About six months ago I interviewed Mira Sorvino for a film she starred in called Union Square. I’ve been a fan of hers since she won the Oscar for her role in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite back in 1995.
Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino with writer/director of Union Square Nancy Savoca at the press conference for Union Square!
As a matter of fact, I wrote a film script with her in mind for the lead. It’s a romantic comedy called “Baby and Max” where she goes from being a tough biker’s girlfriend to falling for a nebbishy stand-up comic, and I sent it to her reps for review where it is being looked at right now.
I know her Dad, Paul Sorvino for many years. As a matter of fact as silly as it sounds, back in 1990, when he played Big Paulie in “Goodfellas” for whatever reason I was supposed to call him the same day I saw the film. All I remember is that when I left the theatre, his performance had been so powerful that I was literally afraid to call him. I finally got up the nerve to call him and when I told him how I felt, he laughingly told me I was a “schmuck”!
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with award-winning actor Paul Sorvino, when he played Big Paulie in Goodfellas, back in the day at Columbus Cafe!
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Paul Sorvino in more modern times at the birthday party of socialite/philanthropist Karen Koenigsberg, in the penthouse of The Dream Hotel!
Jim Gaffigan is a HUGE talent and I’ve been a fan and friend for many years. Jim gets offered one project after the next. I remember being at what I think was his first sit-com called “Welcome To New York”, back in 2000, in which he starred with Christine Baranski. I went to a taping in Astoria and I remember him being great in it, as he’s been consistently every time I’ve seen him perform.
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Jim Gaffigan on the set of "Welcome To New York" back in 2000!
He occasionally headlines Gotham Comedy Club and I make sure to catch him whenever possible and he’s also very gracious about making appearances on shows for up and coming comics who ask him to do guest spots. Jim is very accommodating that way.
Jim Gaffigan with Gotham Comedy Club owner Chris Mazzilli!
Jim Gaffigan at Gotham Comedy Club after doing a guest spot for "up and comer" comic/producer Alyse Kenny!
Now CBS has partnered him up with Peter Tolan known for many projects but especially for co-creating hit shows like ABC’s “The Job” and FX’s “Rescue Me”, both starring Denis Leary.
In Jim’s new show, he will be playing a guy with five kids, with a wife played by Mira Sorvino named Jeannie, all true, and taken from his own life. Kind of like what Ray Romano did with “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I wish Jim the kind of success that Raymond enjoyed! He’s worked very hard and truly deserves it!
He’s also featured in my new book called “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, in which he gave me a funny, heart-warming and honest account of his early days. He talked about experiencing crippling stage fright for years, and said that for the first few years, his only credit was that Dave Attell told him he was funny!
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Jim Gaffigan at The Comic Strip after Jim's interview for Jeffrey's book "Make 'Em Laugh", with a great introduction from Chris Rock!
Nancy Savoca’s new indie feature “Union Square” starring Mira Sorvino, Tammy Blanchard, and Michael Rispoli, is a great example of the beauty and freedom of independent film.
The poster for Nancy Savoca's film "Union Square, starring Mira Sorvino and Tammy Blanchard!
As a writer and more specifically a comedy writer,I know the feeling of having someone who thinks they have an incredible sense of humor try and change what you wrote. More often than not, their sense of humor is easily surpassed by their sense of smell!(LOL)
With independent film you don’t have to worry about a studio handing over your script to someone who doesn’t get it! With independent film YOU’RE in charge!
It’s a natural extension for a writer to want to direct, since the writer has the vision in the first place, and sees the movie in his/her mind. In the case of this film, it’s birth came about in a coffee shop, with Nancy, producer Neda Armian, and co-writer Mary Tobler commiserating on how hard it is to get an independent film made.
A smiling Nancy Savoca at the press junket for her new film " Union Square!"
Neda offered her apartment, which is just one room, made to look like two, and said, ” Let’s just shoot something! Anything!” and they all agreed. Nancy said that Mary was “fearless” and over a summer they hashed out the script. They even believed in it enough to put up the initial financing. Once you’ve got the money, it’s a go! That’s the one ingredient that keeps everyone from making a film! (LOL)
They chose locations they could walk to from Neda’s apartment which was one block from Union Square. They purposely wanted a small cast, maybe two principal characters and two or three supporting characters.
You’ll see in the attached video how excited Nancy was to get the cast she wanted. Casting is always key, and when you get the stars you want, especially on an indie budget, you know they’re doing it because they believe in the project, and not for the money!
