Jackie DiNorscio passed on while you were shooting this movie, did you get to speak with him, and did you try to be like him or did you just want to capture his spirit?
“Both. Initially, I spent all the time prior to meeting him working on the attributes, mannerisms and characteristics that Jackie possessed, in an attempt to just be him, just to match the footage that I saw. It wasn’t until I met him, until he actually came to the set and had a heart-to-heart talk with me, that I understood what the whole trial meant to him, and what at the core he was fighting for. After I met him all of the attention that I paid to imitating him took a backseat to me representing the truth he was trying to fight for.”
Would you describe this film as a drama or a comedy?
“I don’t know. I know that while I was shooting the movie I was very in tune with the drama of the character, to the point when I saw it in Berlin I said to Sidney, ‘I wasn’t trying to be funny.’ He said, ‘By committing to the character the way that you did, you took on the attributes that Jackie had, and one of them was being funny and an entertainer in that courtroom.’ So I guess you would call it a ‘dramedy’.”
Did you want to do this movie because Sidney Lumet was directing it?
“That was a huge reason for me doing the movie. I started acting in the New York theatre over thirty years ago, and as a New York actor you dreamed of being in a Sidney Lumet movie, one of our few New York directors.”
How do you think Jackie gave himself such a good defense when he had so little education?
“It’s real simple at the end of the day. He was there on trial where the objective by the prosecutor was to expose how inhumane (the family) were. Jackie was revealing the humanity of everyone through humor, through his own experiences, through anecdotes that the jury could relate to in one way or another.”
Because of all the courtroom scenes, you did many of your scenes in front of an audience of extras – did your work in the theatre help you with that?
“Yes, it was very much like returning to the New York stage. In part because you would have to know fifteen pages off book, ready to do in one take, and to do it in front of a sea of New York actors. They were all wondering, ‘Alright, now Vin’s coming back home, Mr Big Bucks is coming back to New York; let’s see what he can do!’”