Fading Gigolo’s John Turturro, Vanessa Paradis & Sofia Vergara | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Fading Gigolo’s John Turturro, Vanessa Paradis, and Sofia Vergara

The film’s director and stars discuss the world’s oldest profession

Apr 18, 2014 Web Exclusive
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In a sense, Fading Gigolo is a response to the films that stigmatize prostitution—which is to say, the vast majority of films showing people earning a living off sex. It’s often portrayed a last resort, a job for good-hearted individuals gone astray, or for seedy bit characters cast against a dark background. It comes as no surprise that writer/director John Turturro counts Nights of Cabiria as a favorite film: the Fellini classic treats the titular Cabiria as a human being capable of warmth and intelligence, even if society would rather treat her like a dog. Fading Gigolo operates under this spirit, but takes a light-hearted approach.

 “When you’re laughing, when you’re having a good time, sometimes you can actually slip things in that can be really moving, or really delicate, or really tender, without hitting you over the head,” says Turturro. “It doesn’t have to be greeting card sentimentality.”

Turturro stars as Fiorevante, a florist strapped for cash until his friend Murray (Woody Allen) presents a very unique job opportunity: his dermatologist, Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), wants to hire a man for a ménage a trois. Fiorevante agrees and—despite not being a “pro”—fulfills the desires of Dr. Parker and her friend Salima (Sofia Vergara). Just as the film refuses to moralize the occupation, it doesn’t judge its female clientele.

 “If this was what they needed at this moment in their lives and they had the money and they could afford it, why not?” says Vergara. “I think these woman needed to do this in their lives because they had a little emptiness. Even though you see that they’re powerful, beautiful, successful, worldly, I think when you need to do something like this it’s because you’re lacking something.”

That lacking is central to Avigail (Vanessa Paradis), a widow living a withdrawn existence in a strict Chasidic community in Brooklyn. Murray correctly identifies that she could benefit from Fiorevante’s improving skillset—even if that doesn’t mean sex.

“[She] does have the curiosity. Even though she knows it’s forbidden, she’s really interested in knowing what’s right there five miles away in Manhattan,” says Paradis.

Considering its subject matter, the film isn’t overly salacious or vulgar, containing almost no nudity. Still, Turturro endeavored to create a relaxed environment for his actors—though Vergara admits she was a tad apprehensive before the threesome scene.

“I’ve never done anything like that,” recalls Vergara. “I was coming in a little bit nervous, but I think [Turturro] was more nervous than me. So once I saw him nervous I got relaxed.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge to Turturro’s nerves was being afforded the rare opportunity to direct legendary filmmaker Woody Allen, who joined the film through unusual circumstances: hearing a pitch from their mutual barber. Allen rarely acts even in his own films these days, and his first day opposite Turturro had an unexpected nightmare: he couldn’t remember his lines.

“He skipped like three paragraphs,” says Turturro. “I was looking at him and thinking, ‘I have to tell actually him what to do.’ But after thirty minutes, it was easy. We would do the scenes and I would look at him and say, ‘That wasn’t bad. Let’s try it again.’ But he would always try it differently.”

Indeed, once Paradis got over being star-struck, she found her biggest challenge was volleying Allen’s improvised banter.

Says Paradis, “He improvised all his lines and they’re more funny one after the other. And I wasn’t allowed to smile and laugh, so that was tough.”

The Oscar-winning scribe was consulted throughout the two-year writing process, only hinting at notes, refusing easy answers. Still, improvisation can be difficult with scripted material.

“You don’t know sometimes because he does the lines but he kind of massages them,” says Turturro. “So you don’t know when he’s done. He could add something. It could be good. And you’re like, ‘Should I say something? Should I talk?’”

Turturro’s fifth film, Fading Gigolo might not make grand, sweeping statements about society—at least, not on the surface. Indeed, if Turturro learned from the process, it’s the value of subtlety.

“Sometimes less can be more,” says Turturro. “You can do something really small and it can be really incisive.”

Fading Gigolo opens in theaters today, April 18th. For more details, check out fadinggigolo-movie.com.


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