The film was also shot using less equipment than many student films. They had a very small crew, almost no lighting equipment and shot on a Canon 5D, which is a still camera, capable of shooting high def video.
Again, the beauty of independent film does away with the necessity of using crews of 50 or 60 people, and trailers, and truckloads of equipment. Most of the time they didn’t even use a tripod!
Nancy Savoca and Mira Sorvino at the press conference at The Regency Hotel for "Union Square"!
Mira plays Lucy, a free-wheeling, sexy, but confused girl on the verge of a nervous breakdown over a relationship with a married man, gone wrong before our very eyes. She virtually has a meltdown in Union Square Park, in front of innocent passersby, some of whom had no idea she was shooting a film, which is another funny story you’ll see Mira describe in the video below.
Director Nancy Savoca with Tammy (Jenny) Blanchard at the press conference for "Union Square!"
With her life seemingly in shambles, on a whim she decides to drop in unannounced on her estranged sister Jenny, (Tammy Blanchard) who she hasn’t seen or spoken to in three years. On the surface they couldn’t be more dissimilar.
Mira, as I told her in the video, totally nailed her inner “Bronx-girl”. The accent was perfect as was her style of dress. She dressed really sexy, and with all due respect, she has the body to pull it off too! (Even Tammy said that, … but a lot more graphically! LOL)
Tammy as Jenny, on the other hand played a woman who had seemingly gotten away from her “Bronx past”, and was leading a quiet sedate life with her fiance Bill, played by actor Mike Doyle. In real life, Tammy is a beautiful, stylish woman. In the film she plays kind of a frumpy part, to the point where she said she didn’t even want to look at herself in the mirror!
Writer/Director Nancy Savoca with a very stylish, "un-frumpy" Tammy Blanchard, one of the stars of her new film "Union Square!"
Lucy announces that she would like to stay with Jenny for at least a couple of days, and begins to wreak havoc in Jenny’s life and with her relationship. Lucy drags Jenny out to a club, where Mira’s character Lucy, gets to dirty dance with a guy who turns out to be her own real-life husband, Chris Backus, with whom she just had her fourth child about a month ago. You’d never know it because she’s in such great shape!
Lucy and Jenny’s mom in the film is played by Patti LuPone, and it’s a great, and funny part, and actor Michael Rispoli also plays a wonderful part, as a very stable down-to-earth guy, which he’s so good at. Michael is an old friend, who’s been in so many films, like “Kick-Ass”, “Invincible” with Mark Wahlberg, Spike Lee’s “The Summer of Sam”, and of course he was mob boss Jackie Aprile on HBO’s hit show “The Sopranos.”
He played the lead in the film “Two Family Home” which won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award back in 2000, which is when we took the photo that appears below. It was a party for “Two Family Home” and many of the Sopranos’ cast were there like Aida Turturro, Michael Imperioli, and Drea De Matteo. I was so happy to see him in Union Square.
What will make this film even more popular, is the fact that so many people will relate to the theme of estranged siblings. Unfortunately, it’s all too common.
I was most happy to meet Mira as I’ve admired her talent for years, ever since “Mighty Aphrodite” with Woody Allen in 1996. I actually wrote a film with her in mind for the lead, about a tough biker chick who falls for a stand-up comic. A very unlikely couple to say the least!
So I was so happy to be able to meet her and interview her in person. It was also special for me because I know her Dad, Paul Sorvino for a very long time as evidenced by the photo below taken at Columbus Cafe back around 1991.
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Paul Sorvino at Columbus Cafe, circa 1991!
Mira and I had a good laugh about how her Dad bursts out into song at a moment’s notice,(or sometimes without any notice at all! LOL), very often while you’re seated with him in a restaurant.
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, philanthropist Karen Koeningsberg, and Paul Sorvino at a party for Karen's birthday at The Standard Hotel! Paul graced us all with a song, and his magnificent voice!
She says he’s been doing that all her life, and Paul has a beautiful, operatic voice, which you can easily hear from several blocks away. She says such nice things about her Dad, which you’ll also hear in the video I keep talking about. I think it’s time for you to watch it, right here.
And after you watch this, run out to the theatre on July 13th and watch Union Square. You won’t be sorry!
Nancy’s work is also an inspiration to all filmmakers. If you have something in you that needs to be said in film, just go out and do it! These days if you want to get it done, there’s always a way!
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