When It Comes To His Craft, Armand Assante Never Slows Down

Guest contributor Nick Christophers is de facto entertainment editor.  We've known him forever and he is the only person we know who is possibly more interested in the mob than we are. He also has lots more mob books than us. 

Armand Assante
Armand Assante

Nick, who recently gave a presentation on the history of the Greek mob in America for the Mob Museum and who has written a book with former Gambino associate John Alite, recently covered the Mob Movie Con show for us. Nick's latest is an interview with Armand Assante....

By Nick Christophers

It was with a great honor to have a sit-down with multi award-winning actor Armand Assante. A man who has an acting career that has spanned four decades and is still plugging along. Most may not know that Armand was at first a theatre actor and started to get his feet wet in the 1970’s. One of his many stage roles written by Tennessee Williams was in a play called “Cat on The Hot Roof”. It was a remake of the original from 1955 play. Williams wanted experimenting with a different ending which turned out well. It is also interesting to note even before moving into acting Arm and was a drummer in a band in his teens for four years until he realized that acting was truly in his blood. He became a devoted student to Myra Rostova for the next 25 years.

In 1973 Armand was an extra in the famous film “Lords of Flatbush” where was in the wedding scene although he is not visible. They even misspelled his name in the credits as Assanti than Assante. He has come a long way since then with awards and an extensive list of film projects. As an actor Armand is driven by the writers and their stories. This is what motivates him on whether to take on a role or not. He sees himself as a character driven actor / material driven actor. For him, the story needs to be there and grab his attention.

“Everything I do as a performer is from the theatre whether it’s a one-day gig or a weeklong. I work on it and develop it as if I were working on a play and I really believe that performance energy is truly theatrical energy. Theatrical energy is what the camera captures. It catches the behavior of the character as it is my choice for roles is based on the characters behavior. Any actor to embody a role needs to put that role in their DNA otherwise it is impossible to embody it.”

Armand has been known for such epic roles like Odysseus in the “Odyssey” (1997) and as infamous mob boss John Gotti in “Gotti” (1996). Both films became blockbusters even though they came out on TV rather than in a theatre. In addition, both roles depicted characters who commanded authority and leadership qualities. These projects had amazing writers which is what drew Armand to the work. For him to take on these roles he indicated; “you need to understand what an author is reaching for and to do your own research. For me it is a combination of both.”

He would not take on a part if the writing is not right. Armand has also lent his expertise to writers and directors to enhance the energy of a character. One of his more essential elements are to study the relationship that the character has that develops on the screen. When it came to working on “Gotti” he studied the relationships that John Gotti had to bring forth the feeling of a boss.

Both the “Odyssey” and “Gotti” were popular in Europe and shown in theatres. The “Odyssey” was a 33-million-dollar project while “Gotti” was a seven million dollars. Another one of his project’s that made headlines was the film “Q&A” written by former Supreme Court Justice Edwin Torres and directed by Sydney Lumet (who has directed many films). Torres also wrote “Carlito’s Way.”

“It is rare that anyone spent quality time with any of the old-time bosses of gangdom, like a Carlo Gambino and really get in his head. I have a book that the author did intense research on Carlo, and it is not what people would imagine him to be. A boss is a product of a relationship.” This quote relates back to what Armand mentioned earlier about Gotti and how he played his role.

Since what Armand called the “meltdown” in Hollywood from 2008-2010 he did not stick around to see what can be done. He would set his sights on Europe where he has become somewhat of a God. Countries like Romania, Italy, and the whole former Eastern bloc welcome Armand’s talent with open arms. At this time Armand has a full financial plate to take care of between his family and his two daughters in private school he was not going to gamble on Hollywood to come to his rescue. When it comes to the Indie Film movement Armand has always supported it and believes it has changed the culture of every country globally. The indie filmmakers have learned to make projects about pressing issues and social dilemmas in their country without needing to run to the big boys.

Nick Christophers
Guest contributor Nick Christophers.

“I have been to film festivals globally and have seen shorts directed by youngsters that capture the social, economic fabric of our society in only ten minutes. It is astounding how they can manage that. Yet there is a dark side to indies where there are too many DIY’s who really do not have a grasp of the filmmaking process.”

For Armand, every film must have a process and that 90% of a film is done in pre-production. It is like being a dancer if the choreography does not exist there is no dance. He strongly believes that acting is a way of life a marginal life not a profession, his way of life.

Recently, Armand took part in the “Gotti Movie Reunion” in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The event was hosted by the company VirtualCons which is a new app that offers live and virtual events like the Reunion and MobMovie Con. Armand was a special guest there along with William Forsythe and Dominic Chianese. He was very honored to be a part of the Con and he is thrilled that VirtualCon has championed the idea of “Gotti II”. Armand has accomplished more than most actors have done in a lifetime and he has shown no signs of slowing down.