The Role of a Lifetime for Bobby Cannavale

by Natasha Wolff | March 26, 2015 4:38 pm

It’s not everyday that Al Pacino personally asks you to star alongside him in a movie, and that is not lost on actor Bobby Cannavale. After starring with Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway two years ago, the pair are teamed up again for Danny Collins. Pacino plays the titular aging crooner (yes, he sings!) who discovers a letter John Lennon wrote him decades earlier but never received. He decides to make drastic changes in his life beginning by reconnecting with his estranged son, Tom, played by Cannavale. The actor talked to DuJour about what it’s like to work with the legendary thespian and why it involves copious amounts of coffee—and possibly miming.

How did you become involved with the film?
I grew up admiring Al’s work more than anybody else’s and working with him was an amazing experience. We had just finished doing Glengarry and became very good friends, beyond my wildest dreams. Al had been working on this film with Dan and he thought it would be a good idea for me to play his son, and I didn’t disagree. 

Al Pacino and Bobby Canavale

Al Pacino and Bobby Cannavale. Photo courtesy of Hopper Stone/Bleecker Street

It also doesn’t hurt that the film has an incredible cast, including Annette Bening and Christopher Plummer.
The performances are so beautiful and the story is honest and very emotionally resonant. I’m not usually a good judge of things I’m in but I was so moved by the film, I forgot I was even in it! 

A big part of the story deals with Danny and Tom’s complicated relationship and you play off of each other so well—did you rehearse those scenes a lot or was there some improvisation?
Al does like to rehearse, so a few weeks before we started filming we met up in his home in LA. We would drink 10 cups of espresso each and just work scenes. It just so happened that when we were doing the play we started talking a lot about family, discovering that we had a lot of things in common, so it’s just one of those serendipitous things that happen sometimes, and when the movie came up were very much in the middle of this conversation. The friendship and the conversation we were having ended up paralleling the story in a way.

What is it like working with Pacino on a stage versus in front of the camera?
It’s intense to work onstage with him because he will try everything and each night is a new performance, so there’s an unpredictability about him that is exciting. On film it’s different because the process happens beforehand so when we’re on set he’s completely relaxed; he’s a master of knowing how to be still. What’s compelling about watching him onscreen is what’s going on behind his eyes, all that history and all that work is there and that’s why we get so taken by them. 

Now that you’ve done both, which one do you prefer?
I love them both. I’ll take anything—I’d do a mime show with Al if he wanted to. 

Main photo courtesy of Hopper Stone/Bleecker Street

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