Since his landmark role in the Coen Brothers’ 1996 masterpiece, Fargo, Steve Buscemi has made a career of playing ill-fated underdogs. As executive producer and lead actor in his latest project, St. John of Las Vegas, that persona hasn’t changed much, but Buscemi found that joy comes from working with first-time directors, like this project’s Hue Rhodes. Metro caught Buscemi in transit.

Your character in St. John is a gambler. You play the slots much?
No. I’m not, really. I’m too cheap. In order to win big you have to bet big. I’m just not willing to do that. It’s fun to play a little blackjack or roulette, but no, I feel like life is enough of a gamble.

You’ve mentioned you like working with first-time directors, but they must make a lot of rookie mistakes. Why work with them?
It kind of brings you back to your own roots, to feel like what it is to start new again. I like having that fresh perspective of someone who is really discovering things and experimenting and has a certain kind of enthusiasm that you really only get with first-timers.

Do you find there’s a common thread in all the characters you’ve portrayed?
I mean, I like playing guys who have problems and are struggling. I like material that has humour in it. Other than the fact that they’re all played by me, I don’t know that there are other common threads.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was preparing to direct the first film I did, Trees Lounge, a cinematographer friend of mine said to let people do their jobs. I thought that was a really great piece of advice because when you let people do their jobs, they really give so much more of themselves and it gives you a greater choice as a director.

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