Interview With Chazz Palminteri | A Bronx Tale

Don’t Waste Your Talent and Always Do the Right Thing

Legendary actor, writer, producer Chazz Palminteri needs no introduction. Nominated for an Oscar and the Screen Actors Guild Award in a Supporting Role for “Bullets Over Broadway” in 1995, and a multi-award-winner for his roles in films like “A Bronx Tale,” which he also wrote, “The Usual Suspects,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” and “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” this prolific actor’s filmography is more than impressive having appeared in at least 60 films as well as in popular TV series like “Law & Order,” “Blue Bloods,” and “Modern Family,” just to mention a few. According to IMDb, he will be seen again in 2019 in the upcoming comedy/crime thriller Clover, and other films. 

The story surrounding “A Bronx Tale” is a captivating screenplay-worthy tale in itself. Originally written as a play by Chazz in 1988, painting a picture of his childhood growing up in the then violent and racist Bronx with Chazz playing 18 characters in this one-man production. The enormous success of this play allowed him to catch the eye of his idol Robert De Niro, who was on the lookout for a film for his directing debut. The rest is history, as they say, and brings home once again that success happens when opportunity meets preparedness. However, it actually didn’t happen quite “overnight.”  When Chazz was offered $1MM for the rights of “A Bronx Tale,” he declined the offer. He was determined to write the screenplay and play the lead role of mob boss Sonny. When he was told that for an unknown in the business that wasn’t going to happen, he walked out leaving a deal of $1MM on the table of his most likely stunned talent agent at WME.

Fast-forward to 1993, de Niro brought “A Bronx Tale” to the silver screen with Chazz playing Sonny, a local mob boss, opposite de Niro as Lorenzo. Notwithstanding his prior solid acting roles, Chazz became an immediate success through the de Niro film production of his screenplay. With that, he made his dream come true against all odds and the mighty Hollywood film industry.

At the time of this writing, the Broadway musical “A Bronx Tale” is playing at the Longacre Theater to great success and Chazz currently appears in the role of Sonny in the musical on certain days of the week. If you want to see them, you can do so until Aug 5, 2018, when the play shuts down on Broadway to go on tour.  What an amazing foresight he had about the success of his original piece of work.

But there’s more to Chazz Palminteri than his film and TV career. His restaurant ‘Chazz Palminteri Italian Restaurant,’ located at the Cambria Hotel on West 46th Street as well as his Sicilian vodka ‘BiVi’ and his Child Reach Foundation show the business-savvy and compassionate side of this well-known popular actor.

Please visit The Hedonist Magazine online to read our review of the musical “A Bronx Tale.” Spoiler alert, we can highly recommend it.  In addition, Chazz’s  BiVi Vodka story entitled “Moon Over Sicily” was featured in The Hedonist Magazine’s print  Spring/Summer 18 edition.

Chazz Palminteri and Nick Cordero leading the cast and entire audience in the “Sonny Salute.” | Photography Jenny Anderson

With that, The Hedonist Magazine is thrilled to present an up close and personal interview with this iconic actor, writer, producer, and businessman.

  • First of all, thank you, Chazz for taking the time out of your super busy schedule for this interview. With all, you are involved in you definitely fit The Hedonist Magazine’s philosophy of stories of success and inspiration.  So, there’s a lot to talk about.  Let’s start with “A Bronx Tale,” which is described as an autobiographical story of your upbringing in the Bronx. Was your passion for acting prompted by your childhood experiences in any way or what drove you towards acting?

My mother used to take me to the movies as a kid.  I would see the images on the screen and I would say to myself I want to do that.  I was 10 years old.

  • What mentors did you have in life and what did they teach you that made you the person you are?

My parents. They taught me not to waste my talent and to always do the right thing.

  • What was a major setback you had in life and how did you overcome it?

Losing a job and having no money.  I sat down one day and wrote “A Bronx Tale.”

  • How did you learn your most important lesson in life, and what was that lesson?

By having no money and realizing that it takes a Herculean effort to make it.

  • What do you consider to be your most valuable possession?

My family.

  • Please tell us a bit about the Master Class you are teaching. 

Most actors do not know how to audition. No matter how good they are.  Auditioning is an art in itself.  And I teach the fastest way to get there and to give a great audition.

  • What advice would you give an aspiring actor/actress?

Perseverance beats talent every time when talent doesn’t want to work hard.

  • As an industry veteran, what is your opinion of today’s film / TV industry?

It is a great time for actors with all of the media outlets available to them.

Chazz Palminteri
  • Please describe the feeling you experienced when you turned down the $1MM check for the rights to your “A Bronx Tale” play and when the WME Talent Agent told you playing a lead role like Sonny, the mob boss, and writing the screenplay was not what they thought could happen because you were an “unknown” at that time? Did you have second thoughts about it? What was your financial situation at that time? And what happened after you walked out of WME’s office without signing the deal they had offered? 

The studio offered me the money.  WME were my agents at the time negotiating my deal.  I was playing the part or no deal.  I was not backing down.  I had 200 dollars in the bank at the time but I didn’t care.  I never had any second thoughts at all.  This was my project and I was not letting anyone take it from me.  After I walked out I smiled and went to lunch.

  • How did you convince the powers to be that you could write the screenplay and play the lead role?

Robert De Niro was attached to direct and said he would back me and they agreed.

  • With your ongoing entertainment career and your various business ventures, how do you find the right balance between your professional and business life?

By prioritizing and devoting enough time to each one.

  • How would you like to be remembered?

Most importantly a good man, husband, and father – someone who loved his family and didn’t waste his talent.

  • The Hedonist Magazine’s mantra is “You can be, do and have anything you want.”  What is your take on such a statement?

I 100% agree.  You don’t know what you can accomplish unless you try and give it your all.

A Bronx Tale The New Musical
Photography Courtesy Chazz Palminteri