By Arielle Dollinger
Until he was 18 years old, Chazz Palminteri lived at 187th Street and Belmont Avenue in the Bronx. A self-described “very spiritual person,” he has now settled in upstate New York, he said, with “a lot of land” and without the burden and bustle of Manhattan.
But more than his address has changed since he was a teenager; today, a simple Internet search of his name yields a filmography that includes film credits, appearances on television shows “Modern Family” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and voiceover work as Smokey, the Chief Alley-Cat in “Stuart Little” and Woolworth in “Hoodwinked!”
Palminteri will return to The Paramount on Oct. 10 and 11 to perform his one-man show, “A Bronx Tale” – a show in which Palminteri himself plays 18 different characters and has served as the basis for a 1993 film version directed by Robert De Niro.
The play took its first steps on a stage in Los Angeles in 1989.
“It became the hottest property in the world at the time,” Palminteri said of the show. “Every director wanted to direct it.”
Having previously denied offers of hundreds of thousands of dollars to allow someone else to play his role, despite the fact that he had “two hundred dollars in the bank,” Palminteri eventually agree to turn the play into a film with Robert De Niro, he said.
According to Palminteri, De Niro saw the show and said that it had to be made into a movie.
“I was a big fan of his and I didn’t know him but I met him that night and he loved the show – called it ‘the greatest one-man show he’s ever seen,’” he said of the night De Niro saw the performance. “We made the movie and we became very good friends.”
The show’s appeal, Palminteri said, is in its “defined,” “archetype characters.”
“It’s about a person not wasting his life, not wasting talent,” he said. “It’s about a father and a son; it has all the things that you don’t have to be Italian to understand.”
Palminteri had written the story of his own life: A boy growing up in a Bronx-based Italian family is exposed to the Mafia and the realm of organized crime.
“In the beginning, it was a catharsis for me, and I really had this great feeling,” he said. “I always felt that it just, it would connect with people… Sometimes you get people up there [on stage], they pontificate about their life and who gives a sh-t? But this was not like that, this was a story.”
By Palminteri’s description, the show is “85 minutes of being on a rollercoaster.”
Ticket prices for the Oct. 10 and 11 performances range from $75 to $120. Visit paramountny.com for more information.