Chazz Palminteri enjoys watching movies like “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas,” but he’s quick to point out how far those films are from the typical Italian-American experience.
“I know the Mafia gets a lot of recognition, but Italian-Americans are also cops, firemen, bakers, bus drivers,” said Palminteri, who is bringing his one-man show, “A Bronx Tale,” to Proctors at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“The Mafia is an aberration in the real Italian-American community. The real community is made up of hard-working men and women.”
The desire to tell the story of an honest, hard-working Italian-American is why Palminteri wrote and performed his own one-man show in 1989, based on his own experiences growing up as an Italian-American in the Bronx.
“A Bronx Tale” became a huge off-Broadway hit, and when Palminteri did the show in Los Angeles, Robert DeNiro was in the audience. In 1993, DeNiro made his directorial debut with the film version of “A Bronx Tale,” and played Lorenzo, the character based on Palminteri’s father.
‘Chazz Palminteri Performs A Bronx Tale’
WHERE: The Mainstage at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $54
MORE INFO: www.proctors.org, 346-6204
Palminteri, meanwhile, landed the role of Sonny, the local mob boss. When the movie came out, there was a story circulating how DeNiro had wrestled the role of Lorenzo from Palminteri, but Palminteri says that wasn’t the case.
“No, no, that’s not true,” he said. “I always wanted to play Sonny. I loved the role, and I loved my father, but I didn’t want to play him. Sonny was the role I wanted, and DeNiro did a great job directing. I thought it was a great movie and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.”
“A Bronx Tale” tells the story of a young Italian-American boy who gets involved with the local mob and develops a relationship with the boss despite the wishes of his father, a bus driver and honest man who wants no interaction with Sonny and his group.
After the film’s initial success, Palminteri went on to perform in movies such as “The Usual Suspects” and “Bullets Over Broadway,” which earned him an Oscar nomination. He has remained a very busy actor in TV and film since working with DeNiro in “A Bronx Tale,” and decided to bring back his one-man version of the story in 2007.
“People love the show, I love doing it, and it’s lucrative, so why not,” said Palminteri, who says he performs about two shows a month.
“It’s pretty much close to the way I’ve always done it. There are a few little things here and there that are different, but it’s basically exactly like the movie. Since I do all the characters it gets pretty visceral for me. It’s a tribute to my dad, so there is a very visceral feeling when I do it.”
One of the lines in the movie has become synonymous with Palminteri since he first wrote it and performed it. In one scene, while dealing with a rowdy motorcycle gang, Sonny politely asks them to leave his bar. When they don’t, he then tells them, “Now, youse can’t leave,” and with the help of his many lieutenants physically assaults the bikers and removes them from the building .
“I hear that from people all the time,” said Palminteri, who lives in Westchester County with his wife, Gianna Rains, and their two children.
“I’ll get on the airplane, they’ll shut the door, and the pilot will say, ‘now youse can’t leave.’ I’ll be somewhere and get up to leave and somebody will say, ‘now youse can’t leave.’ That line has permeated into the American dialogue. Everybody uses it on me.”
Proceeds from the show will be donated to The Child Reach Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to finding cures for pediatric blood diseases, including thalassemia, a genetic form of acute anemia that primarily affects those of Mediterranean descent.