Thursday, August 28, 2014


John Turturro, Toronto, September 1992

ANOTHER PORTRAIT FROM MY ONCE-ANNUAL film festival portrait blowout. John Turturro in the tearoom off the lobby of the Sutton Place Hotel on Bay when it was the headquarters of the festival, doubtless shot for NOW magazine. This would be the same festival where I photographed Steve Buscemi, and a glance through the binder reveals adjacent neg sheets with portraits of director Neil Jordan and actor Tilda Swinton.

Those white shirts buttoned to the neck were a thing back then; extra points if you had one with contrasting stitching like Turturro is wearing. They define the early '90s the way that overpriced t-shirts distressed to look like they're about to fall apart do today.

Turturro was in town promoting his film Mac, which he wrote, directed and starred in; it won a Camera D'Or at Cannes but I don't think it did that well. Turturro was on a roll in 1992, having made seven films in the last two years, starring in pictures for the Coen Brothers as well as his semi-regular gig in Spike Lee's films, which began with him playing a Lee regular: the Italian-American bete noire and repository of outer borough bigotry in Do The Right Thing.

I can't believe it, but after watching this, 1989 actually seems like a freer time than today.

Turturro used to be the go-to guy if you wanted someone who was tightly wound and intense to very near a point of self-parody. (Think of Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski.) Nowadays he plays a recurring character in the Transformer franchise.

My shoot with him 22 years ago was obviously rushed, with frames snatched as he did his interview, but the frame at the top shows a man with an obvious case of the nerves. Mac might not have set the world on fire, but Turturro has managed to write and direct four more films since I shot him in the Sutton Place tearoom.

The Sutton Place, however, was recently closed and is being gutted for condos; earlier this year I snuck in for a preview of the hotel's contents sale auction.

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