Hi, I’m Steve Buscemi.
I’m doing this AMA on behalf of a documentary I’m co-producing called Check It. The film follows a gay street gang of 14-22 year olds struggling to survive in the city with the highest LGBT hate crime rate in the nation. The directors Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer have been filming this amazing group of kids for the past three years and focus on a point in their lives when they’ve seen a ray of hope, in the fashion world.
Right now there is a Indiegogo campaign going on to raise funds for the directors to finish editing the film and 10% of what they raise will go to helping the Check It start a clothing line. Also, we’ve offered up some perks, so please check the campaign out.
Victoria from reddit will be helping me so let’s get started!
(photo proof I took myself: http://imgur.com/nQwoxjh)
What inspired you to work on this documentary? Did you spend a lot of one on one time with the subjects? In what ways did they change you as a person, if any?
I did not (unfortunately) spend plenty of time with the kids in the film. But I do hope to meet them. Right now, the film is still being worked on, and that’s why I’m doing this campaign. But I will say about these kids, you know, that I’ve seen in the documentary – they have tremendous heart, and tremendous courage, and I think they’re certainly – they have a rough go of it, you know. Every day. And I find their struggle really moving, and inspiring.
Well, you know, when I was their age, and growing up in the town that i grew up in, in the time that i grew up in, it was…it was… if you were gay, you could not let anybody know that. So to see these kids just really be who they are, and a lot of them are flamboyantly so, it kind of amazes me that there’s – even in this day and age, that I think is a lot more tolerant than when I grew up – there’s still a lot of hate out there, and especially where they live, it’s really dangerous. It’s quite dangerous for them to be who they are. And so they’ve banded together out of necessity- a lot of them come from broken homes – so they’ve created their own family with each other, so they really help and support each other, and I really admire that.
I really…uh, admire that they struggle every day to make a life for themselves.
How did you get involved in this documentary project?
Well, you know, a few years ago, my good friend Stanley Tucci and I decided to start a production company, and we found a wonderful producer in Wren Arthur. She used to produce with Robert Altman. And so the 3 of us started this company, so that Stanley and I can direct films, but we also decided that we should develop other things, TV shows and such, and… we also decided that it would be good to maybe look into the documentary film world. We did make a documentary, called A GOOD JOB: STORIES OF THE FDNY, for HBO, that Liz Garbus directed… and then the filmmakers Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer, I’m not quite sure how they knew Wren, but they told her they had been shooting in DC, this gang of kids that they thought were pretty incredible, and they showed us some of the raw footage, and Wren and I were really excited by what we saw, and we thought it was an important story to tell, so we wanted to give them as much support as we could, so we are co-producers.
What would you say is your element?
Oh no! Um… hahaha… well, this is certainly not my element. I like being outside, sometimes? I don’t really have one element. I tend to adapt. I like to work. I’m not one of those actors who… you know, has to do a play every year. So I wouldn’t say the stage is necessarily my element.
Yeah, I like being outside, haha!
Is there anything of your personality in the characters you play, or is it really just that, they’re characters. Is there one character that you consider ‘autobiographic’, like it could’ve been you?
I don’t think you can point to any one character and say that that’s “me” but… with any role I play, I only have myself, to put myself into it, so there will be aspects of my personality that will come through, or I guess, exaggerations of my personality. And sometimes that’s fun to do – like in a character like Mr. Pink, where i would NOT want to be that person in real life, but it was certainly fun to… explore aspects of my personality. Where I could be that person. And then, you know, there’s roles like – there’s a character I played in this movie, IN THE SOUP, which was an independent film I did in the early 90’s with the writer / director Alexander Rockwell – and that’s with Seymour Cassel and Jennifer Beals – and yes, there’s aspects of that character that I think are like me… and certainly the character that i wrote for myself in TREES LOUNGE would be an exaggerated version of myself. The idea for that film came to me when I thought what would I be doing if I never left my hometown? If I never went into acting? If I never pursued the things that I did? and was still doing the things in my home town that i was doing when I was young, what might I have become?
So I guess you could say there’s a lot of me in that character, as well.
Who is the better bowler, you or John Turturro?
You know, we used to go bowling together, and yeah, I’d say John. John was better. I think he’s just a better athlete in general.
What is your current favourite on-going TV show?
Well, John Oliver’s show is really, really good.
And I like the Daily Show. And I think Larry Wilmore is doing a great job on his show. I’ll be very sorry to see Jon Stewart go. I think he’s just been amazing every year that he’s been on.
