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Donnie Brasco

SUMMARY

This true story follows FBI agent Joe Pistone as he infiltrates the mafia of New York. Befriending Lefty Ruggiero, Pistone (under the name Donnie Brasco) is able to embed himself in a mafia faction lead by Sonny Black. Ruggiero and Pistone become tight as the group goes about collecting money for 'the bosses'. Eventually, the group become big time when Black himself becomes a boss, all the while Pistone collects evidence. However, the trials and tribulations of the undercover work become more than Pistone can bear. His marriage falls apart and to top it off, the mafia suspect a mole in the organization. The real dilemma is afforded to Pistone, who knows if he walks away from the mafia, Ruggiero will be the one punished. Internet Movie Database
STARRING:
Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen, Anne Heche, Bruno Kirby, Zeljko Ivanek, James Russo, Robert Miano


 

CAST /CREW

Directed by
Mike Newell

Writing credits (WGA)
Joseph D. Pistone (book) and
Richard Woodley (book) ...
Paul Attanasio (screenplay)
Cast
Al Pacino .... Lefty
Johnny Depp .... Donnie
Michael Madsen .... Sonny
Bruno Kirby .... Nicky
James Russo .... Paulie
Anne Heche .... Maggie
Zeljko Ivanek .... Tim Curley
Gerry Becker .... Dean Blandford
Robert Miano .... Sonny Red
Brian Tarantina .... Bruno
Rocco Sisto .... Richie Gazzo
Zach Grenier .... Dr. Berger
Walt MacPherson .... Sheriff
Ronnie Farer .... Annette
Terry Serpico .... Strip Club Owner
  (more)

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QUOTES ABOUT THE FILM


AL PACINO

"Uh... I... I was pleased with Donnie Brasco. Yes I thought it was a really... ah... good script. And it was... Mike Newell had said right from the start that he wanted this to be a kind of a... a relationship movie... with these two guys and their feeling for each other. And uh, it was... what he set out to do I think he made that uh... come though I thought. It has some feeling in it. And uh... he took it in the direction that I didn't realize, since it was in the tradition of those kinds of movies.... uh, Mike Newell took it to that other place... where... to a DIFFERENT place, rather, to a place of a relationship. Which was interesting."Hollywood Online (you can hear this interview on Windows Media or Real Audio here.)

Johnny Depp was Mike Newell and [producer] Mark Johnson's choice for the part. I met with Johnny because I hadn't known him before. We had a cup of coffee and then they took him on. I think I've rarely enjoyed working with anyone as much as Johnny. We've become friends. I really, truly found working with him a joy. He made me laugh all the time. I don't know how his image is projected, but he's really fun to be around. Mr. Showbiz Interview

(on the decision to do yet another Mob film)
   Of course, when you enter this genre, you're having to say, "This has been done. We've been around this territory, I've been around this territory myself." So, why would I want to embark on this kind of thing again? It took some time. I remember passing it over at one point years ago. What happened is, as time went on, the relevance of the piece became a little bit more in the distance. The fact that it was in 1979, I sort of appreciated that aspect. That made it a little more interesting for me and that's why I did it.
Mr. Showbiz Interview

(On finding something new in his Donnie Brasco character)
   I've been involved in that genre before, but I saw something [in Brasco] that was different. [Ruggiero] had some different interests. I've played different cops and different lawyers and they were different. He was as different as that. I think the guy from Serpico and the guy from Sea of Love are in the same sort of world, but they're different. I think that was sort of the difference between the character I played in Donnie Brasco and the other characters I've played, say Michael Corleone.
    I think there are things in this guy's struggle that, hopefully, people who are civilians outside of the underworld will relate to. There's aspects of this human being, that when we pay attention to it, are in ourselves. They are not violent aspects, but his needs, his frustrations. I think that's the kind of character that we tried to express and draw.
Mr. Showbiz Interview

(On working with director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral), a Mob-film rookie)
   Mike Newell was from another world, really, in terms of this environment of the film. But he educated me, actually. He did a lot of research, a lot of work with the people. He was very well versed with all the aspects of this world. He was quite involved with these people, in a way. He knew what he wanted and he went after it that way.
Mr. Showbiz Interview

(On the movies and actors that influenced him, and the origins of his fascination with the Mob)
   The movies that my mother took me to when I was young were very diverse. The memory I've had was of Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, and then on to Marlon Brando and James Dean. Which were more or less characters who played all kinds of roles. I remember hearing about a movie that Paul Muni made called Scarface. The only time I ever saw Scarface, I was doing this Bertolt Brecht play on tour. Bertolt Brecht was enamored with the gangster movies of the thirties. I think there were many of these films in the thirties, Little Caesar and Public Enemy and James Cagney. And that was a period that was interesting. Brecht wrote this play called "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" which was a parallel of the rise of Hitler and the rise of a Chicago gangster in the thirties. When I was working on the play, I remember hearing about Scarface and saw that later on in life. When I saw it, because of Paul Muni's performance, I wanted to copy it. I put the idea forth to someone about making it. . . . I don't know why we're talking about Scarface. What happened to Donnie Brasco? Sorry, I went off. Someone has to control me. 
Mr. Showbiz Interview

