Interview: John Turturro Talks "Fading Gigolo"
How fantastic is John Turturro? Well, in my head he is one of the best. I mean, he was Jesus in “The Big Lebowski" for goodness sake. His other colossal films include: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?", “Barton Fink", and “Transformers". He is such a versatile actor and his new film “Fading Gigolo" shows he can write, direct, and star in a great film. Along with John, the movie stars Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis, Sharon Stone, Liev Schreiber, and Sofía Vergara. It is a beautiful movie about human compassion, sex, religion, and much more. John was kind enough to talk with us here at The Movie Network and tell us all about “Fading Gigolo" which is now available on VOD.
Nick Leyland from The Movie Network: John, you're one of my favorite actors. I've loved a bunch of your films man, I really appreciate you taking the time.
John Turturro: Thank you.
TMN: Your new movie, Fading Gigolo, was really good. I got to watch it last week, and I really enjoyed the comedy in it. I can't believe that you did triple duty on it, I don't see that often where you wrote, directed and starred in it. Didn't that wear you down after a while?
John Turturro: I think you just got to be prepared for it. It was challenging, we were able to do a lot of preparation, but we didn't have the longest shoot imaginable with everybody's schedule. So that was a hard thing. But it can be wearing later on in the editing or whatever, but I really enjoyed the material in what it was about and who I worked with. So that really helps, if it was something that maybe you didn't really care about that much, I think that would wear you down a lot more. But yeah, it's challenging, I got it to be honest with that.
TMN: And not to mention all the other stuff you're probably doing while doing this, right?
John Turturro: Well, no. Once I did that, that's all I did. Except at the end of it, at the end of the editing thing, I kinda did a play which I'd committed to because the movie got pushed, and then I had to do this play, at Brooklyn, at that dam. So that was the only thing I did at the end of it. But no, during it, that's all I did. That's all I could do. No, I'm not Superman.
TMN: Well, if I could pick a Superman, I think I'd pick you to be honest.
John Turturro: Well, that's good. Let's see if they consider me for the more mature Superman.
TMN: You know what's an interesting part of this film is it's not all about sex.
John Turturro: No, it is more about the need that people have for human intimacy, for contact. There's a lot of characters that are kinda imprisoned by their various states of loneliness. So, yes, I think it's more. It's a film about intimacy, and I think that you can be intimate a lot of different ways. And sometimes, you can be more intimate with a person having an ice cream cone, taking a walk than being completely naked in a bed, you know what I mean? One's physical, but you can can have both, too, obviously. You know what I mean?
I think that's interesting 'cause it's what people want. They want food, they want shelter, and they want to have contact and they wanna be able to have somebody to share a part of their lives with. There's been all kinds of movies about prostitution and books. There's a reason why it's been a genre that's continued to exist. And so, there are people who give into it or stumble into it or trying to get out of it or whatever, but there's not a paper transaction that goes on. There's like a physical transaction and paper is included. That kinda thing that's interesting to dramatize in a way, to visualize..
TMN: Now, is that what inspired the character of Avigal? Because you had the two polar, I shouldn't say two, the three polar opposites you had; the two polar opposites you had, Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara on one side and Avigal on the other side, There's completely different people in the film.
John Turturro: Yeah. Well, I think that's the city that we live in. And in any big city, there's all different kinds of people and you wanna have... You wanna be able to represent it, represent a woman who is a doctor, but her husband does all kinds of things, that she is unhappy. And, maybe, another woman who is just very adventurous. And then, a woman who is religious or is involved in a very... She is observant of her sect, whatever that sect may be. And I have plenty of things to choose from, but I thought, sex and religion is a big part of the world. Maybe less here than in other parts of the world, but you see it within communities in big cities here. Absolutely.
And there's something about it that's very kind of universal; because, even though she's very different, she's not that different than the other people. She's not completely different. They do have something in common. And, I think that I didn't realize what the potential... I mean, I kinda realized the potential of the character, but once I actually saw it embodied by Vanessa Paradis, I was like, "Wow! This is really potent, because you can do a lot with very little." But I think that's what you're looking for. You're looking for obstacles, 'cause when you're making a story you need obstacles and that was a really good one. I think she can represent a lot of different women, in a lot of different religions, and in different situations, because we're not as advanced as we imagine ourselves to be sometimes. So, I think, that's why I think people related to her. And, I think, Sharon's character has something in common with her, because she's kinda imprisoned by being able to do whatever she wants to do, and she's not happy about that.
