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 a play called Cat on The Hot Roof. It was a remake of the original 1955 play. Williams wanted to experiment with a different ending, which turned out well. It is also interesting to note that before moving into acting Armand 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.
Armand Assante’s Filmography
In 1973 Armand was an extra in the famous film Lords of Flatbush where he appeared in the wedding scene, although he is not visible. They even misspelled his name in the credits as Assanti. 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/ 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, just like my choice for roles is based on the character’s behavior. Any actor to embody a role needs to put that role in their DNA, otherwise it is impossible to embody it.”
The Odyssey (1997)
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 was 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.”
Armand has also lent his expertise to writers and directors to enhance the energy of a character. One of his more essential elements is to study the relationship that the character has that develops on 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 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. Torres also wrote Carlito’s Way while Lumet directed many films, such as Dog Day Afternoon and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).
“It is rare that anyone spent quality time with any of the old-time bosses of gangdom, like a Carlo Gambino and really got 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.
Armand Assante Now
Since what Armand called the “meltdown” in Hollywood from 2008-2010 he did not stick around to see what can be done. He 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 that time Armand had 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.
“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.
To learn more about this legendary actor, visit Armand Assante’s website.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.