Skip navigation

Daily Archives: February 18th, 2009

chaz

Chazz Palminteri says about 80 percent of his solo show “A Bronx Tale” — about growing up in a Mafia-run neighborhood in the early 1960s — is true.

“The other 20 percent is embellished. . . . I saw the killing exactly the way you saw it in the movie,” says Palminteri, referring to his 1993 film, in which he co-starred with its director, Robert De Niro.

But Palminteri — who’ll perform “Bronx Tale” at the Warner Theatre from Tuesday through March 8 — adds that he never left his parents’ apartment with the police, who were hoping that little 9-year-old Cologio, as he’s called in the play, would help them identify the gunman.

Most people are familiar with the film, in which Palminteri played the gangster, Sonny, who befriends little Cologio, much to the chagrin of the boy’s bus-driver dad (De Niro). Written when Palminteri was an underemployed stage actor, the play was an off-Broadway hit in 1989.

As he did then, Palminteri plays himself as a 9-year-old and a teen, along with the other characters.

Last year, the actor took a break from his steady film career (including the upcoming “Hollywood and Wine”) to revive the play on Broadway.

In the play, Palminteri shows how he became fascinated as a boy by the local mobsters and their ways. He hung out at their bar. “I would get them coffee and cake and throw the dice for them and cut the lemons and the limes,” he says.

Sonny, the top gangster, had a particular hold on the boy. “He read Machiavelli and he was a pretty interesting guy. I would put him on one side and my father on the other.”

That moral tug-of-war is the heart of Palminteri’s account of growing up at the corner of 187th and Belmont Avenue. “My father used to say it doesn’t take much strength to pull a trigger,” says the actor, but “to get up every morning and work” took a will his father wanted the boy to appreciate. He says his play “is a tribute to the working people.”

                   

He has long been struck by how the film affects people. “I’ve done 60 movies and this movie is just like this incredible thing. I don’t understand it myself. People say: ‘Oh my God, my son saw “Bronx Tale.” It changed his life,’ ” Palminteri says.

The actor seems to feel a need to bring the story directly to audiences. After all, he says, “I am the guy that it happened to.” When young people come backstage, Palminteri says he gives them a bit of his father’s wisdom they heard in the play. “I give them a card and it says: ‘The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.’ . . . It really makes an impression.”

“I just love it. I can’t explain it,” Palminteri says. “It’s like a mission that I have to do.”