Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Real Nucky

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Boardwalk Empire

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Nucky in later years

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Looking East from the Boardwalk

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The Book that Started It All

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The Real Nucky Johnson

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Dabney as the Commodore

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The Man

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Chaukey White

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Michael K. Williams on ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and Why Chalky White and Omar Little Would Never Fight

June 24, 2011
By John Sellers

The actor Michael K. Williams came to deserved prominence on "The Wire" due to his sublime portrayal of Omar Little, a trenchcoat-wearing, shotgun-toting Baltimore street thug who just happens to be gay.

The Brooklyn native is stealing scenes again on another gritty HBO series: the Prohibition-era drama "Boardwalk Empire," on which he plays no-nonsense bootlegger Chalky White. We caught up with Williams recently to ask him about being submitted for Emmy consideration for the first time and whether Chalky and Omar would get along.

You’re in the middle of filming season two of “Boardwalk Empire,” right?

Yeah, we’re on, like, episode eight right now.

Aha! You just confirmed that Chalky White will survive until the eighth episode. Thanks for the scoop!

Argh! [Laughs]

Given how violent the show is, have you mentally prepared yourself for Chalky's inevitable death scene?

Well, who knows? I mean, I couldn’t say. Who knows what’s in the mind of Terry Winter?

Diplomatic answer! What did you think of the name Chalky White when you first heard it?

My first reaction was, I laughed. It’s like, go figure, my black ass is Chalky White.

I was surprised to learn that this is the first time your name has been submitted for Emmy consideration.

I’m extremely excited. It’s the first time HBO has thrown my name in the hat. It’s a step in the right direction, for sure.

Who gets thanked in your acceptance speech?

From past experience of watching other people go up there and get nervous, my thing would be to keep it simple. I’d probably have to thank my creator and my mom for sticking by me.

I had a very turbulent young adult life and I’m very fortunate to be alive today. I was definitely on the path to destruction. So, I would have to give an acknowledgment to my mom and my family for never giving up on me even when I had given up on myself.

Anyone else?

Actually, if I were to win an Emmy, I would definitely have to accept it on behalf of my “Wire” family and the city of Baltimore. It would be just as much theirs as it would be mine.

Speaking of "The Wire," how does your time on that show compare with your experience so far on “Boardwalk Empire”?

Being on the set of “Boardwalk,” it is just different. There’s a shitload more money than on “The Wire.” You see it in the clothes and the production.

Who’d win in a face-off between Chalky and Omar?

You know, in my neighborhood, man, growing up, we had a saying on the street: real recognize real. You feel me? Those two men wouldn't be the type of dudes that would go at each other. It’s not in their demeanor, you know what I’m saying? One would recognize the other for who they are, and it would be a meeting of the minds.I don’t see those two as having to take it to the streets.

As a former professional dancer, have you been pushing for a scene in which Chalky does the Charleston?

That would kind of be out of character. Maybe he'd do a two-step with his wife. But you know, him getting down and doing a windmill and boogieing, that’s a little out of character for Chalky. He’d give you a two piece and a biscuit across the face, but that’s about it.

Al Capone - the early years

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Arnold Rothestein

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Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson

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By Randee Dawn, Special to the Los Angeles Times
June 10, 2011
Reporting from New York ——

This is how low-key Steve Buscemi is in real life: He can enter the Cupping Room Café in New York's Soho district and initially go unnoticed even by someone keeping an eye out for him. Hard to imagine such anonymity for a man who has appeared in dozens of movies since the 1980s and who is currently starring in one of HBO's critically acclaimed new series, "Boardwalk Empire."

Eventually, he finds who he's looking for and takes a seat, speaking softly and thoughtfully. "I've had people, strangers, after I get to talk to them a little bit, say, 'Oh, you're calmer than the characters you play,' or something like that," he says. "But I don't know what characters they're referring to."

Buscemi may not. But anyone familiar with his oeuvre of twitchy, motormouth, vaguely malevolent, low-life weaselly characters (there's a reason he so effectively voiced a lizard in "Monsters, Inc." or ended up in the wood chipper in "Fargo") will understand. Over the years, Buscemi has appeared in everything from low-budget indies to Adam Sandler yuk-fests. But barring a few exceptions (say, an eccentric lonely heart in "Ghost World"), he's clearly made this niche his own.

Then there's "Boardwalk Empire." How to explain Steve Buscemi as a leading man? The series, based in 1920s Atlantic City, N.J., was already bejeweled by the presence of executive producer and director Martin Scorsese and lent additional premium cable legitimacy by "The Sopranos" veteran writer Terence Winter before the ensemble's centerpiece, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (based on the real-life Atlantic City treasurer of the time, Enoch Johnson) was cast. They wanted a big boss type, a ladies' man with insight but few scruples, a guy who didn't like to get his hands dirty but could rise to the occasion if necessary.

Steve Buscemi did not immediately spring to mind.

"I'm pretty sure he was my idea, though," says Winter, recalling his conversations with Scorsese over how to fill the role. "The thing is, if you were to cast someone who really looked like Nucky, you'd cast James Gandolfini. This burly, barrel-chested guy. But we all knew Jimmy wasn't going to pick up the phone for that call," he says of the actor who's had his fill of mob boss roles after "The Sopranos."

