Good Night Mr. Lewis: Abel Ferrara vs. Vincent Gallo

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imageI never apologize for anything in life. The only thing I’m sorry about is putting a curse on Roger Ebert’s colon. If a fat pig like Roger Ebert doesn’t like my movie then I’m sorry for him. — Vincent Gallo

I live in Little Italy, where a cast of characters right out of central casting gathers on corners to shoot the shit. Everybody knows everybody, and the stories told assure everyone that New York still exists. Every so often, a stickball game breaks out. In the second part of my sit down with my neighbor Abel Ferrara, he touches on neighborhood character Vincent Gallo. I recall a story Vincent told as he held court to a group of us one summer day on the corner of Mott and Prince streets. We saw Vincent approaching and someone said, “Should I stay, or get caught in an hour long tirade?” We all stayed after a few hey’s and whatcha-been-doing’s, Vincent told us a tale about the time he put a curse on Roger Ebert, after the critic had given Gallo¹s unfinished movie The Brown Bunny a bad review. Gallo wished cancer on Ebert, and shortly after it actually came to pass.

Now Vincent goes on telling us that he went to a music awards show with music producer Rick Rubin. To Vincent¹s left was Barry Manilow. So Manilow puts his arm on the common arm rest, pushing Vincent off. Gallo goes nuts and is about to strike him, and Rick Rubin is doing everything he can to calm him down, not an easy task. Finally Rubin says, “You can¹t hit him. We¹re at a music awards show and he wrote the song.” This fabulous line calms the savage beast, but not completely. Gallo brandishes a hex sign and curses Barry Manilow. Lo and behold: Mr. Manilow suffers a heart attack a few days later. So here we are with Vincent strutting up and down Mott street, trying to figure out who’s next on his list. Many names were suggested, and he listened and spewed hatred at everyone, but none were worthy of the curse. I was fairly quiet, also not an easy task. I didn’t want to offend him. Hey you never know.

We have another mutual friend, Nicky D. Nicky D has been … Spell the last name right.

He’s cool, and Nicky has been an actor, a struggling actor. He’s not struggling; he’s doing great.

Now he’s doing great. He’s always doing great. Everybody that gets in my movies is a ruby gem. One time he brought us this picture resume and [Abel’s partner] Frankie takes it out and goes, “Nicky, you can’t have like, eight movies all with the same director.” And I says, “Nicky, change my name, you’ve got like a 30’s Hollywood contract. What do you need a picture resume for? Who’s gonna forget you?” He’s done a lot of good stuff. And he’s shooting his own movie now, he’s shooting your [Jen Gatien’s] father’s Peter [Gatien’s] story … They already shot … And he’s playing [the Peter Gatien] role. He’s playing your father. Jen Gatien: That is not right! That can’t be right! AF: [Laughing heartily] No, no, he’s playing himself, what, are you kidding me? Too egotistical to play anybody.

I’ve seen all of your movies. I saw movies that changed my life. The Funeral was to me … Don’t blame it on me, man…

Well, I thought the movie was amazing, but you didn’t like it. I mean the personalities, honestly, Chris Penn almost stole the movie in a cast of Christopher Walken … But the guy couldn’t steal his life, right? He couldn’t keep his life.

He couldn’t keep his life. But you had incredible actors and this guy — always known as Sean Penn’s brother — was a maniac, and he was brilliant. And you really got the most of that movie. How was it working with Vincent Gallo, who was also a neighborhood guy? I don’t like Vincent Gallo.

A lot of people say that. No, but I know him. You know? ‘Cause I introduced him to [my girlfriend, Shannon], and he asked her to marry him after a day. But she didn’t bother telling me.

So he’s disrespectful? You know, he’s a punk, man. He’s just a punk. What’d he do? Hit this reporter the other day? I heard he like slammed this chick, right?

He does it a lot. This kid’s not right. Right? Right? Because he said that she didn’t like his leather jacket. Smashed some chick in the face! [Editor’s Note: Vincent Gallo did not actually, physically attack anyone.] You know what I’m saying? But I mean, you know, what can I say about the kid? I don’t wanna talk about him.

You’ve had a long relationship with Christopher Walken. Frank White [Walken’s character in King of New York] has been immortalized. Yeah, yeah, we’re doing a prequel, too.

The character Frank White, he’s been immortalized into pop culture, hip-hop songs, and he’s a legend. He represents something. Well, we got another cut. Whenever Walken works, he warms up by doing what he calls the “Fake Al Pacino.” He does that take which is always our favorite take. So there’s the version of King of New York that is off the map. Off the hook.

We should see that! You can go find it. It’s with a movie company that took our fucking place.

You’re doing underground movies for the most part. … or movies that are played on the subway.

Well, they should sometimes. They have that grittiness. But you have this Mary movie and it has Juliette Binoche, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Modine, Heather Graham. These are serious names, Academy Award-nominated people. Academy Award- winning people. And the film never came out, so why didn’t that film ever come out? It was two and a half years ago.

Do you have the desire to work for big Hollywood? Could you do it? Would you want to do it? I just got offered to do a Wesley Snipes movie. Takes place in a hospital, you know, with terrorists and all kinds of shit. I mean, what is Hollywood? In an economy like now, you could go from Hollywood to Timbuktu. You know what I’m saying? So you gotta play every card and every city. We went to Rome, I mean, I went to Italy just for the respect. I just don’t dig the investors making the movies. Or the executives making the movies. You know what I mean? I mean, if I’m putting up the money, I’m not gonna cut the movie. I’m not gonna lie on the operating table saying “You know, I think you should do this.”

I’m the same with my guys. Can’t tell me what to do. Right. Exactly. I mean, I’m not saying that the money’s part of the action and everything’s part of the deal, but you know, it’s a team effort. You know, once you’re on the team, you’re either on the team or … you know? You don’t start pointing at the third baseman and saying, “This guy can’t play.”

You have a crowd in Italy, because you’ve got the Venice Film Festival … Because they appreciate movies. I appreciate their films. I’m from there. I’m, like, a second-generation Italian. Believe me, it’s tough raising money. But when you make movies, it’s actually a criminal offense to cut a director’s film. I can’t put a mustache on a Mona Lisa just cause I’d buy it. Anyway, we’ve managed to make two films, then we started making a documentary which we didn’t finish, and um, that’s when we came here.

Tell me about the King of New York prequel. I want to tell you about the documentary I’m doing now, Mulberry Street. Which was inspired by doing the Chelsea documentary. I don’t know, I think it’s gonna take a direction in the work, in terms of what’s reality and what’s not.

Reality is that the social clubs are shoe stores. Isn’t that reality? Yeah, but the guys who run it are still there. And there’s a fucking made guy who has Alzheimer’s. Okay, take that, try that as an interview. Okay, alright, so that’s like Tony Soprano going to see a shrink. Imagine a real guy, and he’s got Alzheimer’s, I mean [laughing], he lives next door to me. And the best thing about the guy — he tosses his garbage out the second floor into a garbage pit. He never misses. Giovanni’s got all his brains.

Do we wanna put this in? Yeah, put it in.

Okay, I just want to make sure. They’re not gonna know who I’m talking about cause they all fucking have Alzheimer’s. Yeah, he doesn’t subscribe to your magazine, unfortunately.
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