(On Hollywood's tendency to depict Italian-Americans as cold-blooded killers)
    I, as an Italian-American, think about [this issue]. I want to avoid it. I think that we are used to that kind of thing, in a way. It's one of the tentacles in our culture that we have come to know and have feelings about. I don't know what the solution to that is.
    To me, I go to the material. I go to the story and the entertainment value of something and say, "This film doesn't seem to me to be pushed by violence." It doesn't seem to be saying that as much as it's talking about a relationship, with this certain kind of character that has his dreams, and his aspirations. I think if [Donnie Brasco] communicates anything, it will communicate the relationship. This character I play becomes a prototype for other people who are in the same sort of predicament.
Mr. Showbiz Interview

(About the decision to do yet another Mob film (Donnie Brasco)
    "Of course, when you enter this genre, you're having to say, "This has been done. We've been around this territory, I've been around this territory myself." So, why would I want to embark on this kind of thing again? It took some time. I remember passing it over at one point years ago. What happened is, as time went on, the relevance of the piece became a little bit more in the distance. The fact that it was in 1979, I sort of appreciated that aspect. That made it a little more interesting for me and that's why I did it." (from Mr. Showbiz)  (694k - hear a wav of this quote)

(Finding something new in his "Donnie Brasco" character.)
   "I've played different cops I've played different lawyers, and they were different. I think he was as much different as that. I think the fact it existed in the same genre... I think the guy from Serpico and the guy from Sea of Love are in the same sort of world, but they're different. I think that was sort of the difference between the character I played in Donnie Brasco and the other characters I've played, say Michael Corleone and this guy. So I saw a difference." (from Mr. Showbiz) (449k - hear a wav of this quote)

 

JOE PISTONE (THE REAL DONNIE BRASCO)

"It feels good because I've spent so many years working undercover, and then when the undercover days were over I never actually went back to being Joseph Pistone because of the [US$500,000] contract the Mafia had put on my life, so I had to assume another identity and move several times and I met new people and they'd never know my background or who I was, and now, with the movie it feels good and I feel I should help promote it and come out of the shadows, so to speak." (read the whole interview at "Celluloid In Camera")

The images that [the public] have [of the FBI] are false. They see the movie The Godfather - great movie but not a true portrait of the everyday Mafia individual or what occurs within the family - and they see a lot of cop shows on television where agents are portrayed as glamorous, in-and-out, and they never show how tedious is really is and the sacrifices that the undercover agent makes when he infiltrates a group.
    You give up your whole personal life because your life becomes the same as the group you're infiltrating. You cut yourself off from your family, from your friends, and that's never shown on television. But with the film Donnie Brasco it shows the family conflicts and hanging out the way it really was, the daily routines of discussing crimes, what crimes they're gonna commit, how much money they're gonna make and there's always friction between different Mafia groups and within the families, and you always live with the fact that this may be your last day. Y'know, maybe you're gonna get killed or gonna have to kill them first. This is basically what the film depicts and I think it does it from both sides.
    It shows how the Mafia people live, how the undercover agent lives and operates, and it also shows the undercover agent doing his job, gathering evidence and dealing with the personalities of the gangsters because after all they are people and they have personalities. Everybody doesn't like everybody, so, in order to maintain friendliness you have to deal with every personality.  (read the whole interview at "Celluloid In Camera")
   

(about the film) There were moments when it was 100% on the money," he says. "A lot of the dialogue was taken from the actual dialogue that happened, because the screenwriter listened to the original tapes. But, what was really tough was watching the family scenes because that was the way it actually occurred.  (read the whole interview at "Celluloid In Camera")

I have to give a lot of credit to Johnny because he was very, very concerned about portraying me with sensitivity and I don't know any other actors that would care. Just watching him was like hitting home and although I'm the kind of individual who is sensitive, I don't show it, but I think he put that across in the movie. (read the whole interview at "Celluloid In Camera")

 

JOHNNY DEPP

"Donnie Brasco was a motherfucker of a movie and I spent a lot of time with Pistone. He's got an interesting rhythm to his speech. I did my best to get that. I put great pressure on myself to make it fucking right for the guy. He lived it. I was just pretending." (Vanity Fair Magazine)

 

 

TRIVIA

GOOFS

The shaving cream on the man who gives Donnie the thumbs up.IMD

Many 90s models cars and trinkets visible even though it is set in the 70's. IMD

Lefty's apartment contains many VCR videotapes.IMD

Maggie is shovelling snow and complaining that the temperature is freezing at the same time that Lefty and Donnie are reading John Wayne's obituary. Wayne died in June 1979.IMD

