Tetro - Vincent Gallo interview
Filmmaker, actor, musician, artist and arch Reagan Republican, Vincent Gallo is a contrary soul and now he has a fan in Francis Ford Coppola. Kaleem Aftab meets him
‘I’m a person with more flaws than most people because I am maybe a little more ridiculous’ says Vincent Gallo with typical understatement. The man of many clothes – actor, director, painter, singer, songwriter and internet entrepreneur has always been a Marmite figure, but whether he’s loved or reviled, it seems it’s impossible not to take notice of the 47-year-old.
Gallo has such a reputation for being difficult that Tetro director Francis Ford Coppola went out of his way to speak about how wonderful Gallo was as an actor. Although it would have been fun to be a fly on the wall when Gallo broke his leg just before the film went into production. He complains that these days he’s becoming a walking ailment: ‘I’ve gotten much older now and I think I’m noticing it because I’ve worked my whole life on the floor and worked a lot fixing things and making things, I don’t know if it’s tendonitis or arthritis but the hardest thing for me is opening things.’
Gallo just doesn’t do normal. Even today he sports a beard that looks like it was borrowed off the set of The Life of Brian. Trying to get him to talk about one topic or respond directly to a question is problematic. He goes off on tangents but every so often he’ll say or do something surprising, even interesting.
He was born in Buffalo, New York in 1961, the son of Sicilian emigrants. Aged 17 he moved to New York City to study acting, and once there he started a musical collaboration with artist Jean Michel Basquiat and worked as a painter. In 1981, he appeared in the cult classic New York Beat Movie (recently rediscovered and recut as Downtown 81). In addition to playing a small role Gallo also appeared on the soundtrack. And so started a remarkable career that reached its high point with his remarkable directorial debut Buffalo ‘66 in 1998.
Gallo’s follow up The Brown Bunny was unfairly derided and his career as an actor has never really fulfilled it’s potential, he’s been at his best playing dark mysterious characters in The Funeral and Trouble Every Day. But he’s not complaining, ‘I’ve got a lot going on, my life is full, and I have a lot of energy for everything, but I don’t have an agent, I don’t have a personal assistant, I don’t have a gardener and I don’t have an intern.’
Even when he speaks about Tetro, the conversation is not about Coppola or the role but about what he was doing when the camera was not rolling. Gallo claims that he’s working on a new film, although it’s experimental and has no budget. ‘I’ve done a new movie, so I produce my own films, I edit my own films – and not like Robert Rodriguez, where I have 400 slaves working for me and put my name on it, I mean really I have my Avid and sit in a room alone and cut my movie. I took my G5 to Buenos Aires and every night after shooting I’m just looking at footage.’
Tetro, selected release from Fri 25 Jun.