MI: I think they have to make their decision by the beginning of May.
I think he just gets it enough to know that you have to walk kind of a fine line, and I was just really pleased with what he brought.
But I liked that character, so I kept that and started this other story, and…I just wanted to tell the story. John Ventimiglia’s part was not necessarily written for him, but…Sharon and John Ventimiglia, I started out in acting school with them when I was 19 years old, so I’ve known them since way before “The Sopranos,” and I’d done a lot of projects with them, both on the stage and in independent film, before “The Sopranos.” So it was just kind of logical that they would be in the first movie that I directed. BE: I feel like Steve Schirripa is a particularly underrated actor. () BE: As the director, did you give the cast a certain amount of leeway to improv, or, as the writer, did you prefer for them to stick as closely to the script as possible? I find improvisation works a little bit more when a script is a little looser and when there are scenes that are not really…like, when I worked with Martin Scorsese, I remember the scenes that I did there were not scripted out. You know, if you’re deliberately trying to write something, really trying to work out the dialogue, then you don’t often have to do that. BE: You took “The Hungry Ghosts” on the film festival circuit, but did you have hopes of getting wider exposure, perhaps a full-fledged theatrical release?
BE: Was it a tough decision deciding to bring a couple of “Sopranos” actors (Steve Schirripa, Sharon Angela, John Ventimiglia) into the cast? He’s really done some nice work on, of all things, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” MI: Yeah, absolutely. MI: Well, I mean, I knew from the type of movie it was that getting a very wide release was very, very unlikely.
When I started writing that script, once I got into it, it felt like something that I really wanted to direct, to have the control to cast who I wanted to and work with the people I wanted to. () Actually, some of the character of Frank’s story was from an older script from about ten years ago – maybe more – that was never finished. I never said you couldn’t or anything, but I think they just felt secure enough with the words that…
The first scene in the movie, in the club, and the scene with him on the radio, they were from an old script, with different characters except for him. () You know, I mean, if your script is good enough, you don’t really need to improv. And Spike Lee, he’s a director where his scenes are sometimes a little bit sketchier, and he encourages his actors to improv.