A familiar face as an actor, STANLEY TUCCI now serves up Big Night, the sweet and savoury story of life in an Italian restaurant. Words: Trevor Johnston
If you watch television. you‘ll have seen him as the cool. collected killer on the first series of Murder One. If you watch movies. you‘ll have caught him in a number of supporting roles. usually villainous. including the sleazy DA in Kiss Of Death and the hitman pursuing Julia Roberts in The Pelican Brief. And if none of these credits mean that much to you. Stanley Tucci is still one of those faces you know. without necessarily being able to put a name to it.
A working professional. a little fed-up being typecast. he’s
been looking for a way to make something more of
himself for a while now. and it looks like co-writing. co-directing and starring in his own movie may have proved just the ticket. Big Night. set in a family-run neighbourhood Italian restaurant in the ’50s. proves a striking debut. A tightly-worked serio-comic drama about siblings. ambition and integrity. it’s got real characters. a screenplay that fits together with old- fashioned precision. and a winning determination to let events unfold at their own pace. even if it means robbing the audience of pat resolutions and easy answers.
‘Mobsters and bad guys are literally the only way Italian-Americans are portrayed on film these days.’ complains the relaxed. sharp-suited 'I‘ucci with a dryish sense of humour. ‘Say I got to play a doctor in a movie. Not that likely. but ifl did. he wouldn’t have an
‘Mobsters and bad guys are literally the only way Italian- Americans are portrayed on film these days.’ Stanley Tucci
Pizza the action: Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub in Big Night
Italian name. Unless. of course. he was a corrupt doctor. No, really. it was time for a change. and Big Night has certainly made a difference in what I‘m now being offered. I’ve just come back from playing Cameron Diaz’s crazed dentist boyfriend in the new Danny Boyle ﬁlm A Life Less Ordinary. for instance. A lot of fun.‘
It has taken the guts of a decade to get Big Night this far. though it was by no means certain until recently that Tucei himself would act in the film. He plays Secondo. the go-gctting manager trying to get his perfectionist chef brother Primo to get with the American way. as exemplified by their local restauranteur rival. Ian Holm‘s slick operator Pascal.
‘lt became a matter of Secondo‘s performance really setting the tone for the rest of the movie.” Tucei explains. ‘so it made sense for me to do it so I wouldn‘t have to explain it all to some other poor sehmuck.‘ Campbell Scott. a longtime friend. familiar from the likes of Singles and the dread Dying Young — the collaborators have dtiff Julia Roberts movies in common — came on board as co-director. because. Tucei says, ‘I needed someone I could trust to watch over my performance’.
Overall he sees it as a movie about American identity — that just happens to take place in an Italian restaurant. ‘In the ’50s. America had made a very strong decision as to what it was. Bigger. faster. mass- produced. homogenised. All that’s pretty terrifying. if. like Primo and Secondo. you like to work on a human scale and bring something of yourself to what you do. That’s the conflict in the movie. and the metaphorical associations with today’s Hollywood and the independent film scene certainly aren‘t accidental.‘ (Trevor Johnston)
Big Night opens at the Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Cameo on Fri 30 May.
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GIRLS IN CHAINS, The Amazing Transplant Man and Blue Beard sound more like Z-grade exploitation movies than titles that would grace an international film festival's retrospective slot. But these are indeed films by ‘poverty- row king' Edgar G. Ulmer, whose work goes under the spotlight in Edinburgh this August. Ulmer is best known for the classic noir Detour and the Bela Lugosi/Boris Karloff horror flick The Black Cat, but began his career in Germany with F.W. Murnau on Faust. He also has a respected place in Yiddish film history. Festival Director Lizzie Francke reckons the Ulmer retrospective continues Edinburgh's tradition of celebrating under- appreciated directors - like Sam Fuller and Andre De Toth - who produced strong bodies of work within the restrictions of the studio system.
DAVID MACKENZIE, the young Scottish filmmaker whose past works include award-winning Dirty Diamonds, has beaten off more than 400 hopefuls to direct one of the six winning films in this year’s Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge, the nationwide scriptwriting competition. Beer Goggles, written by nineteen-year-old Tessa Morris, is a hard-hitting comedy-drama about a woman who meets a potential Mr Right while out on the town, but is wary after a disastrous one-night stand. It is due for broadcast on Channel 4 in the autumn.
GAELIC FILMMAKING continues to grow in Scotland. Applications are now being sought for this year's Geur Ghearr scheme - similar to the award-winning Tartan Shorts - from producer-writer-director teams for ten-minute narrative films in Gaelic. Two projects will be chosen and awarded up to £48,000 each. The deadline for entries is 30 June, so contact Scottish Screen on 0141 337 2526 immediately.
NO SOONER HAS a new screen opened at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh than Scotland prepares for another burst of fresh cinemas. Showcase Cinemas expand out from their Coatbridge site with a new multiplex at The Phoenix in Paisley on Friday 13 June, while over on the east coast, ABC Cinemas prepare to unveil an eight-screener on the outskirts of Edinburgh at Wester Hailes on Friday 18 July. All the better for the bumper crop of blockbusters coming our way this
The Black Cat screens in the EIFF's Ulmer retrospective
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30 May—12 Jun 1997 THE UST 25
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