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Robert de Niro Is a Good Italian Dad in ‘About My Father’

About my father

About My Father tells the story of Sebastian Maniscalco’s relationship with his real father, Salvo. Played by Robert de Niro in the film, it is a love letter to Maniscalco’s Italian upbringing and oddly enough a very relatable story to those of us who grew up with Sicilian relatives. For someone like me, it was the kind of movie where I wish I could have taken my grandfather to see it.

It’s so unapologetically Italian in a way where the minute I saw de Niro in a garden filled with cucumbers, I realized that it was something my grandfather brought to my family from his Italian roots. And it’s still a funny comedy with outlandish moments just rooted in the love that Maniscalco clearly has for his father and his life.

In preparation for the film’s release, I was lucky enough to go to Chicago to see the film and talk with the cast in person about the joy of bringing this story to life.

Directing Robert de Niro

Director Laura Terruso was well aware of the undertaking she was taking on with directing Maniscalco’s life story. That on top of directing de Niro had a lot riding on the success of the film and she did a phenomenal job honoring the love that Sebastian Maniscalco has for his father mixed with her own take on his story. I asked her about directing de Niro though and if there was a fear there to work with a legend like he is.

“There are no bad takes with De Niro, honestly,” she said. “I mean, he is the character from the moment he steps on set to the moment he steps off. So it’s just, I mean he’s amazing to watch when he’s working because he’s so in it all the time. And he can take direction, take tweaks, but like, there’s never a bad take.”

You can see our talk here:

Big families brought together

What I found to be hilarious about this movie is that the Italian side of the equation is not the ones who are “hard to handle.” Maybe it is because my own personal family is very large but for most my life, we were constantly told that we were a lot to deal with because there were so many of us and we were loud and all talked at once. In About My Father, the family that is hard to cope with was Sebastian Maniscalco’s future in-laws. Ellie (Leslie Bibb) brings Sebastian and Salvo to her family home where they meet her mother, Tigger (Kim Cattrall). When I spoke with them both, I asked Cattrall about her wide range of characters and how she approaches them.

“I try and find out what they want,” she said. “And it’s just hard to do. Yeah. Um, something that maybe is missing. And um, that’s the root of starts everything. Not what’s there, what’s not there. So I can cover it and everything looks fine. So when it happens, like life, you know, people don’t come out and say I’m this upset one, I’m the angry one, that you find out through their behavior. So that’s always been the way that I’ve worked and also to engage and try and change what my scene partner is doing. And that has always worked for me really, really well. Cause it keeps me in the moment of where I am and not thinking ahead or behind.”

Our chat with Kim Cattrall and Leslie Bibb is here:

For Ellie’s father Bill (David Rasche), he’s sort of just there to support his family and isn’t exactly the most vocal. His sons Lucky (Anders Holms) and Doug (Brett Dier) are very much in their own heads though. Lucky is, well, that douchey frat boy you’d not want to spend time with and Doug is a very sweet soul who is trying his best to just be his own person. When I talked with the three, I asked Dier about playing that sweet soul that Doug has.

“Oh it’s fun to play like this,” he said. “Like insecure, like quiet, sensitive. He feels everything too much kind of a thing. So there’s a lot to play with that. And he’s a very quirky, eccentric person and so it’s fun to riff on that.”

You can see our talk with Anders Holms, David Rasche, and Brett Dier here:

Father/son dynamic

Talking with Sebastian Maniscalco is easy, growing up an Italian girl with a family who will always leave on Robert de Niro movies and talking to Maniscalco and de Niro at the same time? Not so easy. It’s honestly not surprising that the two are playing father and son, they have a calm energy together and you can understand how they hit it off and so I asked Maniscalco about bringing his father’s story to life and working on telling this aspect of his life.

“Yeah, so some things in the movie were ripped right outta real life,” he said. “The helicopter scene, I had a panic attack on a helicopter. I figure let’s put that in the movie. The relationship with my father is, you know, pretty accurate. What I don’t talk about in the film I present in my standup act. So, what I brought to the film was a little bit more of stories that needed to be explained in more of a movie platform rather than a stage platform.”

You can see our talk here:

About My Father is in theaters now!

(featured image: Dan Anderson/Lionsgate)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.