Q&A WITH ACTOR PAUL BORGHESE



1) How did the project come to you?


The writer/director John Martoccia was having a hard time finding the right actor to play Vito Bonafacci, so he contacted Carlo Fiorletta, the President of (GIAA), the Guild of Italian American Actors of which I was president of for 4 years previously. Carlo recommended me for the role to John, who then called me. I drove up to Utica, NY to read for the part because it interested me, and John gave me the role on the spot! 


2) Who is Vito Bonafacci?


Tough question!  Vito is a guy who thinks he's taken his life and career to a place that he could wish for no more, until he's confronted with his mortality and the fear of whether he would go to heaven or hell if he died before his time. He questions not only if there is a heaven, and a hell, but if he's lived his life in ways that would earn his way through the 'Pearly Gates' if they really do exist.  He realizes that none of his success or money could buy his way in, so he sets out to define who he's been, who he is, and what he has to be to earn the grace of God, and is successful on his journey.


3) How did you prepare for the role of Vito?


Outside of learning my lines, LOL! - John gave me prayers to keep with me, to read to myself and also aloud, while I was rehearsing and also just in the course of any given day. He particularly asked me to repeat  "The Memorare" to the Virgin Mary at least once per day, which I did. I also did some soul searching of my own to reaffirm my own Catholic faith which was and is still very much in tact, and thought through whether or not I myself would be ready to die and was comfortable with where I might be sent to on judgment day if it came sooner than later, in order to feel what Vito might be feeling in the story. 


4) In what ways are you similar or different than your character?


Well, I look just like him! LOL! - Okay, truth, I'm NOT like him in that I don't golf and I don't keep tropical fish as a hobby.  I prefer a dog!  I do have the same taste in homes as he does though.  I love the house Vito lives in! I have a strong and old-fashioned work ethic as does Vito, and family means a lot to me as it does to Vito. I value how my friends and family think I'm living my life, whether they think I'm a good person or not, as does Vito, and I too have a Priest in my life that I know since childhood that I can go to in times of trouble, Monsignor Emmett Nevin. I question things like Vito does, not my faith, but things I'm not sure of, and I too reach out to the people that are close to me to hear what they think about the things I'm not sure of.  I'm a fair man, just as Vito is, and I love God, just as Vito does.


5) Were there any specific scenes that were difficult for you to film?


Yes. On the first day of production most of the backyard exteriors were scheduled, maybe even all of them, I can't remember for sure, but just before we started shooting my sister called me to tell me that my Father had a heart attack. I was 4 hours away by car and freaked out about not being at my Father's side, and also by the fact that my character in the movie, Vito, dreams he has a heart attack in the movie, and then fears having one when he wakes up from it. My Father urged my sister to urge me not to leave the set which would leave John high and dry without his lead actor, so upon word that a stent was almost immediately put in his heart and that he was doing okay, I made the very tough decision to stay on location for a couple of days before going back to see my Father then returning to set.  John brought the cast and crew together in prayer before we started shooting our very first scene, and my father was of course the topic of prayer. John rescheduled so that I could go see him 2 days later then come back to finish the movie.  I guess I drew upon my real feelings at hand while we were shooting those scenes.  It was a position NO actor ever wants to be in, but I was in it, and lived through it.  So that proves, there IS a God! 


Also, the scene of me praying on my knees in my bedroom, doing the Rosary, rejecting Satan, felt like the best work I had ever done but the next day John told me we had to re shoot that scene because of technical reasons so it was very difficult to get to that same place again, as I was the night before when we shot it the first time and I was so pleased with my work.


6) What was it like to work with filmmaker John Martoccia?


John is an interesting and complex man. Predictable in some ways, yet sometimes very hard to read. Open minded at times, yet extremely stubborn at others. Me being a filmmaker myself, I tried very hard not to over step my boundaries on the set as an actor, but John being a first time director there were times that I knew my experience would be of value to him and this movie so I delicately made some very selective suggestions that John for the most part was very receptive to and I respect him for that. It was a fruitful collaboration between us and I look forward to working with him on his next film, "Death of a Tree".


7) What were your feelings about working on a faith-based film?


It was inspiring, motivational and very rewarding.


8) Was the atmosphere on this set different than other films you’ve worked on?


I have found that every set is so alike yet at the same time so different. John's set was different in that I was working with a much smaller crew than I am accustomed to, but that forced me to make it that much more about my work so it wasn't a negative, it was a positive in this case. I didn't have people-heavy departments worrying about how I looked and sounded and John does very few takes, but long ones, so I found myself having to stay in character much longer than an actor normally would in any given scene or take which was an exercise in acting money just can't buy. I grew as an actor after this film.


9) Did working on this film re-awaken or help strengthen your faith?


I have always been a devout Catholic however working on this film has put me even more in touch with my faith and beliefs. 


10) With so much negative Italian-American and Catholic stereotyping in movies and television today, do you feel that this film and your portrayal of Vito Bonafacci will help create a more positive image for both?


Yes, absolutely. There will always be negative stereotyping, that will never go away and anyone who thinks they can do away with it is only kidding themselves. But finding balance in the marketplace with films like these that portray Catholics as well as Italian Americans in a more positive light is the key I think. Complaining about The Sopranos to HBO is old news, and isn't going to get people results. Making more positive image films with messages to create a balance in the marketplace will. And that goes for any nationality or religion.

 

11) What do you hope audiences come away from this film with?


Faith, in God, in themselves, and that they can change for the better if they want to. And realizing that we don't control things, he does, but that we can influence the outcome.


  1. 12)Any final thoughts about this experience?


My only regret is that my Father is not still here to see the film. We lost him some time after filming, unrelated to the heart attack he had during production.  I dedicate my performance in the film, to him.