About The Production
The idea for John Turturro's new comedy FADING GIGOLO first surfaced in a
improvisation he did for a friend's amusement over lunch. "I was just riffing,
and then he
kept laughing and I kept going more with it," says Turturro. It was only
he started to think this concept might be something worth exploring further. He
about it to a few friends, including his barber. The barber mentioned it to
another of his
customers who happened to be Woody Allen. Allen loved the idea so much he, in
reached out to John. At this point Turturro didn't have much more than the basic
went over to Woody's place and I talked him through it," says Turturro. "He'd
funny' or 'that's not funny' or 'that could be funny.'" As Allen remembers: "I
had come up with an unusual and amusing notion; it had a group of entertaining
characters, it had a little taste of romance to it, and there were moments of
interest." When Turturro started to write the script, Allen agreed to continue
feedback. "He was very generous with his time," says Turturro, "but he was also
merciless, and if someone like Woody Allen takes the time to do that, I felt
must be something there." Turturro adds: "I think Woody encouraged me in his own
to go deep, and by the end there was a lot more of me in the movie. He
on how to do that in my own way. I wound up with much more of a nuanced film
Turturro has had a long-time fascination with the topic of prostitution.
While there are so
many people today who are forced into this way of life, there have always been
who have chosen it as a trade. "It's a profession, and like any profession there
people who do it well," says Turturro. "There can be a true transaction that
might not be an emotional one, but it's a real one. Sex is a big part of life,
and not just
for 22 year olds. It's a longing that people have, even those who are in
don't think that longing ever ends and that desire is what has made people seek
prostitutes throughout time."
While portraits of male prostitutes in movies, whether gay or straight, tend
exceptionally attractive men, Fioravante (Turturro) in FADING GIGOLO wasn't
conceived of as a pretty boy. "In movies it's always the most perfectly
people, but in real life sexy people come in all packages," says Turturro,
you take your clothes off, whether you have a good body or a bad body, you're on
equal footing." Fioravente's appeal doesn't emanate from his looks but rather
extraordinary gift for understanding women-his ability to hold their attention.
guys who like sex, but don't necessarily like women," says Turturro. "Fioravante's
to listen to them, to be a human being with them, and to be very tender with
While Fioravante, a modest man who works in a floral shop, might himself be
of this ability, his close friend Murray (Woody Allen) recognizes it. When
asked by his dermatologist Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone) to recommend a man whom she
would be willing to pay to share a menage a trois with herself and her friend
(Sofia Vergara), he immediately thinks of Fioravante. The only challenge is
Fioravante to go along with his plan.
"Murray is a nervous hustler," says Allen. "Not stupid, but trying to promote
a fast buck.
A guy with a foolish idea that works a little bit, but in the end is probably
failure because it's preposterous." Allen continues: "Murray isn't a calculating
exploiting guy. He sees it as an opportunity, and his logic is 'why not?'
always been someone who's enjoyed the company of women, and as Murray reasons,
'athletes get paid for what they do and why shouldn't you?' When Fioravante
some reluctance, he does talk him into it, but he talks him into it in good
faith, as he
thinks it would be silly to pass up this goldmine that seems to be out there."
adds: "Murray isn't being completely altruistic or exploitative-it's something
Fioravante leads a modest and unambitious life working in a New York City
a sensitive and solitary man with an old soul who values qualitative things like
in Murray's shop or wise maxims from the past. He doesn't have many friends
from Murray, who has acted as a sort of a father figure to him since Fioravante
into his bookshop as a boy. Fioravante's life seems to revolve around the women
pass through it, as he's never able to find one he can hold on to. His latest
voluptuous Tunisian singer named Mimou (M'Barka Ben Taleb) lives in Italy and
speak English; Fioravante can only communicate with her in Italian, a language
dimly understands. He can be attuned to her and even love her without knowing
what she's saying. Fioravante is essentially a romantic which is why Murray's
makes him feel uncomfortable. He doesn't like the idea of combining sexuality
money: "it dilutes it," as he tells Murray. Still, after reviewing the poor
state of his
finances, Fioravante reluctantly agrees to the dubious partnership with Murray.
When Fioravante meets his first client, Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), she is at
crossroads in her life. Although wealthy and successful, she has always made
in life according to what she was supposed to do rather than seeking out what
actually wanted. This way of life has left her confused about her own sexuality,
a picture perfect marriage. "Dr. Parker is like a flower which hasn't bloomed,"
Stone. "She's like a bud, a very tightly closed bud. She knows she's kind of
so she asks Murray to bring this guy into her life because she needs someone to
her open her heart. And she hopes that her friend Selima, who knows how to be
and effervescent, will be able to help her too." Stone continues: "That
beginning of her
flowering self-opening is such a wonder to her that all kinds of other feelings
it: feelings of attraction, feelings of jealousy, feelings of wonder, feelings
that delicious feeling of 'ooh I might know how to get to be sexy.' It's all
because she's fifty, not twenty, and it's so touching to see that at any age we
discover ourselves anew."
Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), the third client that Murray finds for Fioravante,
Orthodox Chasidic widow from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Avigal has lived her entire
a religious community that severely restricts women's behavior. In terms of
must cover their hair, wear skirts, and their bodies must be covered from their
their knees. They are also forbidden to sing or read "forbidden" book, outside
Orthodox canon. Contact between men and women is so limited that even after a
twenty year long marriage to a much older Rebbe, and after bearing him six
Avigal has never been kissed. "Avigal is religious, but there's a curiosity in
character," says Paradis. "She's not supposed to read, but she reads. She is
miserable and wants to have a little taste of life, something different. She has
in her that needs to come alive." It's not surprising that she is very receptive
intriguing offer of a massage. Says Paradis: "She's at a point in her life when
completely fading away, and Murray comes along to tell her she doesn't have to.
While what Fioravante offers Avigal might seem modest and chaste, she has
encountered anybody like him in her entire life. "He pays sincere attention to
in her head and what's in her heart," says Paradis. Says Stone: "What Fioravante
women is that he's present. There isn't anything more attractive in another
than someone who's present with you, and willing to see and experience you, be
vulnerable, be available, be loving, be present." Stone continues: "Fioravante
for Dr. Parker, but also for every woman that he allows to unfurl in his
presence. And in
doing that he takes each of them from where they are to the next phase of
understanding of what love can be. He shows everyone, and himself, that simply
being present, the heart opens."
While outwardly Avigal and Dr. Parker seem polar opposites, internally they
going though something quite similar. "Avigal is oppressed by her religion and
society and you might think that Dr. Parker has everything," says Turturro, "but
she is in
her own cage too-they're like different ends of the spectrum." Both feel the
free themselves by journeying outside their comfort zones. While Fioravante
excitement and a girlish posessiveness in Dr. Parker, a deeper and mutual bond
materializes with Avigal. "You feel that Avigal and Fioravante could be
together, but they
are from different worlds," says Turturro. "I think he opens her up to
experience life and I
think she opens him up too."
Another person on a romantic quest in the movie is Dovi (Liev Schreiber), a
Chasidic man working in the Shomrim (the Orthodox community police) in Avigal's
neighborhood. Dovi has loved Avigal since they both were children. Although he
rarely spoken to her, and his attempts at doing so have been awkward and clumsy,
has waited twenty years for Avigal. "One of the things I love about Dovi is his
his patience," says Schreiber. "It wasn't appropriate within the Orthodox
have any interaction with her, but he hung in there." Schreiber adds: "I don't
Avigal knew he was doing that, but I would imagine, with him hanging around
dopey at her all the time she would have figured it out, but I don't know that
Now that it is two years after her husband has died, Dovi is suspicious when
Avigal with Murray and Fioravante and starts tracking their every step. Given
background and shy nature, Dovi is bewildered by the ease with which they are
interact with Avigal, and increasingly anxious about whether, after all his
waiting, he's losing her to someone completely alien to his culture. "There's a
and emotional clumsiness to Dovi," says Schreiber. "I think he's trying to
things that are a little bit outside his range of experience." Says Turturro: "Fioravante
knows how to have emotional intimacy with Avigal, but can't stay; Dovi doesn't
how to act around her, but very much wants to stay."
Dr. Parker's vivacious friend Selima (Sofia Vergara) has a much more
attitude towards her extramarital adventures with Fioravante. "Selima is
Vergara. "She is ready in her life to take some risks and she wants to have fun.
though she's married, I don't think anything's going to stop her from that."
"She's the freest character in the movie. Her belief is: 'I'll try this, I'll
try that-I'm going
to enjoy life while I'm alive.'"
Selima is more confident than Dr. Parker, and enjoys playing around with
and being generally outrageous. "She's a little cuckoo," says Vergara. "She's
of screaming, crying, saying and doing whatever she wants. She's a fun
brings a bit of humor to the movie, and I think that's why John wanted me to do
Turturro has created several highly diverse portraits of women for FADING
he explains: "I wanted the women to be very different: small, big, black, white,
women that are evocative of different things. In an early draft I had much older
too." Turturro continues: "I've worked very closely with the women in the movies
directed. They interest me more. If I could make five movies in a row I would
make an all male movie. I don't even want to see an all male movie. Some of my
favorite directors are Ingmar Bergman, Jean Renoir, Truffaut, and Louis Malle,
they created such vivid female characters."
While Turturro had put a lot of himself into writing the character of
Fioravante, this didn't
mean it was an easy roll to play. "Fioravante is a lovely role, but a hard one,
could skew it too light or I could skew it to heavy, so it had to be tender in
the middle of
it," says Turturro. "It's a tightrope of a part." Turturro also had to contend
the film at the same time. Whenever he had questions about his own performance,
would have watch playback of particular scenes or else turn to his director of
photography, Marco Pontecorvo (whom he has collaborated with before).
he would ask Woody Allen. "It's a little schizophrenic to keep changing roles,"
FADING GIGOLO marks one of the rare occasions in which Woody Allen acts in a
by another director. "I have great respect for John's work as a director and an
I felt this was a role that was within my range," says Allen. "If John had given
me a script
where I had to play a policeman or something, I wouldn't have been able to do
because I'm not really an actor, but this was something I could handle."
