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The King and I

"Who the fuck is the Colombian gang?" Abel Ferrara at Thursday's screening of King of New York
(Photo: Christopher Campbell)

By Christopher Campbell

I learned two things about Abel Ferrara Thursday evening. He doesn’t seem to care much for Q&As, and he likes for the afterparty to be close by. The first thing was noticeable from the beginning, as the director introduced his 1990 film King of New York at the Walter Reade Theater for a special Young Friends of Film event. He wouldn’t stand on the stage, he preferred to speak without a microphone and he appeared nervous about the chairs placed in front of the movie screen (he had a point; the chairs on stage can be distracting while the film is playing). Following the screening, he did actually take part in a Q&A along with actor Paul Calderon, but it was short. And during, Ferrara kept insisting that we all just go into the next room for the party already.

My first assumption was that he, like the rest of us, had a hankering for some booze. However, after watching Ferrara mingle and maneuver around, I realized he was simply more interested in chatting with everyone in attendance rather than being the focus of an exclusionist interview. In order for this to happen, it was best to have the party only steps away from the auditorium. “I always say that when you have a movie [screening], you should have the party right there,” he told me, “Whenever [the afterparty is] somewhere else, 70 percent of the people leave.”

Those familiar with the kinds of antisocial characters who populate Ferrara’s films might not believe he’s such a butterfly, but it’s true. He doesn’t even wait for someone to approach him. Instead, he goes up to any stranger, as he did to me, and introduces himself. Ferrara is interested in everybody, and he remembers names very well. He’s also quite touchy-feely. After first asking about me, he got candid about his next project The Last Crew, a sort of prequel to King of New York.

“It’s the kind of prequel where [the main character’s name] is Frank, but not White,” he said. “So if you want it to be Frank White [it can be]. There’s a lot of kings of New York, you know what I mean? Frank in the prequel is 22 years old. He’s just out of college and he doesn’t know if he wants to be a gangster. It’s a true story. Where [King of New York] is obviously fantasy.”

Earlier, during the brief Q&A, Ferrara discussed exactly how fantastical he believes King of New York to be. He said that to him, everything about the story is a fairy tale. “They can take over the Colombian gang in one night?” he asked of his film’s plot. “Who the fuck is the Colombian gang?”

The director then referenced the scene in which Frank Gio’s character urinates on the shoe of Calderon’s character. “How can you even piss on somebody’s foot?” Ferrara asked. “It’s so complicated. How the hell does he even do it with the guy standing there?”

Because no King of New York discussion is complete without a Christopher Walken anecdote, Ferrara told the following gem of a story: “I didn’t know Chris that well. Him and I had not worked together. So, this was like the first scene, and he was going to shoot these people. This is the scene with Gio. Right before we’re gonna do the scene, he says to me, ‘You know, I have a hard time pointing that gun at another actor.’ I said, ‘Are you crazy? You gotta kill like 20 people in this movie.’ He says, ‘Yeah, but we got a long time before that.’ I said, ‘OK, well, let’s not worry about that now.’ And then he shoots the guy 10 times. And then he shoots the guy after he’s dead. And he’s got the gun sideways, ‘the cockroach killer,’ we called it. So, I don’t know. He got over it.”

Posted at July 13, 2007 7:46 AM

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