Pistone's hair in between kissing his wife and going up the stairs.IMD

The scene at the airport hangar shows a Continental plane with a 1990s-era logo.IMD

Set in the late 1970s, features the modern logo for Northwest Airlink. Also visible in the background is the modern National Debt Clock.IMD


BEHIND THE SCENES

According to Joe Pistone's (the real Donnie Brasco) book: "Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia" - Pacino's character in Donnie Brasco was actually a composite of several people. For example: *PLOT SPOILER* In real-life, it was really Michael Madsen's character, Sonny Black, who was called to the "sit-down" and left all of his jewelry and the keys to his apartment with the bartender at the social club. The book also says that his "badly decomposed body was found with the hands chopped off. The person had been shot. The hands had been chopped off - an indication of a Mafia hit and a special signal that the victim had violated mob security. On Nov 10...the body was identified through dental records as being that of Sonny Black."
      Lefty wasn't really killed by the mob, although a contract was put out on his life for the same reason Sonny Black was killed: they allowed Joe Pistone (Donnie Brasco) to infiltrate the mob. Lefty was picked up by federal agents before the contract was carried out. He was tried and convicted and sentenced to 20 years. He got out a few years ago and died of natural causes.


LOCATIONS USED FOR FILMING

Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
New York City, New York, USA
south, Florida, USA
Clifton, New Jersey, USA

 

 

DVD INFO

Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby
Audio Commentary by Director Mike Newell
Exclusive Featurette: "'Donnie Brasco': Out from the Shadows"
Original Featurette
Five Deleted Scenes with Optional Director's Commentary and Intro
Isolated Music Score
Photo Gallery
Widescreen anamorphic format
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Theatrical Trailer
Weblink
Interactive Menus
Production Notes
Scene selections



(208k) Nobody can touch you, because I represent you. Keep your nose clean. Follow the rules, be a good earner and maybe one day when they open the books you become a wiseguy.
(93k) Who am I? I'm a spoke on a wheel. And so are you.
(694k)
(AL INTERVIEW: About the decision to do yet another Mob film) "Of course, when you enter this genre, you're having to say, "This has been done. We've been around this territory, I've been around this territory myself." So, why would I want to embark on this kind of thing again? It took some time. I remember passing it over at one point years ago. What happened is, as time went on, the relevance of the piece became a little bit more in the distance. The fact that it was in 1979, I sort of appreciated that aspect. That made it a little more interesting for me and that's why I did it." (from Mr. Showbiz)
(449k)
(INTERVIEW: Finding something new in his "Donnie Brasco" character.)  "I've played different cops I've played different lawyers, and they were different. I think he was as much different as that. I think the fact it existed in the same genre... I think the guy from Serpico and the guy from Sea of Love are in the same sort of world, but they're different. I think that was sort of the difference between the character I played in Donnie Brasco and the other characters I've played, say Michael Corleone and this guy. So I saw a difference." (from Mr. Showbiz)


 

GALLERY    LINKS
Buy the DVD
Buy the video

Buy the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Buy the book it was based on, "
Donnie Brasco : My Undercover Life in the Mafia: A True Story by FBI Agent"
Buy the book "Donnie Brasco: Deep Cover"
Buy Mobbed Up : A Donnie Brasco Novel
Donnie Brasco, the official site
Moviehome
Internet Movie Database
A Japanese Page
E! Online Factsheet
review, Salon
movieguide database, tvgen
Mr. Showbiz
Movieweb (pics, info)
Interview with the real Donnie Brasco, Joe Pistone at Celluloid In Camera
Celluloid in the iZine

DONNIE BRASCO INTERVIEW

    From The Canadian Press, http://www3.cjad.com/content/cja...d=e042033A

    Retired FBI agent known as Donnie Brasco to visit Ontario, Updated at 15:30 on April 20, 2004, EST.
    TORONTO (CP) - Made famous after being portrayed by Johnny Depp in the movie named after his alias Donnie Brasco and based on his novel, retired FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone is back with a nonfiction tale titled The Way of the Wiseguy.
    "I was always asked different questions about wiseguys and made a mental note of a lot of that," says Pistone in an interview. "I figured I should answer all these questions in a book. It's a how and why book. Why wiseguys will kill you? How wiseguys get made and how they get straightened out."
    Pistone was an FBI agent for 17 years from 1969 to 1986 and retired in 1996. During this period he was nearly made by the mob and miraculously managed to escape.
    There came a period when there was a shooting war going on within the family, for control of the family, he explains.
    "At the time the side that I was on was winning the war, but the FBI felt it was getting too dangerous in that there were too many people being killed. So they pulled me out."
    Brasco, who now lives under a secret identity in an undisclosed location, will be appearing at Chapters in Woodbridge, Ont., on May 1.
    The Canadian Press, 2004