Andy Garcia on City Island, Fatherhood and Dreams of Godfather IV

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The comedy City Island was one of the most refreshing success stories to come out of last year's Tribeca Film Festival, and Andy Garcia was one of the most refreshing success stories to come out of City Island. The 53-year-old actor delivers a revelatory performance as Vincent Rizzo, a corrections officer (and privately aspiring actor) who takes an interest in a soon-to-be-discharged prison inmate (Steven Strait) he'll eventually set up at his house on the titular island just off the Bronx. Trouble arises as his high-strung wife (Julianna Margulies), college-age daughter (Dominik Garcia-Lorido) and smart-ass son (Ezra Miller) suspect something is up between the two -- even as they scramble to hide secrets and desires of their own. Writer-director Raymond De Felitta steers the ensuing meltdown from farce to drama to dark comedy and back again, with Garcia's conscience navigating closely alongside.

As even the actor alluded to Movieline earlier this week, it might seems odd City Island (which opens Friday) works at all. And that was just the start of our own winding chat from City Island to The Godfather to his upcoming directing effort with Anthony Hopkins, Hemingway and Fuentes.

This film really surprised me. It's like secrets on steroids or something.

Hold on. [Off phone] Write this down, Adam: "Secrets on steroids." [On phone] We're gonna use that.

Aww. You're just saying that. What got you involved with the project?

The director sent me the script through a mutual agent; we're both represented by Paradigm. My agent called and said, "I read the script. I think it's fantastic. I think you'll really love. He said he'd like you to play the part and produce it if you want with him." I said, "OK." I read it and was completely charmed by it.

What charmed you?

Well, the construction, the comedy, the humanity in it... It was hilarious, but there were no jokes in it! It was just a situational, farcical, comedy of errors with this emotional reality that made you laugh and, in the end, made you cry. I thought it was a beautifully written piece. Not only that, but I was stimulated by it -- all these ideas started coming to me. "What if we do this? What if we do that?" You know you're really stimulated when your mind is going, "Whoaaa." That's how you know that you're already working. Your creative process is already working

You have an audition scene here which is pretty amazing: An actor playing an aspiring actor in a scene within a scene, rotating in and out of character. The roles and personalities are just piled on. How did you approach that scene?

The scene was very well-written, you know? And Raymond's philosophy is that he knows I have an improvisational background, so he encouraged me. He always said, "Do your thing; go wherever you need to go." But the scene was brilliantly written. Of course there are always ideas actors bring to the table, but the script was a gem. The only thing that we took out of that scene that was originally in that scene was that my character had this [dream] to be an actor. And he's a correctional officer, and in his office at the prison, he had these posters of The Godfather and Scorsese and De Niro and Brando and all these movie posters. And I said to Raymond: "First of all, Ray, I don;t think he's gonna have posters up. I think he's too embarrassed. You've established a guy who's embarrassed and insecure; he wouldn't have posters on the wall. Especially in a prison; he doesn't want anyone to know what he was doing.

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Secondly I think we should focus this and just make it Brando. Brando is the guy he's obsessed with. Then we can layer in this thing where my son finds my Brando tapes, and the audience knows all this. And the reason why is that in the audition, when he finally has to read, he's so nervous that the only thing he thinks is good acting -- without even knowing he's doing it -- is an imitation of Marlon Brando." And Raymond said "What?" So I did it for him and he started laughing. So we put that in there. But the rest of the scene was all there. It was just a beautifully written set piece. And the whole conceit of going there with like 600 people in line was like a little Jacques Tati homage in there. Every time I read it, I was like, "Oh my God." That's why you commit to it as a producer, too, because it's like a marriage you commit to getting off the ground. You want to get it off the ground.

You'd acted with your daughter Dominik before, of course, but how did your relationship inform that of Vince and his daughter Vivian?

Oh, completely. As an actor you bring all your personal relationships to the roles; you try to find the parallels in it. In this case we're father and daughter in the movie and father and daughter in real life. When I'm looking at her I'm looking at her as Vince Rizzo, but our relationship is always informing the relationship in the movie. But when we're sitting across the dining room table, for example, we're actors tapping into our own personal life -- and also the life of the characters. It all becomes one at that point.

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