Like a lot of his character-actor peers, Vincent Pastore came late to his career as a performer.
He’d been a tough kid in a rough neighborhood, then later, after a stint in the Navy, he was running clubs in the same area. He began acting in community theater, just hoping to make a better life for himself, somehow, some day.
“It was tough, because we weren’t educated that way,” he says. He started acting professionally at 42. “We call ourselves street actors,” he says. “Tony Sirico started late. Frank Vincent. Even Danny Aiello started late.”
And when he got his chances, he made the most of them. He remembers adding a line when he was supposed to be silent in a scene in “Carlito’s Way.” “Brian De Palma come running over and said, ‘Get him off the set.’ And Al Pacino says, ‘No, it works.’ And he gave me a contract. That’s the business. You got to have steel balls to stay in this business.”
No wonder then that his shortlist is “Men With Drive” movies, about people determined to change their lives.
“Marty,” about an Italian-American butcher in the Bronx (where Pastore had family), connected with the young Pastore and his Italian-American friends. “You had the Million Dollar movie on Channel 9 and they showed the movie Monday, Tuesday, all week so if you missed it one night, you watched the next night. My mother had to watch it every night. So you learned the dialogue.”
“Saturday Night Fever” reminds him of his own drive to get out of the neighborhood. “I wanted to be an actor. That’s what I really wanted to be, but the guys in the neighborhood, they didn’t buy that. In fact, not until ‘The Godfather’ came out did anybody that was Italian-American from the neighborhood say, ‘Oh, okay I can become an actor.’ And then after ‘Goodfellas’ everyone wanted to be an actor.”
Today, Pastore is well-established as a thespian, but “Glengarry Glen Ross” is still helping him as he looks to take his next leap forward.
“I’m doing some teaching and I had two guys working on a scene from ‘Glengarry’ and I said, ‘Wait a second, you guys don’t have the rhythm.’ It’s a rhythm. It’s like a song.” That’s more than the observation of a sharp director — Pastore has turned to playwriting himself.
“I have two plays out now and they’ve both been on stage. [Mamet’s dialogue] inspired me to write the way I write and actors love that.”
*Titles subject to availability