So Winter took an impromptu poll during a visit to Atlantic City — and it turned out Enoch Johnson was less than a legendary figure there. "Which was amazing, because in the book ["Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City," by Nelson Johnson, on which the series is based], he's so powerful," says Winter. "Because no one had heard of him, we were free to cast anybody. Marty said, 'Let's think outside the box.'"

Enter Buscemi, who had directed three of writer Winter's "Sopranos" episodes and had a guest role in more than a dozen. "I had this inside track on how people thought of him," says Winter of the slightly built actor. "We'd go out location scouting and everybody who approached him had a different take on him — he means different things to different people. He has so many colors. If I go to a movie and find that Steve is in it, I know that part of the movie will be good at least. So I thought, 'Why not make him the lead? You know it'll always be good.'"

Being cast somewhat against type doesn't bother Buscemi. "I think I was not the obvious choice for this character, and I give Terry and Martin Scorsese a lot of credit for supporting me. I don't think HBO would have preferred to go that way. But they trusted me and Marty. And the thing is, to me it's more like real life — in real life you're always saying, 'Oh, I knew her in high school; we didn't think she would amount to that.'"

Buscemi spent his first season as Nucky settling into the role, proving to possess even more facets than Winter had imagined. Over 12 episodes, he turned Nucky into one of TV's more nuanced, iconoclastic leads, evolving slowly from low-level politician into "full-blown corruption," as Winter puts it. Audiences may have seen the actor do seedy criminals with a few ounces of power before, but Nucky is in charge of both his office and of the ladies. He's sold audiences on both.

"I knew he could pull the romantic stuff off," says Winter. "I said, 'By Episode 5, you'll be fully on board with Steve Buscemi as this guy.' And I was right: He is a leading man. Steve is not the guy from the Adam Sandler movies. He's extremely in control in reality, and can turn that on and off. I knew people would get there; they just had to give him a chance to do it."

At this point, it's safe to call the casting inspired — Nucky garnered Buscemi his first Golden Globe in January, and lightning may strike twice in September (he's a strong lead actor Emmy contender). The series itself also has a Golden Globe, and for a show that hasn't yet aired the first episode of its second season, all of the pieces do seem to have fallen into place. It's as if Nucky himself were running things behind the scenes.

As for Buscemi, he's just happy to finally have what he's always wanted: a long-running job in his hometown of New York. After more than 25 years in the business, he's settled into his first steady TV role with an ease that surprises even him. "It's been really nice. It's a unique experience to explore this character. As Martin Scorsese said, 'The movie just keeps on going.' And that's what this feels like: one long continuous movie.”


Why Emmy Nominee Steve Buscemi Refuses to 'Fix' His Teeth

by: Lindsay Powers, The Hollywood Reporter

Steve Buscemi

Chew on this.

Steve Buscemi just earned a lead actor Emmy nomination for his role as mobster Nucky Johnson on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," which scored 18 nominations overall Thursday. But he says he'd never have gotten to where he is now if he'd heeded early advice to change his smile.

"I've had dentists who have wanted to help me out, but I say, 'You know, I won't work again if you fix my teeth,'" Buscemi, who also won a Golden Globe last year for the role, said during The Hollywood Reporter's recent drama actors roundtable.

Buscemi isn't the only one who has refused to correct his pearly whites.

"True Blood" star Anna Paquin is often questioned about her choppers. "I find it rude when someone asks me why I never 'fixed' the gap in my teeth!" she recently told Us Weekly. "Blood" was just nominated for four Emmys.

Kirsten Dunst admits she's faced pressure to straighten up her teeth, even from her mom. "That's one of the things I like about me. Messed-up teeth are so sexy," she once told InStyle. The actress was just 13 when she was nominated for a Golden Globe award for "Interview With the Vampire" in 1995; more recently, she was voted best actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in Lars Von Trier's "Melancholia."

Singer Jewel landed her first film role, in 1999's "Ride With the Devil," thanks to her crooked grin — even though she had no acting experience. "The main reason Ang wanted me was my teeth," she told the U.K. Observer of director Ang Lee. "My character grew up lower-class, working the earth with oxen, ploughing, stuff like that."

When asked by MTV News why she never fixed them shortly after the movie was released, she said, "I just never had the money before and now I don't have the time."

Miley Cyrus continues acting despite her lower teeth not lining up."I like these crooked. I love my teeth," she told Elle magazine in July 2009, adding that her then-"Hannah Montana" co-star and dad Billy Ray Cyrus "won't let me fix my teeth or cut my hair."

Modest Steve Buscemi isn’t keen on sex scenes

Ian Wilson/WENN.com

Movie star Steve Buscemi is so modest when it comes to sex scenes he won't get naked - or aroused by his onscreen partner.

The actor, who appears to bed hop between mistresses in his new TV drama "Boardwalk Empire," insists he doesn't enjoy intimate scenes with co-stars like Paz de la Huerta and Kelly MacDonald, because he's still shy when it comes to the bedroom.

He tells Playboy magazine, "I'm very modest. I've always got something on, and I don't get aroused.

"My motivation for going into the movies was definitely not the sex scenes."

Arnold Rothstein

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The Deal

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The Fed

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Nucky's Brother

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Irish Speech

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Drivers Jimmy and Capone

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