Today TOE has the pleasure of sharing an interview with Marino Amoruso. Over the years he has worn many hats, from film writer/director to published author to newspaper columnist. These days he’s excited to be writing a heavily syndicated weekly column in which he gets to voice whatever his heart desires. The name of this column is BACK IN THE DAY.
What Marino loves most is to connect with other people, to spark a conversation about what it means to be human, and to ultimately get them to smile.
Of the books he’s authored, there’s memoir and fiction. A lot of his creative energies have been focused on exploring his roots, which happen to be Italian.
But I’ll be quiet now. Sit back, relax, and let the Q&A begin:
Where were you born and where do you live now?
I was born in Brooklyn, USA!!!! I now live in Oakdale, Long Island.
What is your favorite ingredient?
How can you ask this question to an Italian? There are just so many good ingredients… tomatoes, basil, parm cheese, garlic, and on and on and on.
Tell us about your education.
Started school at Saint Thomas Catholic Elementry School for boys on Flatlands Avenue in Brooklyn, an experience that truly warped me. Attended Hauppauge High School on Long Island, and graduated from Emerson College in Boston.
Why did your experience at Saint Thomas truly warp you?
Going to Catholic school when I did in the early to mid-sixties was totally different than it is today. There was a large amount of “whacking” by the nuns. Any infraction at all was punishable by a whack of the ruler, a whack of the pointer (which was like a whip), or a smack in the face. Plus, we had discipline that was military-like. Everybody dressed the same, everything was done in alphabetical order, and if you opened your mouth without raising your hand, you were in for a double-whacking. Plus the religious teachings were so heavy and indoctrinating, you walked around afraid that God was going to strike you down at any time for being such a horrible sinner. It was totally repressive. The only thing I can say positive about it was that the education was good. When we moved from Brooklyn to Long Island, I was two years ahead of everybody in my class on Long Island.
What is the one book you will regret never having read?
Tough to say. I’ve read just about everything I’ve ever wanted to read.
Since you’ve read just about everything, is there a book you regret having read, something that opened your eyes a little too much?
Not really. My favorite book of all time is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I’ve read it at least 50 times in my life.
Is ignorance bliss?
Sometimes, yes. My problem most of the time is my head is just too full. I think about so many things and want to write and make films about so many things that I know I won’t live long enough to do everything I envision. So I like to make careful choices about what I write and make films about.
You’re most prolific/accomplished as a filmmaker. How does film differ from writing as a medium of self-expression. Would you say documentary and memoir are synonymous? Could writing ever substitute film in your life, or is their relationship symbiotic?
Documentary and memoir are not synonyms in my opinion. And there is a huge difference between writing for film and writing prose or non-fiction. In film you can establish and communicate things through visuals, whereas when you write, you have to describe something in words that would take one “establishing” shot in a film. I think at this point in my life that writing could – except for some special films I still want to make – substitute for filmmaking. Making films is really hard work – from raising the funding, making network deals, gathering the appropriate footage and photos, narration recording and on and on. It’s exhausting and very frustrating sometimes. These days I’d rather just sit at my computer and work on a book, a newspaper column, an article, etc.
How did you get interested in writing?
I have always believed that writers are born not made. Sure, experience improves your skills, but unless you are born with a talent to write, I don’t think you can “choose” writing as a career. I think writing “chooses” you. It’s just something you are driven to do. It comes from inside. It’s both a true blessing and sometimes a curse.
How has your practice evolved over the course of time?
I have become more and more of a perfectionist. I re-write and re-write because I strive to make every aspect perfect. I know I’ll never reach that goal, but I always strive for it. The day I am totally satisfied with something I’ve done, whether it’s one of my films, a book, or a newspaper column, that’s the day I give up writing.
What do you consider to be your greatest success?
I’ve written and directed over 40 films, and written five books. I’d say my biggest success to date is the national PBS Network Special PRIDE & PASSION: THE ITALIANS IN AMERICA. Then again, my most recent film, JACKIE ROBINSON: MY STORY, won the Best Picture Award at both the Long Island International Film Expo and the Garden State Film Festival.
Who is the most quiet, soft-spoken celebrity you’ve ever met?
Without question Mr. Jimmy Stewart. I’ve had the honor of working with a number of famous and legendary celebs who’ve been in my films, but I’d say he was the biggest, and yet of all of them, he was the most humble and down to earth. Just a wonderful man.
If you could ask yourself one question, what would it be and how would you answer?
The question would be: How do I answer this question. And the answer would be: I have no clue.