Profile: John Turturro, director and star of Fading Gigolo
The Coen Brothers/Spike Lee regular talks sex, religion, comedy and working with Woody Allen
Name John Turturro
Background An Italian American born in Brooklyn, Turturro is a veteran of scores of film roles, including multiple collaborations with the Coen brothers and Spike Lee, and an action-figure-worthy turn in the Transformers franchise.
What’s he up to now? Launching his fifth film as director, Fading Gigolo, in which he also stars as a down-on-his-luck florist who, with the help of a pal-turned-pimp (Woody Allen), undertakes a new life as a paid companion to lonely women, among them Sharon Stone and Vanessa Paradis.
On working with Allen ‘I had an idea that he and I could be good together as a duo; and people kept saying, “You guys should work together…” We share a haircutter, but we didn’t know one another. Then we did work together [Turturro directed a short play of Allen’s in 2011], and we became close friends. I thought that us reinventing ourselves in the sex business could be amusing if I explored it in a nuanced way. Woody liked the idea, and once I wrote it, he gave me his merciless criticism. We have a nice chemistry.’
On playing a prostitute ‘I’ve always been interested in films about sex workers. I didn’t really explore the exploitative side of it too much. Sometimes, someone is alone, or sick, or grieving, and there is a kind of healing that goes on. People have this unceasing need for human connection, human touch. I thought it could be a metaphor for what goes on between a man and a woman. It’s more about intimacy than sex. And the response from the female audience has been overwhelming.’
On directing and playing the lead ‘The hardest thing is the schedule. You have to be really organised. But as Woody says, it's one less person to talk to.’
On making what he calls a ‘delicate comedy’ ‘It’s very hard to convince people to give you money, but I credit Woody with encouraging me. He said, “There’s nothing wrong with a serious comedy.” Gentleness is very powerful. Sometimes films are so crude – they leave nothing for your imagination to work with. I tried to make a movie that people like myself would go and see.’
On the film’s religious element ‘I’m from a Catholic background. If I’m going to make a film about sex, religion’s going to be in there too.’
Fading Gigolo is on release from Fri 23 May.