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Actor John Turturro: 'Video and DVD Have Kept Many Films Alive By Bringing the Public to Them'

12 Oct, 2001 By: Anne Sherber

Point of view is often a central theme for independent filmmakers like actor-director John Turturro. It was a recurring theme as he discussed video and filmmaking after accepting the VSDA's Independent CareerAchievement Award at the East Coast Video Show for his extensive work in independent film.

Best known for his work with such movie industry mavericks as Joel and Ethan Coen and Spike Lee, Turturro has appeared in some of the mostenigmatic and thought-provoking films of the past 20 years, including Barton Fink, Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever and O Brother Where Art Thou?

“I pick films that are script-driven,” said the actor, “with one or twowriters.” By contrast, he notes, big studio projects are often written “by committee,” without a recognizable point of view.

The downside of his taste for small independents is that the films that appeal to Turturro rarely have the luxury of large budgets and big opening weekends. “When I am reading a script that I like, I am also thinking about how short a shooting time we'll have and how little money I'll make,” he said.

Accordingly, he feels strongly about home video. “Many people havediscovered my work on video and DVD,” Turturro notes. “I think it's been a lifeline. Video, DVD and cable television have kept many films alive by bringing the public to them.”

Additionally, he said, home video gives filmmakers some relief from bottom-line pressure. “It gives them a net, especially films that have more of a limited release.”

In addition to acting, Turturro has directed two films, Mac andIlluminata. Illuminata is already out on DVD and Mac is making its way to disc.

Because the films were small pictures made with minimal studio involvement, Turturro said there are not a lot of scenes he wants to putback into the DVD versions.

“I supervised the Illuminata DVD with the transfer to video and all the color corrections and added in a couple of extra scenes,” he said, including “some scenes that Chris Walken did that were really, really funny. Those things come to mind.”

Talent commentary gives viewers some insight into what the filmmaker hadin mind, Turturro asserted. “I think it's more fun, if you have commentary, if you have a bunch of the people there talking all together and seeing what everybody's different perspectives are,” he noted. “And it's a little bit more dynamic than having one person tell, ‘Well thisis my perspective and here's what we tried to do.' I did the Illuminata one, except for certain scenes, with my son, because I just wanted someone to talk to. You hear me tell him ‘Go out of the room' [during scenes that were not appropriate for him to watch].”

On a personal level, Turturro uses his DVD player to revisit old favorites and watch new releases. He usually doesn't watch all the extras, he said, because, “I don't have time.” But at least one member of his family enjoys all the DVD minutiae that come on many discs.

“My 11-year-old son is interested in seeing how things are made,” Turturro said. “He bought the tapes of Alien because he likes Alien. But now he sees that there is commentary track on the DVD. He's interested to see the outtakes, to see how things are made.”

Turturro will appear next as Howard Cosell in a TNT biopic that will air in January. Also upcoming from the actor is a role in Adam Sandler'sDeeds and parts in two smaller, independent films, Secret Passage, inwhich he appears with his wife, actress Katherine Borowitz, and 13 Conversations About One Thing.

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