Blake Rayne and Joe Pantoliano in “The Identical.” | Freestyle Releasing
By Cindy Pearlman/For Sun-Times Media
During this interview, Joe Pantoliano loses it. Not his composure. His lunch.
“Excuse me, I have to pull over,” says the artist known as “Joey Pants.”
“I think he had bad seafood,” says his daughter, who is driving him home through the winding streets of New Jersey. When he returns, Pantoliano says in a chipper voice, “Bet that’s better than just making someone cry!”
Want to say goodbye and resume this talk another time? “Never,” says Pantoliano. “I believe in getting the job done.” His latest job is “The Identical” (opening Friday), about twin brothers who don’t know they were separated at birth. One becomes a rock star while the other, a co-worker of Pantoliano’s character, is a struggling musician who can’t please his minister father (Ray Liotta.)
Q: We’re you just roaming the streets of Chicago?
A: I’m doing a new show [by sibling directors Lana and Andy Wachowski] for Netflix, filming in Chicago. It’s their show and it’s going to air in 2015. I can’t say much more about it or they’ll take away my house. OK, I can tell you that they love Chicago and I love Chicago. And we shot at Sluggers by Wrigley. I never had so much fun.
Q: Is this series about the Cubs winning the World Series?
A: That would be sci fi — no, I’m kidding. Kidding! I love Chicago. I did so much work in your city in the ’80s and ’90s and have made so many friends. There is a sense of play in Chicago. I think that comes partly from people who are used to extreme weather. When it’s a sunny day in Chicago, people are outside with each other eking every inch out of it.
Q: “The Identical” is a really interesting movie because Elvis had a twin who died at birth. This movie asks what if an Elvis-like guy had a twin who was given away.
A: I thought it was a very intriguing plotline. And it turned into such a special, emotional little movie. They don’t make real dramas like this anymore and that’s a shame. This movie is heartwarming without being schmaltz. And it does make you think of Elvis and his twin who died. But that’s not the reason I wanted to be a part of it. The film also asks about the difference between spirituality and God-fearing religion, which was also interesting.
Q: It also asks interesting questions about the nature of being a twin.
A: Absolutely. These brothers are separated at birth, but they’re on the same wavelength their entire life. The story is told from the point of view from the one who doesn’t become Elvis and shows how the deep core feelings he has about music are much like his brother.
Q: Switching gears, what is your favorite memory of playing Guido the Killer Pimp in “Risky Business,” also filmed here?
A: Probably making out with Rebecca DeMornay on my day off … no, I shouldn’t say that but I wanted to make you and my daughter laugh. It’s a great movie and I’ll never forget it because I can’t. People still dress up like Guido and the Tom Cruise character in his underwear for Halloween.
Q: Do you remember how it was you were cast as this killer pimp?
A: Oh, this is a good story. I was doing “Eddie and the Cruisers” and it was the same casting director. I heard, “They’re doing this teenage movie in Chicago. Go read for it.” I read for it and came back in L.A. for work. Three weeks later, they wanted me to read again. I guess I was going to be offered the part on the first read, but the director of “Eddie and the Cruisers” told them I couldn’t remember my lines. And the “Risky Business” people wanted my side of the story. I said, “Call Taylor Hackford or Steven Spielberg. If they say I’m difficult, don’t hire me.” I got the job. Then I had to go back to the set of “Eddie’ and went up to the guy and said, “I want to thank you. I don’t know what you said to those guys on ‘Risky Business,’ but thank you very much. I got the role.”
Q: What did he say?
A: “You’re welcome.”
Q: You had one of the great death scenes on “The Sopranos” when your Ralphie was killed by Tony on the kitchen floor and then decapitated in the tub. Were you proud to go out in a great way?
A: It turned out good. I knew I was gonna die when David Chase hired me. He said it was a two-year job. Originally, they were going to throw my dead body in a wood chipper and I said, “Guys, don’t do that. I was already thrown in a wood chipper for a movie I did.” So they brought me to the tub. When David came up with the guys pulling a wig off and seeing my bald head, he asked if it was OK. I said, “No, no, I’m great with it.”
Q: What was James Gandolfini like?
A: I loved Jimmy. He was a very sensitive guy. And he was the most generous individual I’ve ever known. I wish he treated himself half as nicely as he treated everyone else.
Q: Thanks. We should let you go. Feel better. Don’t eat clams.
A: Thank you for letting me throw up. The ironic thing is I feel great.