as he has to do 18 characters in 90 minutes, often switching roles in mid-sentence.
"I know big, big stars, that I talk to, that just told me "I don't know how you can do that Chazz, I could never do it,'" he says. "And these are huge stars, much bigger than I am. And they say 'No way would I do that!' And I say, 'Well, you know, sometimes what you fear is what you have to do.'"
And here is a short extract from the show itself: