Andy Garcia has a little film with big ideas

Andy Garcia has a little film with big ideas
Passionate about his latest film City Island, Andy Garcia lives his dream

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Andy Garcia’s latest film is City Island, a great little movie that was the winner of the audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. It is a tale of a family spinning a web of misrepresentations, misinterpretations and misunderstandings, from writer-director Raymond De Felitta (Two Family House).

If you remember the spirit of Moonstruck, the charming bittersweet film that won Cher her Oscar, you’ll enjoy the heartfelt City Island. It’s filled with comedy and craziness, plus colorful characters from an Italian American family who call a small island community in the Bronx their home.

Garcia plays Vince Rizzo, a family man who makes his living as a corrections officer, but he yearns to become an actor. A little ashamed of his secret desire, Vince rather let his feisty wife Joyce (Julianna Margulies) believe he’s having an affair than admit he’s taking acting lessons in Manhattan.

Alan Arkin plays his drama coach, Emily Mortimer is his acting partner, and rounding out the cast is Steven Strait as his long-lost son, Ezra Miller as his teenage son, and Dominik Garcia-Lorido (Andy’s real-life daughter) as his college student daughter who is living her own secret life as a pole-dancer.

There are so many secrets swirling around this family, that you just know everything is going to erupt eventually. And it does, with great comic effect. But also with a lot of heart.

The usually very private Garcia has been out promoting this film, which he also produced, because he feels “little film like this should be given a chance in the marketplace. Not every film has to be a big studio, tent-pole movie. There’s room for these independent films.”

Among the big films Garcia has to his credit are starring in The Untouchables, Black Rain, Internal Affairs, The Godfather: Part III and the Ocean’s Eleven series of films. But he says he takes pride in “little films with big ideas,” and he’s not afraid to put a lot of hard work into movies such as the magnificent Cuban family saga The Lost City, which he produced and directed. He did the music too.

He’s also the producer behind The Man from Elysian Fields, and the upcoming Hemingway & Fuentes.

Born in Cuba, Garcia was five when his family came to the U.S. to flee Castro’s takeover. After playing high school sports in Florida, he turned to acting while attending college, and then headed to Hollywood to make it as an actor.

 “Actually, it was an interest that I had inside of me from a very young age. It was lying dormant in terms of trying to pursue it as a profession, but it was there. It was really the interest in film, the enjoyment of it at a very young age, that eventually got me into acting. Then, obviously later, I got into making films, producing and directing.”

Garcia says he can identify with his City Island character who is following his secret passion for acting. “I think everyone can identify with someone like Vince, because everyone has a dream. And if you are participating in your dream, and you’ve committed to it early in your life, then you can feel fulfilled.”

 “But if you have a dream that you did not commit to, then along comes midlife, and that’s the time you start thinking about something you’ve wanted for many years,” he explains.

 “I identify with Vince because I also had a dream. But, unlike him, I had a chance to commit to it. But I can understand his pain and his desire to explore something that might turn his dream into a reality.”   What advice does Garcia have for folks who are out there and want to live their dream?

Garcia says, “Study and prepare your craft. That’s essential for whatever line of work you choose to pursue. It is all an art form and you have to prepare and be in control of it, because you will stumble. There will be a lot of rejection no matter what you do in life. That’s what I’ve advised my own kids. And that’s the advice I’d give to anyone.”

Garcia would also like to the Hollywood studios some advice. “Reignite the classics divisions and independent film divisions,” he says with great force.

 “It’s inconceivable that the American independent film has to struggle so much to get made. A movie like City Island, made for only $6 million, or those that got Oscar attention, Hurt Locker and An Education, all these movies have to struggle to find a way to get made. But they are the movies that explore important themes that can make audiences think and linger in our memories. And they can break out and become commercially successful for the studios.”

Garcia says with disbelief of a passionate filmmaker, “Where does that not make sense?”


Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.

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