Turturro and the
rest of the cast do not share Allen's modesty about his talents. "When you're
opposite him, you see how fantastic he can be," says Turturro. "He did some
delicate things. He liked to improvise and it was fun to try things a couple of
ways. He's a very underrated actorâ€¦ and he was always on time, ready to work. "
Allen: "Knowing what it's like being a director myself, I tried to be as
humanly possible and do every single thing John wanted me to do, because I come
from a director's point of view. I tried to completely abandon any directorial
mine, or writer impulses or anything, and do as many takes as he wanted, and do
the way he wanted them, as this is strictly his baby."
Allen had some trepidations about acting opposite Liev Schreiber. "I was a
before I did a scene with Liev because I'd seen him on stage and I find him to
be such a
tremendous actor, and I thought, 'Is he going to roll his eyes the minute I
start to speak
and think, 'who did they stick me with here?'" Says Schreiber: "Getting to watch
close was really stunning for me to see what a brilliant physical comedian he
is. If you
want to see something, just watch the way he moves his hands, like a magician,
timing." Schreiber adds: "I watched him throw a baseball too and who would've
that Woody Allen's a pretty good baseball player?"
Liev Schreiber brought an imposing physicality to the role of Dovi, as well
as an equally
formidable resume in theatre and film. "I've always admired Liev's work," says
"He is very grounded, with great range, and can play all kinds of parts, which
certainly been able to show onstage. The idea of putting him in a romantic
something that intrigued me. He's got his own kind of sex appeal and edge."
Award-winning French actress and international singing star Vanessa Paradis
ON THE BRIDGE) makes her debut in an English-speaking role with FADING GIGOLO.
"It's a wonderful role, but for her I think it was much more than that-it
with her," says Turturro. "She gave one of those performances where people give
of themselves away. It's happened to me occasionally. Sometimes a role just
with somebody, because of whatever they're going through, or their age, or
all, and you can't separate the performance from the reality. There wasn't a
set that didn't feel that." Turturro continues: "I think when you work in the
right way, the
imaginary world becomes very real, when you're giving to each other and you just
Sharon Stone and Turturro had worked with before on the film GODS BEHAVING
BADLY, although they had no scenes together. "Sharon has a vulnerability to
Turturro. "She's the right age for the part, she's very smart, she looks
something very athletic about her-I needed somebody you could imagine lived on
Avenue. I think that we had a nice chemistry together. There's kind of a bravery
her that makes her willing to try things. She'd be like 'Alright, I want to do
actually pushed me to do stuff."
Turturro considers Sofia Vergara to be a natural comedienne, something that
"Modern Family" would readily attest to. "When we did the scene with the
says Turturro, "I told her, 'I'm like there, and then I disappear, kind of. You
get it? And
we have to read that on your face.' She did it brilliantly." Turturro continues:
has a lot of potential as an actress, if she wants to do it. She can be very
She told me that she thinks in Spanish. If I had known that I would have put in
stuff in Spanish for her and I would just have subtitled it."
Turturro spent several years researching the Jewish Orthodox community,
books and meeting with many people. Vanessa spent a great deal of time with a
Chasidic woman who had left the community. "She's a very strong, young,
woman, who was 25, but who seems to have the life of someone who's 105," says
Paradis. "She helped me to understand all the rules. Also she comes from Israel,
only learned to speak English three years ago, so she still had an accent which
I stole a
little bit from. I also used my French accent which I pushed a little bit more.
really want to show where Avigal comes from." Paradis was also helped by her
costume. "My head is strapped under the wig and I have tight stockings on. I
the physical sensation of wearing those clothes gave me an identity. It really
did a lot for
me." Says Schreiber: "I think all too often people have a narrow perspective on
communities like the Satmar and Chasidim. They can be insular and so people
bother to ask questions, and they don't bother to offer answers. It's a fertile
for misunderstanding and miscommunication. When you go into that community and
meet those people, and you get to know them on their terms, you realize that
there is a
lot more going on than that. They are as complex, complicated and as varied as
One attribute that unites all the characters in FADING GIGOLO-Fioravante,
Avigal, Dr. Parker, Dovi, and Selima-is a longing to connect with other people.
very big dynamic in life," says Turturro. "I think some people have obstacles
very distinct, and others seem to have everything but they still feel that they
something else." Murray and Fioravante's idiosyncratic partnership causes
affecting all the characters in the film: Murray and Avigal's children start
Avigal's and Dr. Parker's yearnings and searches are satisfied, as is Selima's
quest for fun; Dovi learns how to express his love to Avigal by following
Fioravante himself learns to follow his heart wherever it leads him. They are
all trying to
take advantage of the opportunities life offers them while they can. Says
"There's a line my character says in the movie that goes 'We're alive for just a
while.' That means live life while you can. When there's beauty, when there's a
that passes in front of you-don't watch it, grab it!" Everybody deserves a
happiness...if not a lot."
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