At a time when Oscar campaigns involve lavish openings and DVD release parties at Spago, a little-known film is relying on streetsweepers, Italian-Americans and opera buffs to get the Academy’s attention.
“The Streetsweeper” stars 78-year-old former Broadway star Paul Michael as an opera-loving Italian streetsweeper in San Diego who gives up his dream to put his kid through Harvard.
Pic is in the midst of a two-week Oscar qualifying run in L.A. and will open in six cities over Super Bowl weekend.
Produced over the course of eight years on a paltry budget by James Hill, who also directed, most of the pic’s buzz has been generated by actual streetsweepers, who saw it when it screened at the North American Power Sweepers’ convention in Las Vegas earlier this year.
“It was like showing a John Wayne movie to marines,” Hill says. “They went crazy.”
Additional support was showered by the Sons of Italy and the National Italian American Foundation.
“Their attitude is, if the Greeks got ‘Greek Wedding,’ well, Italians outnumber Greeks,” Hill says.
For Michael, who starred with Judy Holliday in the original “Bells Are Ringing” and Vivien Leigh in “Tovarich,” the movie was a labor of love — one that involved much starting and stopping to procure funds.
“Paul, who was 67 when we started, kept calling me, saying, ‘Am I going to be alive long enough to see this film?’ ” recalls Hill.