In the realm of underrated and unheralded actors in Hollywood, there are few better than John Turturro. The 60-year old earned his start in an uncredited cameo for the 1980 Robert De Niro drama Raging Bull before grabbing people's attention with parts in The Color of Money, The Sicilian, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, Quiz Show, Rounders, The Big Lebowksi and O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Sitting down with Stephen Colbert as the late night talkshow host moderated the Montclair Film Festival this week, the performer recalled that his acting instincts were developed from an early stage in life.
“I realized that it came naturally to hold friends’ attention and tell these exaggerated stories because that’s what everyone did in my family.”
Turturro: There Is No Middle Ground With Movies Anymore
Transitioning from witty black comedies to serious dramas, Turturro would raise a number of eyebrows when he jumped onboard Michael Bay's 2007 installment Transformers. Returning for three of the four sequels, including the upcoming blockbuster Transformers: The Last Knight, he revealed that playing the part of Agent Seymour Simmons was not exactly the greatest education in developing his craft.
“When you ask him (Bay) a question (about your character) he goes, ‘When you see the movie, you’ll understand'," he remarked. "I never used to do these big, giant films because there used to be medium-sized films. But now there are no medium-sized films. There are small films or giant films. Thank god for television.”
Reverting to the HBO miniseries The Night Of, he sees that type of show as a vehicle to get the most out of himself creatively speaking.
“It was beautifully written and had nuance to it," he argued. "And my role (lawyer John Stone) was so interesting too, because (John) had the capability of being a great lawyer, but he didn’t have the stomach for it. It reminded me of some people that I know in different careers.”
JT: Woody's Process Nearly Killed Me!
Directing and writing the 2013 drama Fading Gigolo, Turturro reflected on his time working behind the scenes with the iconic Woody Allen. Hoping that his co-star would be a positive influence in production, he mentioned that the brutal honesty set him aback.
“(Woody) said, ‘You write the script and I will help you edit it,’” he explained. “So I sent him my first draft and he basically excoriated it. It was fatal. It was death. (But after) many, many drafts and being merciless (Allen was) fun to work with.”
This came 7 years after his experience working under De Niro as a director with the 2006 title The Good Shepherd. Joining up with an all-star cast that boasted the likes of Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Joe Pesci, Alec Baldwin and William Hurt, Turturro relived one torturous sequence that drove him and others barking mad.
“(De Niro) liked to do a lot of takes," he admitted. "I spent three days saying one line and torturing some guy. Bob was like, ‘You gotta keep doing it.’ The whole crew, after three days was going out of their minds.”