Making a connection

Craig DiFrancia on The Irishman, Green Book and The Sound Of Philadelphia

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Craig DiFrancia with Jacob A Ware, NIFF co-founders Linnea Larsdotter and Johan Matton, Anne-Katrin Titze, Adam Schartoff, and David Schwartz
Craig DiFrancia with Jacob A Ware, NIFF co-founders Linnea Larsdotter and Johan Matton, Anne-Katrin Titze, Adam Schartoff, and David Schwartz Photo: Gary Springer

At the Nordic International Film Festival closing night celebration at Gitano, after the awards ceremony hosted by Sarita Choudhury at the Roxy Cinema, my fellow jury member Craig DiFrancia spoke with me about his role as Carmine Persico in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Craig also told me how important Peter Farrelly’s Green Book was to Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali and Nick Vallelonga, and he noted that Jérémie Guez’s upcoming film The Sound Of Philadelphia is going to be 'epic'. Other members of the jury included Richard Thomas (who is starring opposite Brian Cox and Grantham Coleman in Robert Schenkkan’s The Great Society at the Vivian Beaumont theatre), Adam Schartoff, and David Schwartz.

Craig DiFrancia on being in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman: “I mean to work with the best ever. One of my childhood heroes. It was a dream come true.”
Craig DiFrancia on being in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman: “I mean to work with the best ever. One of my childhood heroes. It was a dream come true.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anne-Katrin Titze: You are not only my fellow juror, but also worked on one of the best films of the year, The Irishman. Did you enjoy the process?

Craig DiFrancia: Oh man, it was a very, very lengthy process. I did, though. That's part of the rush of this whole business, is the anticipation and the angst, the oh-my-god-do I-get-it type thing. Sometimes you know you're right for a role, sometimes you're not. I always believe, your role is your role and if you don't get it it wasn't your role.

AKT: You say it was a lengthy process, and you really wanted this.

CDF: Oh, yeah, I mean to work with the best ever. One of my childhood heroes. It was a dream come true. It was only one day on the film. I play one of the Albert Anastasia hitmen. It's a great swooping shot. There's no small parts, there's only small actors, as my acting teacher used to say.

AKT: I agree.

CDF: I'm very fortunate to be a part of such an epic film.

AKT: In your scene were you with Pacino or De Niro?

CDF: No we end up whacking Albert Anastasia. He was known as the lord high executioner. It was known as one of the most famous mafia hits back in the late Fifties. He was killed in a barber shop in broad daylight.

The Irishman director Martin Scorsese at the New York Film Festival
The Irishman director Martin Scorsese at the New York Film Festival Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: Oh, the barber shop scene! That's you?

CDF: Yes.

AKT: Now I know what you are talking about. Wow.

CDF: Yeah, we killed him. In the actual story that happened when Albert Anastasia was killed, his bodyguard left. Apparently rumour has it that he was paid off to walk away while the two gunmen can go up and murder Albert Anastasia.

When the shots went off, Albert got out of his barber chair and charged the mirror and broke the mirror. Because he thought that was his assailants. That's the true to form story. That's actually what happened. That wasn't shot but there was a swooping shot and you get the gist of it.

AKT: It's a great scene. For the rest of your life you now might be a little scared of going to a barber shop?

CDF: Isn't that the fact? Ha!

AKT: And you were also in Green Book.

CDF: Yes, Green Book, we had a great run. First off, I have to say that the story is so important to Nick Vallelonga and Peter Farrelly and Viggo and Mahershala. Because it's a true story. It's about Nick Vallelonga's father, Tony Lip, who's played by Viggo Mortensen. It's so now, it's such a relevant story that people are just people. It doesn't matter race, colour, creed, anything. We connect on a human level. I think this film really portrays that message in a very positive way.

Craig DiFrancia on Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen in Green Book: "We connect on a human level. I think this film really portrays that message in a very positive way."
Craig DiFrancia on Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen in Green Book: "We connect on a human level. I think this film really portrays that message in a very positive way."

AKT: You saw The Irishman for the first time at the New York Film Festival?

CDF: Yes, at the New York Film Festival. And then I went to see it tonight for cast and crew. A lot of the crew were there, which was really nice to see.

AKT: And I heard from Kim that you had to leave early to join us at the Nordic Film Festival. To be on the red carpet with me and the other jurors?

CDF: Yes, of course. We actually snuck out at the end of the film to head down to Tribeca for the Nordic International Film Festival.

AKT: What did you think of the de-ageing?

CDF: You know, it didn't affect me. Whoever was in charge of that did an amazing job. I thought it was flawless.

AKT: I totally agree. A second after noticing it, I had accepted it. It makes much more sense than having two actors play the same role.

CDF: Agreed, agreed.

AKT: You wouldn't mind being de-aged?

Nordic International Film Festival at the Roxy Cinema in New York
Nordic International Film Festival at the Roxy Cinema in New York Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

CDF: No, not at all. And re-invented wouldn't be bad either.

AKT: What's coming up for you?

CDF: I did this film called The Sound Of Philadelphia, directed by Jérémie Guez, an amazing French director. The film is going to be epic. I play Tino, an enforcer of sorts, working for a crime family. I shot like four days in Philadelphia. That's coming out very soon I think, January or February next year.

AKT: How did you get involved with the Nordic Film Festival?

CDF: Funny story. Johan [Matton] and Linnea [Larsdotter] were shooting a film on my block up in Westchester County. I saw them shooting so I went over and said hi to see what they were shooting and stuff. And we just established a friendship.

And Johan is an Esper grad, and I am as well, so we were talking about that and then one thing led to another. They were kind enough to ask me if I would like to be a judge on the jury. I was more than thrilled, I was ecstatic to be a part of this whole experience. I know it's the fifth one, but I think it's growing and growing every year.

The Irishman will be released in select theatres in the US on November 1 and on Netflix later in the year, The Sound Of Philadelphia in 2020.

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