Steve Buscemi stepped out of his comfort zone Monday night to take part in a Reddit AMA. The Q&A session was held on behalf of a documentary he’s crowd-funding and co-producing called Check It, about a gay and transgender gang fighting to survive in Washington, D.C., via fashion. Buscemi answered questions about the film; shared Adam Sandler, John Goodman, and David Chase anecdotes; and addressed his character’s fate in Boardwalk Empire. Thanks to all the chuckles and ums and ellipses, the typed-out answers sound fresh out of the actor’s mouth. Read some of the highlights below.
Did he know what was going to happen to his character in The Sopranos beforehand?
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 thoughtMaybe 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.
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.
How does FX’s Fargo compare to the movie?
I have not seen the TV Show FARGO. But I hear wonderful things about it. I do hope to watch it… someday! Someday I hope to watch a lot of shows, haha, that I don’t seem to see.
What made him work on Check It?
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.
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.
With so much support tied to firefighting, what made him become 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.
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 was it like volunteering after 9/11?
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.
Will he ever go back to writing and directing?
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.
Maybe my spirit animal is - a - monkey.
Best memories from Big Lebowski:
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.
How many cartwheels can he do in under 30 seconds?
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.
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.
His thoughts on the end of Boardwalk:
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.
Who’s better at bowling? Him 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.
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!