VOD Spotlight: Dennis FarinaNovember 16, 2011

VOD  Spotlight: Dennis Farina

Tribeca Film

With his Chicago accent, honed by years of working the streets as a Windy City cop, Dennis Farina looks like the kind of guy you'd find working a groove into a stool at a Wrigley Field watering hole. After thirty years in movies, working with everyone from Chuck Norris to Bette Midler to Robert Deniro, Farina has earned his character actor bona fides and shows them off in the new film written and directed by Joe Maggio, THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY.

 



Farina plays the title character, a low-rent Chicago mug with nothing to more to show for a life of hustle than four hundred bucks and a hacking cough. After a stay in the hospital, the suddenly homeless Joe develops a chaste but caring relationship with a young mother and her seven-year-old daughter. The role is a departure for Farina, who's made his name playing dapper, self-assured guys on both sides of the law.

 


Dennis Farina / THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY (Tribeca Film)

Maggio's wistful, intimate tale was originally set in Brooklyn, but as a son of the City of Big Shoulders, Farina was eager to shoot in Chicago and convinced his director to relocate JOE MAY. "We found everything we needed, as far as locations, within about eight blocks," says Farina, "the apartments, the stores, all of it." Shooting on his home turf gave Farina a comfort level that made the film even more personal. "If it were me, I would just set up shop there and shoot everything in Chicago." Though the location was familiar to Farina, the character he played was a departure.

"Joe is pretty different from a lot of guys I've played," Farina acknowledged, "who are mostly more successful. If Joe had made that big score that he dreamed about, he would have been the guys I played in MIDNIGHT RUN, or GET SHORTY or SNATCH. But Joe couldn't get out of his own way, and that's what's kind of sad about him.”

“In another lifetime,” says Farina, “I probably would have played Lenny,” referring to the mob boss played in the film by fellow Chicagoan Gary Cole (OFFICE SPACE)

 


Gary Cole / THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY (Tribeca Film)

Farina found himself in sync with Maggio on almost every aspect of the film. “We agreed on all the big stuff,” says the actor, “the tone of the movie, the character’s actions, all that. The only thing I wasn’t certain about was the ending, because it’s not that typical. But as I got more involved in the movie, I realized that Joe Maggio’s vision of what happens to Joe May was completely right and really satisfying.”

 

Farina portrays Joe as a man who’s been a victim of his failures as both a father and a gangster. As a result, the character keeps everyone around him at arm’s length, including the seven-year-old with whom Joe finds himself sharing an apartment. “The hardest time I had was those scenes with Meredith (Droeger, who played the girl),” Farina recalls, “because my instinct was to hug her, but Maggio said ‘don’t fall in love with this little girl. That’s not what Joe May can afford to do.’ The resulting scenes, in which Droeger’s character gives Joe May a chance to correct some of the mistakes he made with his own child, are among the most effective in what is a finely wrought character study throughout.

Farina chose to make THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY over a bigger-budgeted Hollywood film, and is happy that audiences will get a chance to enjoy it on VOD. “I knew going in that it probably wouldn’t get a lot of play in theaters, but that’s not the reason I did it,” he says. “I did it because I really liked the script and I knew it was going to be a good film.”

 


Dennis Farina / THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY (Tribeca Film)

“I think it’s what movies are supposed to be,” Farina says, wrapping up the chat. “It’s a little slice of humanity that makes you think about life a little bit. It’s a very entertaining hour and a half.”

THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY
is currently available on VOD.

 

 

- Chris Claro

Chris
Chris Claro is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former Director of Promotion for Sundance Channel and now works as a writer, producer, and media educator. He is a regular contributor to dvdverdict.com and contributor to the Eyes and Ears section of huffingtonpost.com

 


 

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