How ‘Vinyl’ Star Bobby Cannavale Won Over Mick Jagger
When he booked a show, he psyched himself up by pretending that Al Pacino would be coming to see it, and while Pacino didn’t come in those days, Sidney Lumet’s daughter did. They met, married and had a son when Cannavale was 25. They divorced in 2003, but not before Lumet became, as Cannavale puts it, “like a dad to me” – one of many older mentors he credits for his success.
Boardwalk was the breakout role he’d longed for (though he had already gotten that Emmy for playing Will’s boyfriend on Will & Grace). At his first table read, he was seated next to Scorsese. “If you’re an actor from New York and you’re Italian-American,” Cannavale says, “you grow up hoping Marty Scorsese knows your name at some point before you die. And the very first scene, I beat this old guy to death with a wrench, and Marty was laughing hysterically at the violence. He kept hitting me under the table, hitting my knee, going, ‘Ah, you’re gonna be so great!'”
For a guy who grew up with a subscription to this magazine, however, Vinyl hits closer to home. A teenage Cannavale gravitated to many of the New York artists who are featured in Vinyl, from Lou Reed to the New York Dolls (he even got to hang out with Dolls singer David Johansen to prepare for the series). Today, he’s just come from Second Hand Rose, a record shop where the owner chatted about watching Allen Ginsberg read a poem off toilet paper, while Cannavale hunted down the Beatles and Joe Turner. “[My character] runs a massive corporation like an artist, you know?” he says. “It’s just about this guy trying to figure out how to remain an artist.”
Which, as luck would have it, is something Cannavale has discussed with none other than Pacino, who did finally come see him in a show, after which Cannavale was cast to play his son in Danny Collins. The two became fast friends (“He’s the best texter,” Cannavale says. “He loves exclamation points and capital letters”). But as Vinyl attests, having an artist’s soul in a tough’s body isn’t easy: If Cannavale’s recent roles have an underlying current, it’s one of vulnerability, a sense that they might be hard as nails on the outside, but there’s something crumbling within. “A character should always have a secret,” says Cannavale. “I feel like we all do.”
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