What do I like?… Well, BREAKING BAD. I guess that’s not current, but that’s something I really like… what’s on now? Game of Thrones, that’s a good show… and I love watching Peter Dinklage. You know, I’ve worked with Peter a lot over the years. Our first movie that we did was called LIVING IN OBLIVION, that was written & directed by Tom DeCillo, and it was about the making of a low-budget movie, and Catherine Keener’s in it, and Dermott Mulroney, and he’s made some really wonderful films. I’ve worked with him a few times. The last film that I did together with Tom (the director) was called DELIRIOUS, with Michael Pitt, and in that one I play a paparazzi-type photographer, and Michael played a homeless/out of work actor, but I take him under my wing and he becomes famous and gets his own reality show. And it’s a very funny film. In LIVING IN OBLIVION, Peter played a character in a dream sequence that I did.
Did you enjoy filming Ghost World? What do you think of the ending, is it open ended or is there a definite answer?
I don’t know, if there is…chuckles a definite answer.
I love that it’s open to interpretation. She gets on that bus, and… I hope that she’s going somewhere good. And I loved working on that film. Thora Birch was incredible to work with, and Scarlett Johannson, and Terry Zwigoff, they were really smart and very funny, and paid attention to every detail. The director would get obsessed with people in the background. Sometimes, after Thora and I would finish a scene, we would see Terry walk up to us, and we would think he was going to say something to us, but he would walk right by us and give very specific directions to the background actors, telling them “Okay, let’s do this again!”
When you started work on the Sopranos, were you aware from the start what would happen to your character in the end, or was the storyline an evolving thing?
Well, I signed up for 2 seasons, so I fully expected to come back for another season – and towards, you know, towards the end of that season, it was season 5, I got a message on my phone from David Chase, and the joke on-set was “You never want to get a phone call from David Chase.” And…so… I called him back, and he asked me if I wanted to have lunch the following day, I said sure, he picked a restaurant, and I got off the phone and thought Maybe this is a good thing, maybe there’s something else he has me in mind for, it doesn’t necessarily mean that my character was going to get wacked.
So I met him for lunch, I was thinking about it, didn’t sleep much, and I got to the lunch and the first thing he said was:
“I’m sorry. We’re going to have to kill you.”
Something like that. I don’t remember his exact words, but it was to the effect that there was just no way that my character could conceivably live doing what he did.
And of course, I understood! chuckles
But I was sad that i wasn’t coming back, because it was such a wonderful show to work on.
What are some of your favorite albums?
Um… I love Elvis Costello, and I think one album that i go back to of his is “Get Happy.” But he’s done a lot of amazing work over the years. Same thing with Tom Waits. You know… “Mule Variations” is an incredible album, as is all of his work. I’ll always go back to “Abbey Road,” even though I haven’t listened to it fully in years.
Favorite memory working with Tarantino?
Just his enthusiasm, you know?
He was SO excited to be making a film. And… to be directing his first film. In rehearsals, the rehearsals were just as exciting as the filmmaking! He would set up – this whole improvisation of us robbing the jewelry store, so that we would improvise and act out what went wrong. He just had, you know, has a lot of joy, in him! And it was – it made all of us also feel like we were working on our first film.
What is the best advice you can give a young person about life in general?
Don’t take any advice from me.
What are some movies that you have to stop and watch every time they’re on?
Um… GOODFELLAS is one that i always stop and watch. Just recently I was… watching TV with my brother, and we came across CASINO, and we had to watch that. Pretty much… any Scorsese movie, haha, I think I would stop and watch! And then a movie that I’ve always loved but I hadn’t seen it in years because I’d watched it so many times that i didn’t know if i could watch it any more is IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Also… let me see… FAT CITY, with Jeff Bridges and Susan Tyrell… any John Cassavettes film…
Any good stories from on the set of Big Lebowski?
I know that people love that film. It’s always hard to relate funny stories. But I’m so happy that that is a film that has gotten a lot of attention over the years. Because when it first came out, I think it was – not that it wasn’t received well, but I think that initially, people (or critics anyway) were mystified by it. This was coming after FARGO. That, you know, FARGO was their first film that really broke into the mainstream. Probably any other filmmakers would have followed that film with something as equally as commercial, and they decided to go with THE BIG LEBOWSKI. And I think it took years for that film to develop a following. I think it took a good 5 years before people would stop me on the street, and talk to me about it. But then it was like – mostly college kids, who had seen it, at that time, you know, 5 times, or 6 times, and then the following time people would tell me that they’d seen it 10 times, and it’s just grown over the years into Lebowski-fest. So it’s so satisfying to see a film like that get made to begin with, and then turn into a classic that people enjoy seeing over and over again.
Con Air 2, yes or no?
Um… well, I’m kinda curious what happened to Garland Greene? I guess if he got on another plane, haha, that could be a CON AIR 2. Sure! I had a lot of fun making that film. And I thought it was a great cast, and I thought Jerry Bruckheimer and Simon West put together a really great cast, and it was fun to hang out in the desert with all of them. So yeah!
