Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Michael Imperioli for Oldboy: This Time He's Playing The Good Guy!

By: Anne M. Raso

Michael Imperioli is an actor with great diversity, and yet we know him best as Christopher Moltisanti on The Sopranos--a no-good junkie, alcoholic, girlfriend-slapping young mafia soldier who made his boss Tony Soprano seem as sensitive and polite as Mr. Rogers! In Spike Lee's new film Oldboy, he plays the "true blue" old friend and bar owner who's not afraid to stick his neck out for a friend (played by Josh Brolin) who has disappeared for 20 years...and who happens to be a criminal on the lam for killing his wife. (Well, or so we are led to believe--I can't give away any of the spoilers for this film, which is a remake of the 2002 avant garde Korean classic of the same name but with twists and turns added!)
Imperioli at Oldboy Press Day, NYC

I attended the press day for Oldboy in New York City and had to ask Imperioli how he got involved in this project in the first place? "I got a phone call from Spike Lee and he said he was looking forward to working with me again. And I had no idea what he was talking about. I have worked with him six times but was surprised to hear from him directly. We hadn't spoken for a year." He says with a chuckle, "Apparently, my agent forgot to tell me that I had gotten this role so I just had to act kind of cool and say 'when do we start'!" The actor admits that he was attracted to the movie "because it's weird and dark and out-of-character for Spike Lee--the script was really strange and twisted and exciting!"
Oldboy Movie Poster
Imperioli is actually a master of many trades. Until recently, he own and ran Studio Dante in midtown where he not only took a hands on approach to teaching actor but also sponsored numerous plays starring new acting talent. Plus, he's got a great original punk scene inspired band called La Dolce Vita who have been playing around in the NYC clubs, including The Delancey (where I have caught them twice). Imperioli is an excellent singer and guitar player, and seems intrigued on the whole about the original New York music scene of the 70s. You might even recall him in that other Spike Lee film Summer Of Sam (from 1999) which he co-wrote with Lee--and which featured a big scene at CBGB's. I suspect it was Imperioli who insisted on writing that scene (which features Adrian Brody's character Ritchie's band performing) as a nod to the music he loves so much.
Imperioli in Oldboy
But as for Oldboy--which I have to say is only for the most mature audiences, as it touches on taboo subject matter--Imperioli is pleased with the final product which he defines as "thrillerish and sci-fi-ish." Imperioli has great respect for Lee's strong work ethic without being a control freak. Imperioli reveals, "He has you rehearsing before filming and no one else does that. Spike likes for actors to bring their ideas for a film to the table. He likes collaboration and he likes input. Spike's films are very character driven and yet he always brings a unique visual sense to his films--even on very simple characters." Imperioli admits that Oldboy is a very dark film and feels that the American public has always been fascinated with dark movies: "These films help people deal with things that scare them (in real life); life is often very sad and very terrifying and very tragic. Maybe these films help us make sense of all of that." Imperioli admits that he really gelled with co-star Josh Brolin on location in New Orleans and says, "At night we would go out gambling and hit the town and have a lot of laughs. We wanted to feel like we were friends in real life--not just in the film. We made a conscious effort to bond. It was pretty simple—we prepared for our characters’ relationship (which was a lifelong friendship) by having a lot of fun."

Imperioli is starting on the Martin Scorcese-produced film The Wannabe as we go to press and will be performing with La Dolce Vita in LA in December. He says he stays grounded by “cooking for his family a lot.” He is the parent of two teenagers and a 24 year old, believe it or not! Oldboy opens on November 27th. For more info, check out the official site,

PHOTO CREDITS: Michael Imperioli shot at Conrad Hotel by Anne Raso,; all others courtesy FilmDistrict

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