×

John Turturro on Why He Starred in ‘Transformers’ After Resisting Tentpoles, Working With Woody Allen

“The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert worked his second job — Montclair Film Festival moderator — over the weekend.

On Sunday as part of the sixth annual fest’s conversation series, the comedian, a Montclair resident, quizzed “The Night Of” star John Turturro about his prolific career on stage, in film, and television.

The actor-director spoke about his upbringing in Queens and how his Italian parents, with no ties to the entertainment industry, helped spawn his career trajectory after he realized that he was never going to be a professional basketball player. “I realized that it came naturally to hold friends’ attention and tell these exaggerated stories because that’s what everyone did in my family,” the thesp said.

As for convincing fellow New Yorker, Woody Allen, to act in Turturro’s 2013 film, “Fading Gigolo,” the actor said it took a while.

“(Woody) said, ‘You write the script and I will help you edit it,’” he explained. “So I sent him my first draft and he basically excoriated it. It was fatal. It was death.” But eventually, after “many, many drafts and being merciless,” Allen signed on and was “fun to work with.”

Turturro also spoke about working with directors Spike Lee, the Coen brothers, and Robert De Niro on “The Good Shepherd,” and Michael Bay on the “Transformers” films.

“(De Niro) liked to do a lot of takes,” Turturro said. “I spent three days saying one line and torturing some guy. Bob was like, ‘You gotta keep doing it.’ The whole crew, after three days was going out of their minds.”

As for “Transformers,” Turturro said playing Agent Simmons has been a good experience, even though Bay doesn’t have many answers. “When you ask him a question (about your character) he goes, ‘When you see the movie, you’ll understand.’”

The actor explained that for most of his career he has resisted tentpoles, but his son convinced him to do the “Transformers” series.

“I never used to do these big, giant films because there used to be medium-sized films,” he said. “But now there are no medium-sized films. There are small films or giant films. Thank god for television.”

HBO’s “The Night Of” reminded the actor of one of those old, medium-sized movies he used to make.

“It was beautifully written and had nuance to it. And my role (lawyer John Stone) was so interesting too, because (John) had the capability of being a great lawyer, but he didn’t have the stomach for it,” Turturro said. “It reminded me of some people that I know in different careers.”

Turturro can next be seen in “Going Places,” a film he directed and stars in as Jesus Quintana, the bowler he made iconic in the Coen brothers’ “The Big Lebowski.”

“You know that there are people all over the United States who now lick their bowling ball because of you,” Colbert commented.

“I feel good about that actually, but I don’t think it really helps,” Turturro said, laughing.

The Montclair Film Festival runs through May 7.

More Scene

  • David Crosby

    David Crosby Says New Documentary 'Remember My Name' Is Like 'Being Naked in Public’

    “It’s not easy. It’s hard being naked in public,” David Crosby, the legendary troubadour of classic rock, reflected at Tuesday night’s New York City premiere of “David Crosby: Remember My Name.” “I don’t know what to do here. There’s no guitars, no drums,” he laughed. Directed by newcomer A.J. Eaton and produced by the legendary [...]

  • The Ultimate Guide to 2019 Comic-Con

    The Ultimate Guide to 2019 Comic-Con Parties and Activations

    Hollywood is heading down the California coast to San Diego because It’s time for 2019 Comic-Con International. The annual cosplay celebration officially kicks off tomorrow, July 18, with a preview happening tonight. Here, Variety gives you a guide to this year’s parties and activations. Make sure to check back for updates. Wednesday, July 17Amazon Prime [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

  • Dwayne Johnson Idris Elba

    Dwayne Johnson: Idris Elba Nixed 'Black James Bond' Joke in 'Hobbs & Shaw'

    In the “Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw,” the movie’s villain Brixton, played by Idris Elba, spreads his arms out wide and declares “I’m black Superman.” It turns out that might not have been the original line. Dwayne Johnson tells Variety that Elba was first asked to proclaim he’s “black James Bond,” but the [...]

  • Matteo BocelliAmerican Icon Awards Gala, Inside,

    Top Music Manager Calls Out American Icon Awards for Failing to Pay Talent

    The centuries-old adage no good deed goes unpunished is a common refrain for star music manager Scott Rodger of late. Rodger, who represents Paul McCartney and Andrea Bocelli at Maverick, says his client Matteo Bocelli, the son of the opera star, was stiffed out of promised expense reimbursement by the American Icon Awards. The event, [...]

  • Mary Bailey Steve D'Angelo, Jim Belushi

    Cannabis Industry Tackles Justice Reform With 'Last Prisoner Project'

    Jim Belushi is standing two feet away in the backyard of his spacious Brentwood home, honking a harp like he’s a Blues Brother back in sweet home Chicago accompanied by noted reggae band Rebelution’s Eric Rachmany and Kyle Ahern, who provide a 12-bar shuffle. There’s the sweet smell of skunk — and success — hanging [...]

  • Dwayne Wade holds up the legend

    Dwyane Wade, Megan Rapinoe Win Big at 2019 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards

    The 2019 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards was filled with incredible athletes, inspiring moments and — of course — a massive amount of slime. “I love the kids. I love the slime. I loved the games. I love seeing celebrities and athletes like become kids again. And it’s like my favorite thing,” Michael Strahan told [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content