I loved Trees Lounge! Do you think you’ll ever get back into writing? Or maybe especially writing / directing / starring?
Yeah, TREES LOUNGE was something that – took everything out of me! I so wanted to write something, and direct something, and write something that I could be in… but I never necessarily saw myself as a writer or a director. I had been doing work with a good friend of mine, the actor Mark Boon, Jr. – he plays the character of Bobby on SONS OF ANARCHY – and we used to do a lot of theater together, throughout the 1980’s on the Lower East Side and in the East Village – and so we always created our own work, and that’s what i was trying to do with the film, too. You know. To write a part for myself, for Boon, for my brother Michael who’s a wonderful actor, and for friends of mine, like Rockets Redglare, who’s a wonderful comedian and actor… So… I’ve continued to direct sometimes, and sometimes I have a hand in some of the things I’ve directed in, in the writing, but yeah! Maybe in the future.
Batman or Superman?
That was one of the shows I loved as a kid, too. Although I loved the Batman series as well. But Superman is definitely the one I remember first. There was NOTHING like the excitement of that show coming on TV, when I was a kid. And I did have a Superman outfit – a costume that I got for – I believe my 5th birthday. And on the cape, of the costume, it was printed – I forget how it was worded, let me see – it was something like “You cannot really fly while wearing this outfit.”
But then it said “Only the REAL Superman can fly.”
I swear to you. That’s what it said.
Only the REAL Superman can fly.
I really did believe in Superman.
Top 3 favorite books?
Top 3 favorite books… yeah, you know, there’s this book called YOU CAN’T WIN by Jack Black (but it’s not the Jack Black that we know of today – this was a guy at the turn of the century, who used to ride the rails, and led the Hobo life, and wrote about it as a cautionary tale – he drank too much, he did too many drugs – but it’s hard not to read that book and not want to live the life that he led! It’s a book that really inspired William Burroughs, and actually, he had two books I really love – he’s got a lot of books – but I really loved his books JUNKIE and QUEER).
JUNKIE really describes the life that William S. Burroughs lived in New York – his life of, I guess he was writing about the 1940’s, and then QUEER is when he lived in Mexico City, and Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD has always been a favorite too.
I absolutely LOVED you in Boardwalk Empire. So what’s your favorite boardwalk food?
Favorite boardwalk food?
Um… well, I always like a good pretzel.
But I guess I hadn’t really thought about the food. It was mostly… about the clothes on that show. And those amazing sets. It was a time period that… I think that they really put a lot of thought, you know, into what, what they wore! And it was just a great time for fashion.
If you could time travel which decade would you choose and why?
You know, I really would go back to the 40’s. I’m not saying it was because of BOARDWALK EMPIRE, but I always used to dream about, you know, being on the set of a Buster Keaton film. I think that would’ve been really, really cool.
How many cups of coffee would I need to give you before you tip me?
I would tip you after one cup of coffee.
IF you’re nice.
How are you today?
I’m a little nervous.
Stuff like this always makes me nervous.
Otherwise, I’m pretty okay… I’m gearing up to do the second season of a web series that I do on AOL, called “Park Bench.” We did our first season last year. You know, we’re in pre-production mode on that, and that’s been fun – trying to get that together again.
What’s your favorite pastime? Say you had nothing to do and no obligations, what would you do?
What would I do…
Just watch TV, or read the newspaper. Drink a cup of coffee. Go walking in the park.
I think its absolutely amazing you used to be a firefighter and I love reading about the support you’ve shown to fire services across America (the photo of you volunteering after 9/11 is one of the best things I’ve ever seen) My question is what made you decide to be an actor?
So… I always wanted to be an actor, but I’d like to go back to the fire department question, because the person mentioned my connection to the fire department, and I do support this wonderful group in New York called “Friends of Fire Fighters.” And it was started by Nancy Carbone, in the aftermath of 9/11, she just went around to the firehouses in her community, to see if they needed anything, and it’s grown into this amazing organization, where they provide mental health services to firefighters and their families, as well as other services, and I can’t say enough good things about them. They were there for the firefighting community after 9/11, and after Hurricane Sandy, but they are there on a daily basis, for any firefighter or their family that needs support or help.
And getting back to the acting question – it’s something I thought about as a kid. I never really thought I’d do it for real, or certainly make a living at it, and it’s something that – it took years to sort’ve… be able to make a living at it, and I feel lucky that I’m able to.
Were you happy with the way the Boardwalk series wrapped up? Is that how you saw Nucky’s fate playing out all along?
I was happy with the way it ended. No, I didn’t necessarily see it coming, but I was glad that they wrapped it up on that story between Nucky and Gretchen Mol’s character, because that was a story that always interested me, and you know, when you look through the series, Nucky and Gillian didn’t really have a lot of scenes – I think I only had about 5 scenes with Gillian. And I always LOVED working with Gretchen, and I always wished we could do more together. But ever since that scene we did together at the fortune teller’s shop, I always wondered – what was their relationship?
