Between the Lines … with Paul Sorvino
Sorvino talks his new film, “Cold Deck,” and why he initially hated “Goodfellas.”
“Where are your people from in Italy?” actor Paul Sorvino, the man who played Paul “Paulie” Vario, caporegime in the mob film Goodfellas, asks me a moment after learning of our shared heritage.
“We’re Sicilian,” I reply, thinking to myself how, as a paisan who grew up with the legendary flick, this whole scene seems a little surreal.
“Sicily? Well then, you make [tomato] sauce with raisins and sugar,” he chuckles. “You make the ragù with meat, raisins, sugar, every f**king thing you can find. That was all started by the Godfather – ‘the trick is, put a little sugar.’ Well, we Neapolitans don’t do that.”
For the record, I’ve never eaten tomato sauce with raisins, but I didn’t tell Sorvino that. Who am I to argue with one of the great (fictional) mobsters in cinema history? And when you see him in his latest flick, Cold Deck, you won’t argue either. In the poker heist film, which opens this weekend in Toronto before debuting on video-on-demand in the New Year, Sorvino’s character, Chips, is a ruthless poker ace who will literally sacrifice his own friends to stay on top.
I spoke with Sorvino about Cold Deck, why he originally hated Goodfellas and even snagged a recipe for his mother’s famous tomato sauce (note: no raisins required).
MIKE CRISOLAGO: What was it about Cold Deck that caught your attention?
PAUL SORVINO: Well, it was different. I had never really done anything in that vein. I’ve played a gambler a couple of times but this was different. It was a gangster gambler. It was interesting.
MC: Did you enjoy your time filming in Toronto?
MC: Is there a type of character you won’t play?
PS: Generally speaking, I will not play degenerates, I will not play Hitler, I will not play characters that are so unregenerate that they make your spine crawl. I wouldn’t do that. I won’t enter into the universal unconscious in that manner. Just my nature – I just won’t do it.
MC: This year marked the 25th anniversary of Goodfellas. How does it make you feel to know how much people still love this film?
PS: I’m not amazed because it’s a great movie. It holds up. It could have been shot yesterday. The acting and the direction and the editing and the music and the story … it will play 100 years from now just as well as it plays now.
Once I became acclimated to the fact that it’s a great movie – it took me about three hours because when I first saw it I said, “This movie is excessively boring and excessively violent and I’m boring in it.” And everyone sitting around me said, “Paul, you’re making a mistake.” It blew back my ears because I was so stunned by it that I lost all my objectivity and I went into a funk. And then about three hours later I said, “Wait a minute, I think that’s a great movie and I think I’m pretty good in it.” And no one man is responsible for that. I mean, of course, Scorsese is the skipper of the ship but no one person is responsible. A movie is a very happy confluence of talent, intelligence, luck – so much goes into it. Everything was of the first rate – the highest. Everybody involved, from the biggest to the smallest, were absolutely letter perfect, so when you make a movie like that and it all happens, it’s very rare. I’m not at all surprised. It’s one of the best movies ever made.
MC: When you look at the scope of your career, you bridge generations. You’ve worked with everyone from George Burns to Warren Beatty to Robert De Niro and Lorraine Bracco and Al Pacino. Now you’re with these young kids in Cold Deck. When you’re on a film set now do you take on a mentorship role with the younger performers?