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John Turturro has an almost preternatural eye for detail. It’s part of what fuels his performances is films as different as BARTON FINK and O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? for The Coen Brothers, GIRL 6 and JUNGLE FEVER for Spike Lee, QUIZ SHOW for Robert Redford, THE TRANSFORMERS franchise for Michael Bay, and winning an Emmy for playing Adrian Monk’s even more eccentric brother on television’s MONK. There are also the films he’s directed and written, including MAC , ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES, and ILLUMINATA.
That eye for detail is also evident in every frame of FADING GIGOLO, the film is wrote, directed, and in which he co-stars with Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Liev Schreiber and Vanessa Paradis. It was a treat for me to ask him about those details when I spoke with him in April 7, 2014, including a throwaway line using the word “passione” that I couldn’t help but think was a shout-out to the documentary of the same name Turturro made about the music of Naples.
Naturally I was delighted to find out that, for once, I hadn’t read too much into a cinematic moment.
The talk moved on quickly to the odd resonance between sex workers and actors, a resonance Turturro intended, and which I found ironic that practitioners of either profession, in order to be successful, need to be able to lie with absolute sincerity. It was the perfect starting point for a conversation that included the contrast between an oddly impersonal three-way in which Turturro’s character takes part, and the intense, almost overwhelming intimacy of a chaste back rub that same character gives to a lonely, still young, still beautiful Hassidic widow (played to perfection by Paradis).
Turturro showed himself to be a serious, thoughtful man, with a subtle sense of fun — just the type to concoct this whimsically bittersweet story of a man, no longer in his first youth, who finds himself entering the world’s oldest profession courtesy of his oldest friend and mentor, played by Allen. A great talker, in 20 minutes or so, he effortlessly moved from the discomfort some men find in having their women educated, to the magic of complications that are inherent in the human condition, to the rebellious streak that made PASSIONE one of the purest documentaries about music that I have ever seen (and heard), and to how that film brought him back as a director.
Click here to listen to the interview (18:15) FADING GIGOLO — John Turturro Interview.