So sometimes the show writers were forthcoming with the backstory – and then sometimes they were not. So there was only so much that they could tell me about the backstory of Nucky. Because I think – especially when you’re writing on a TV series – you don’t know the complete story of your characters, and you’re going to leave it open, so they can go in any direction that they want. So you don’t get tied into a concrete backstory – so it wasn’t until the final season, until those last few episodes, that I truly understood Nucky’s backstory.
Which melody do you hum to keep yourself calm?
To keep myself calm, hmmm.
There’s different songs that would pop into my head. It depends what I’m listening to.
Right now, Diana Krall has a new album out that I like a lot, so there’s songs on there I’ve been humming in my head. She does some really wonderful interpretations of songs that I knew from years ago. One of them is ALONE AGAIN, NATURALLY.
Or the Jim Croce song OPERATOR.
What’s the weirdest pronunciation you have heard for your last name?
The weirdest one? Um… I dunno. Sometimes people will say “Bushoomi” or if they pronounce the C as a hard C – I guess it’s hard to describe in print – like “Booo-stemmi.”
Any memorable moments from filming Big Lebowski?
Well, they were all memorable moments.
Anytime you’re on a Coen brothers set, it’s just the most fun and relaxed set.
I just loved doing those long takes with John Goodman and Jeff Bridges. And I love sitting between them, you know? There’s that one scene where we’re at the counter in the bowling alley, and I’m seated between them, and they’re arguing – and I LOVED just being around those guys.
I was once in a hotel room, and through the wall, I could hear this loud voice on the phone.
And at first I thought Oh my god, I have this really loud neighbor. Maybe I should switch rooms! And then I recognized the voice, and it was John Goodman. So I actually heard him ordering room service, hahaha, loudly! And so when the room service tray came up, I popped my head out the door, and he was very surprised to see me. And he said “Forget room service! Let’s go down and have dinner!”
And I just love being around him.
And of course, Jeff Bridges is one of the sweetest guys. He’s a really great photographer. He would take pictures of us on-set. And he’s been in like, all these great movies, and it was just fun to hear him tell us stories of what it was like to work with John Huston on the set of FAT CITY…
Jeff Bridges could bring about world peace.
Is there a place in the world you would love to visit and haven’t yet?
Well… where would I go? I don’t know. I don’t think about traveling that much. One of the most beautiful places that I’ve been to, though, was Sicily, and I’d like to get back there someday.
Where would I go? Maybe South America. I’ve never been there.
I wanted to know what it was like during the September 11 attacks, being on the scene for so long and how it was in the midst of all of it. And were you ever recognized as the famous Steve Buscemi while volunteering?
Um… yeah, I mean, I was recognized, but nobody made a big deal out of it.
And I was down there with the company that i used to work with, Engine 55. I used to work with them, you know, on the fire department in the early 80’s, and they lost 5 members of their company, and so, you know, it was just… something that I wanted to do for them. To help them out? And being at the site… with them… with my old company, it really helped me out, you know. They’re the ones that were helping me, because every New Yorker at that time, it was just a atraumatic thing to go through – and not just for New Yorkers, but the whole country was in shock. So I feel privileged to have been able to be there, on the site, because everyone I knew wanted to do something, wanted to help, but a lot of people just didn’t know how, how to help immediately. And I did have a physical way of helping. But that did a lot for my state-of-being, and I was only down there for a few days, and I can’t even describe – really- what it was like. But, um… I’m grateful that I was able to be there.
What’s your favorite film you’ve done with Adam Sandler?
Well, I’m very partial to BILLY MADISON, because that was one of the first films that Adam did on his own, as part of his production company. And the film that we did before that was called AIRHEADS, which was directed by Michael Lehman, and that was the film Adam and I met on, where we played brothers in the band, “The Lone Rangers”… and I always have a great time working with Adam. I loved the character I played in THE WEDDING SINGER. I just worked with him again on the western that he’s shooting now called THE RIDICULOUS SIX. But yeah, I would say… I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I really do love the character in BILLY MADISON.
What, in your opinion is the funniest movie you’ve been part of?
Well, I can tell you the one that I probably had the most fun making was Stanley Tucci’s film THE IMPOSTERS. This was the movie he made after BIG NIGHT, and we were all on a ship, and I played a character named Happy Franks, who was a sort of a suicidal lounge-singer… and it had an amazing cast of Stanley, and Oliver Platt, and Libby Taylor, and Elizabeth Brocco, Alison Janney, Tony Shahloub – we had SO MUCH FUN making it, and it’s a very funny film as well. Billy Connolly is in it as well.