Interview: ‘Fading Gigolo’ director John Turturro talks about fading NYC

John Turturro's latest film is the comedy "Fading Gigolo," starring him and Woody Allen. Credit: Getty Images
John Turturro’s latest film is the comedy “Fading Gigolo,” starring him and Woody Allen.
Credit: Getty Images

The attention-grabbing part of John Turturro’s latest film as an actor and director, “Fading Gigolo,” is that it’s about a mild-mannered flower salesman (Turturro) who ends up getting pimped out by an older pal (Woody Allen) to service high-end female clients (played by the likes of Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara). But hidden under that comic shell is a poignant look at the dying mom-and-pop store culture of New York City.

There’s an impressive warmth to the cinematography in this.

That’s because we shot it on film. We tested film and digital, and we decided that film was more flattering to all the ladies. It’s just softer. It creates a world of the film, like when you see a beautiful photograph or a painting and it’s kind of evocative, it’s something you can be invited into. And I chose a lot of very hard places to shoot in because they were all so small, so tiny. And listen, to get Woody out of khaki pants? Come on.

How did you do that?

I said, “Woody, that’s not in my color scheme.” After being involved with the project for a couple of years and working in the theater together, he was like, “OK…” I even got a ski cap on him. I mean, he’s in a black jacket. He looks great!

Woody doesn’t often act for other directors.

No. He likes me, I wrote the script, he gave me feedback on it, I revised it, we worked in the theater together. So that’s a two-year process of what you’re seeing. In a way, Woody encouraging me and pushing me to make it deeper and whatever is kind of like the dynamic in the movie. When I directed these plays, Woody would tell me, “Everything is great. Just don’t f— it up.”

Your film takes place in a world that’s disappearing: small, independent NYC shops.

Theses places are going. It’s easy to be nostalgic about stuff, but there is a loss when there’s less individuality and it’s all the same. Go into a Starbucks, everyone’s alone. I’m an investor in my bookstore in Park Slope because I like to be able to go to a bookstore that’s not a chain. I don’t like things that are too big, like supermarkets. They scare me. I just feel like that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

Have the Coen Brothers been in touch with you about the “Barton Fink” sequel?

They’re waiting for me to get really old, yeah.

They said it might time. How does that make you feel?

Well, I’m ready for whatever they want to do. They want to gray me up, that’s fine. Obviously with them I would do whatever. They’re really some of my closer friends in the business and just in general. I’m looking forward to it.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick



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