The Play’s the Thing for Chazz Palminteri

 Popular Film Actor takes Center Stage in his One-Man Show, A Bronx Tale on Saturday, September 29th at The Harbor Lights Theater Company in Staten Island

Our River View Observer Interview with this Oscar Nominated Actor


By Sally Deering

Fans of ABC-TVs Modern Family know Chazz Palminteri as Jay’s metrosexual friend and the celebrated actor plays the recurring role with a comedic flair that keeps the audience guessing “Is he or isn’t he?”  Film-goers loved his portrayal of Customs Agent Dave Kujan in The Usual Suspects and his comedic turn as “Cheech” in Woody Allen’s film Bullets over Broadway that won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. It doesn’t matter if he’s playing comedy or drama Palminteri always gives a stand-out performance because he’s a risk-taker.

 On Sat, Sept. 29, Palminteri is at it again – performing live without a net – when he takes center stage at The Harbor Lights Theater Company in Staten Island to portray 18 characters – including two women – in his semi-autobiographical one-man-play A Bronx Tale. It’s a one-night stand, so to speak, and Palminteri can’t wait to perform in front of a live audience. 

 It was during his salad days as a struggling New York actor that Palminteri wrote A Bronx Tale to give himself a great role that would get him noticed – and it did. When Robert DeNiro saw him perform his show Off-Broadway, DeNiro decided he wanted to direct the film and with the proviso that Palminteri play one of the leads and write the screenplay, Palminteri and DeNiro sealed the deal with a handshake.Palminteri began acting in plays at the Manhattan Theater Club in New York and his support for live theater has only grown through the years. He’s passionate about performing A Bronx Tale at the Harbor Lights Theater Company tomorrow night because it’s important to support the arts, he says. And it’s a win-win for Chazz’s fans that get to see the talented actor perform live in a play that’s extremely personal to him.

 A Bronx Tale tells the story of Calogero, a kid growing up in the Bronx during the 1960s and the two influential men in his life, his father Lorenzo and a local mobster Sonny. Feeling morally conflicted  Calogero tries his best to live up to their expectations. According to Wikipedia, Roger Ebert gave A Bronx Tale four stars and called it “a very funny movie sometimes, and very touching at other times. It is filled with life and colorful characters and great lines of dialogue…. What’s important about the film is that it’s about values.”

Chazz Palminteri took time out of his busy schedule to speak with Riverview Observer about A Bronx Tale, working with Robert DeNiro, the debut of his new talk show on Sirius XM Radio and other projects that inspire him.

 RVO:  Mr. Palminteri, is it okay if I call you Chazz?

CP:  Yes, of course.

 RVO:  Your first name is Calogero, how did that evolve into Chazz?

CP:  Calogero is Charles in Italian. They started calling me Chazz when I was a kid.

 RVO: How did your acting career get started?

CP:  My first acting job was on stage at the Manhattan Theater Club. My first movie was with Sylvester Stallone. A Bronx Tale was my second movie.

 RVO: What inspired you to write A Bronx Tale and since it’s partially-autobiographical, how long did it take to accomplish something so personal?

CP: It took me a year to write it and rehearse it. I did it for my theater company. I would do it Monday nights. The reason I wrote it, I wanted to break into films. I was doing episodic TV like Hill Street Blues, but it was hard to get a great part. I decided I’ll write something great that will show me off.

 RVO: A Bronx Tale is a one-man show and you play how many characters? Women too?

CP: I play 18 characters including two women. The way I do it is very smooth, I don’t have props, no costumes, it’s a very linear story. It’s fun when you’re doing it. You’re in the zone. You gotta love it to do it. If you don’t love it, it’s too hard.

 RVO: According to Wikipedia, you wouldn’t sell the film rights unless you could play Sonny and write the screenplay. Why was that so important?

CP: At that time, I needed a break and I needed to play a great part. I decided I’m not selling unless I play Sonny and write the screenplay. I had an offer for a million dollars and I said no (because they wouldn’t agree to the terms).  I walked away from one million dollars. Then a week later Robert DeNiro saw it and agreed to everything with a handshake.

RVO: Everybody loves Robert DeNiro. Can you describe your working relationship on the film?

CP: It was a very collaborative relationship. He wanted me on set all the time whether I was in the scene or not. He directed it and made the final decisions, but he made me feel very part of it.  (To most film directors) writers are out, they don’t want to look at them. They want to take full credit for everything, but DeNiro is so secure in his art, he just wants to hear good ideas from everybody.  In film, the director has the final word; in TV, it’s the Executive Producer; and for plays, the writer has the final word.

RVO: This past Wednesday, you were on the hit TV show Modern Family. Is that a recurring role?

CP: That was my fourth time on it. It’s a great show. I play Jay’s friend. He’s like a guy’s guy, always talking about clothes, and he’ll make a remark if another guy’s handsome. So there’s always a question, is he gay or is he metrosexual. It’s a great running gag. Great writing.

 RVO: What other projects are you working on these days? 

CP: Beginning Oct. 3rd on Wednesday nights from 6-to-7 p.m. I’m doing my talk show Ask Chazz on Sirius XM 104 where you can ask me anything you want, any advice you need on how to be an actor. I wanted to give people really good advice from a real professional. People can ask me questions about the business, sports or just life.  I also have my website where you can email me any questions you like about the entertainment business.

 RVO:  You’re also a restaurateur?

CP: I have a new restaurant Chazz located in the Harbor East in Baltimore where we make one-of-a-kind, “Bronx –style” pizzas baked in a coal-fired oven. My pizza was voted one of the top three pizzas in the U.S. by Esquire magazine. And I’m going to open a new restaurant in Manhattan.


RVO:  And you’ve written a new play?

CP: It’s called Human; I’m still working on it.


RVO:  What made you choose a new venue like The Harbor Lights Theater Company for A Bronx Tale?

CP: I’m a big believer in theater and that’s why I want to put The Harbor Lights Theater Company on the map. As a country, we need to support the arts.



Sat, Sept 29that 8 p.m.

A Bronx Tale

At The Harbor Lights Theater Company

The Music Hall at Snug Harbor CC & BG

1000 Richmond Terrace

Staten Island

TIX:  $49, $69, and $129*

(*includes VIP Reception after the show with Chazz Palminteri)

Box office: (866) 811-4111


Large Photo of Chazz Palminteri source













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