In Arts & Entertainment

Chazz Palminteri brings "A Bronx Tale" to the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

Palminteri tells his "Bronx Tale" at the Marcus Center

First it was a play, then a movie, now a play again. "A Bronx Tale" had become a hot property for movie offers when Chazz Palminteri first performed the one-man show on stage in Los Angeles and off-Broadway in the early 1990s.

Despite offers of up to a $1 million for the rights, Palminteri held out for a deal that would include a role for him in the movie. He struck gold when Robert DeNiro approached him after a show and said "I think you would be great as Sonny," the character based on the neighborhood wise guy from Palminteri's childhood. Palminteri wrote the screenplay and DeNiro made his directorial debut on the 1993 movie.

"A Bronx Tale" was a breakthrough for Palminteri, who has since appeared in more than 50 films, including "The Usual Suspects," "Analyze This" and Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway," for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts hosts eight performances of Palminteri's semi-autobiographical show starting Tuesday. Palminteri spoke to us by phone from Chicago, where he is currently appearing.

OnMilwaukee.com: When I first heard this was on Broadway last year, I was surprised. You already adapted this into a movie. You got to work with Robert DeNiro on it. To me, that's the pinnacle. I would think then you're done with it and you move on with your movie career. Why did you decide to reprise "A Bronx Tale?"

Chazz Palminteri: People still talk to me about "A Bronx Tale," how it changed their life. I have parents who tell me their sons saw it, and they grew up with it. The show is about not wasting your talent, and being the best you can be.

And I was thinking about it and I thought there's a whole generation of kids who never saw the original show. So I decided to bring it back to Broadway. And when I brought it back there it was a hit on Broadway. And it could still be going there, but it was a limited run. We only ran for four months because there was another play coming in. So, I decided to do a film for a few months. Then when I finished it I just said, you know, why not take the performance to the major cities.

When I first did it, I wasn't a father. When my son saw it on Broadway, he's 13 years old, he came backstage and said "Dad, I promise you I won't waste my talent." To me that was worth it alone, just for that.

OMC: Your father was a regular, working class guy in the Bronx. But then when you make your big breakthrough in Hollywood, it was with a story that is very personal to him. And a story that was a tribute to him and people of his ilk. How did he react when the movie came out?

CP: He was thrilled. I mean here's Robert DeNiro portraying him, the greatest actor of our time. He really loved it, he really did.

OMC: Chazz, my father-in-law is a proud Italian-American from Chicago. He's tired of mob movies. He feels that Al Capone is glamorized in Chicago and shouldn't be. Do you think somebody like him would enjoy "A Bronx Tale?"

CP: Without a doubt because "A Bronx Tale" is not about the mob, it's about the working man. You see I wrote "A Bronx Tale" to counter that focus on the mob. The mob is just an aberration in the Italian-American community. "A Bronx Tale" is a tribute to the working man, not the mob types.

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WestSideWillie | March 25, 2009 at 2:28 p.m. (report)

Went Tuesday night, What a great show! Chazz brings it to life, more like a conversation with him rather than a "play"--- A MUST SEE! 1 1/2 hours of entertainment, with no intermission, high energy, plenty of action. It was the best!

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WestSideWillie | March 23, 2009 at 2:09 p.m. (report)

Save some coin for A BRONX TALE, I went to the Golf Show at State Fair and picked up a coupon for savings on ABT. Go to www.eventusher.com and enter golfshow and I saved about $15 a ticket for Wednesday night. Looking forward to it, loved the movie.

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LegallyBlonde | March 21, 2009 at 4:28 p.m. (report)

Looking forward to this one for sure.

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college_dave | March 21, 2009 at 4:08 p.m. (report)

I'm going to see A Bronx Tale on Tuesday and can't wait. And for the naked beer slides, I was @ the 'Lanche when they got shut down for 'em - what a trip.

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