TMN: And you got to do some really great scenes with them. Where did you get those dance moves?
John Turturro: I'm an old dancer. I actually did study dance, but I was a disco dancer. I love to dance. I've done all kinds of dancing whether it's Lindy in movies or Lindy Hop or disco dancing. I come from the theater, so I've danced in shows and stuff. So, I think movement is very revealing and sometimes it can make people really happy when you watch someone reveal themselves through movement. But that would be an interesting thing the guy could do and that's something I'm comfortable with.
TMN: You know, a few years ago I got to see your documentary, Passione, and I talked to you about that and I fantastic the music was, and I love the music in this film. It's very jazz, kind of like a jazz infested sexiness to it almost.
John Turturro: Yeah. Well, we used a lot of Gene Ammons. We used this great singer, Dalida, who sang in French. She was from Egypt. She was an Italian women from Egypt. Vanessa Paradis sings one. I listened to a lot of this music while I was writing it and during the editing process, so a lot of it was already in the movie. Some of this music I played on set to get people in the mood. And, actually, two of the people from Passione sang... M'Barka Ben Taleb, she's the Tunisian singer from Passione. She sang "I'm a Fool to Want You" in the jazz club and she also sings this other song, "Luna Rossa." And the guy, James Senese, the saxophonist from Passione, he plays the sax in "I'm a Fool to Want You." So, yeah, I like music that doesn't tell you necessarily how to feel, but puts you in the mood and kinda takes you somewhere. You don't know exactly where you're going, but you feel like you're being invited in, you know what I mean?
I like it to be also played, like be counterpoint and not to be like, "Okay, we're in this kinda neighborhood, so I'm gonna use this kind of music," you know what I mean?
John Turturro: And jazz is interesting because it doesn't dictate your feelings, it kinda provokes them in a way. When I write, I listen to music, and I listened to a lot of this music while I was writing it.
TMN: It's beautiful music, and I don't know what it is about New York and jazz that just goes so well together.
John Turturro: It's a jazzy city like Chicago and Kansas City. These are places that have big histories of jazz. But there's lots of people who played here or come from there. And I'm just a big jazz fan. There's all different kinds of jazz, obviously. But I like that when there are those kind of scores. Some of it's European music, Italian, French music. And there's all different languages. There's Neapolitan, there's Arabic, there's French, and English, as far as the singers go. So, I think it's a nice CD. I mean, people love this CD. So, I think it's very consistent with the vibe of the film. I'm glad you liked it.
TMN: Well, and another staple of New York film is obviously Woody Allen, and he got to play in this project. It's pretty rare for him to be in a movie that he didn't direct or write or anything like that. So, how did he get involved with the project with you?
John Turturro: We share a hair cutter. He likes me, I like him. And he liked the idea, and then we talked about it, and then I would write a script, and he'd give me what he thought, what his feedback was on it. And then, I would go back and rewrite it when I had time. And so, I got to know him through that process. We also worked at the theater, and we got to know each other pretty well over a couple year period, and I think that really helped. But I can see the whole idea was I thought we could be interesting together. There was a possibility of us having chemistry maybe between these two guys, and sometimes I look at someone and say, "Well, maybe we could be good together." But you never know until you get to know each other; and I do think what you see in the film is kind of our relationship under imaginary circumstances.
TMN: Now, one of the things I think that most people would be interested in hearing is, one of the final scenes that you get to have with Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara. It's a great scene. Does it ever get awkward for an actor to do a sex scene like that?
John Turturro: Absolutely. It was hard to try to do it that it wouldn't look so vulgar, that they would be comfortable, and we only had a certain amount of time to do it. So yes, it was awkward. It was not easy. It was one of the hardest things to do, absolutely. But Dr. Ruth thought it was very well observed.
John Turturro: " Action. That was perfect."
TMN: Did you guys ever just bust out laughing at each other?
John Turturro: Yeah, sure. Of course, people were laughing. Yeah, of course, yeah.
TMN: That's awesome.
John Turturro: You try to have a loose set, but you're not going into war. You know what I mean?
TMN: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
John Turturro: Oh, thank you, and I'm really delighted that you liked the film and the music and that you're a big fan of Passione. That means a lot to me.