Chazz Palminteri plays the wise guy

Chazz Palminteri brings back "A Bronx Tale" for a three-night run.  Credit: Getty Images
Chazz Palminteri brings back “A Bronx Tale” for a three-night run.
Credit: Getty Images

His co-starring role in “A Bronx Tale,” Robert DeNiro’s directorial debut, made Chazz Palminteri a star. That ascent, while lucky, was no accident; Palminteri turned his childhood experiences into a one-man show during a low point in his career as a last-chance gamble.

“It was desperation,” Palminteri recalled last week in the lobby of the Prince Music Theater, where he’s reviving the show for a three-night run. “I needed to be noticed; I needed to work. I ran out of money. I borrowed money from a friend to produce it, the reviews were off the charts, the theater kept getting packed, and it was an absolute phenomenon. It was pandemonium. There was ‘Rocky’, and then there was ‘A Bronx Tale.’”

The story of Palminteri’s adamant refusal to sell his story has become the stuff of legend. Studios offered him increasingly large sums, up to one million dollars, to simply hand the play over and walk away. “I had $200 in the bank, but I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “I knew once I gave it up, that’s it. They were gonna take it and change it and sanitize it and make it something else. Then Robert DeNiro strolled into the theater, saw the show, met me backstage and said, ‘Oh my God, this is a movie.’”

The show features Palminteri in the guise of 18 different characters as he recalls the two father figures in his life: his own father and a local mob boss who took young the young Calogero Palminteri under his wing. The actor revived “A Bronx Tale” on Broadway in 2007 and has been performing it since, saying that he now brings a different perspective than in its original 1990 run. “I’m a father now,” he explained. “I have a 17-year-old son. Before I was the young boy looking up to the father when I did it; now I’m the father looking at the boy. So the show is richer, it’s deeper. It has more meaning to me.”

The success of the film version led to Palminteri’s current success in Hollywood. His next role was as Cheech, the mafia boss in Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway.” He admits that his play (not to mention his heavy-eyed look and gravelly Bronx accent) may have helped to typecast him as a gangster. “It’s a double-edged sword,” he shrugged. “But some of the wise guys that I’ve played have been very unique characters. I like playing flawed characters. Perfect people are boring.”

“A Bronx Tale”
Sept. 19-21, 8 p.m.
Prince Music Theater
1412 Chestnut St.
$75-$150, 215-972-1000
www.princemusictheater.org



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Earth Day New York food toolkits to help…

Hundreds of classrooms across New York City already have indoor container gardens that allow students to grow food right where they learn. But Earth Day…

Local

NYPD announces street closures for United Nations General…

The United Nations representatives are in town, and multiple city streets will be closed to traffic through Saturday, Sept. 26. The NYPD is urging those…

Local

Flood Wall Street protesters shut down lower Manhattan…

Riding the momentum of Sunday’s People’s Climate March, more than a thousand protesters filled Broadway in lower Manhattan on Monday, shutting down traffic. Flood Wall…

Local

Mayor pledges lower greenhouse gas emissions from New…

Just hours before the start of the People’s Climate March on Sunday, and two days ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, Mayor Bill de…

Movies

Antoine Fuqua can kill someone with just a…

It's amazing what you can get done with the right tools. In designing the climactic battle in "the Equalizer," in which Denzel Washington's retired special…

Movies

Guess Ben Kingsley's worst filmmaking experience

Here's a fun game: Sir Ben Kingsley has made a lot of films since "Gandhi" in 1982, but at least one of them was a…

Books

Does Lena Dunham have any secrets left?

Get a sneak peek at her new book to determine if it’s worth the read.

Movies

List: David Bowie — Great (cracked) actor

With the documentary "David Bowie Is" hitting theaters, we round up his work as a terrific screen actor, in films like "The Prestige" and "The Hunger."

NFL

Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.

NFL

Jets vs. Bears: 3 things to watch

Jets fans likely chalked up Monday's matchup with the Bears as a loss when the NFL schedule came out. But given their team's play so…

NFL

Rashad Jennings carries Giants in first win this…

Rashad Jennings, who came to New York from Oakland last year, by way of Jacksonville, was highly coveted this offseason by general manager Jerry Reese.

NFL

3 things we learned as Giants pick up…

The Giants picked up their first win of the season over the Texans.

Education

Here are this year's most creative college application…

The college application essay is one of the only times during the admissions process where a student can showcase his or her personality. While many…

Style

Nicola Formichetti on Diesel, the digital revolution and…

The artistic director of fashion label Diesel – and stylist for Lady Gaga – is creating human connection through social media.

Education

Your older siblings probably had a big impact…

As many high school students agonize over where to go to college, it turns out they turn to a very familiar source for advice and…

Food

Now you can eat Momofuku while you work

Now you can eat Momofuku at your desk