11 Surprising Facts About A Bronx Tale

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

On September 29, 1993, the now-defunct Savoy Pictures distributed the coming-of-age crime drama A Bronx Tale, starring Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri. It was based on a one-man show Palminteri had started performing in Los Angeles in 1989, and then performed it Off-Broadway the same year. Palminteri ended up writing the screenplay and using it as a vehicle to act in the film, whereas De Niro used the script to make his directorial debut.

The film, which is set in the Bronx in the 1960s, centers on a kid named Calogero “C” Anello who witnesses a mafia boss, Sonny (Palminteri), murder someone. As Calogero grow ups, he sees Sonny as a father figure but also copes with his own father’s (De Niro) advice. Partly based on Palminteri’s own life (yes, he really witnessed a murder), the semi-autobiographical film grossed $17.2 million against a $10 million budget.

In 2007, Palminteri resurrected the play on Broadway, and in 2016 A Bronx Tale: The Musical began performances on Broadway. Palminteri wrote the book and De Niro co-directed with Jerry Zaks. After 700 regular performances, the musical closed on August 5, 2018 (though it's now on tour). To celebrate the film's 25th anniversary, here are 11 things you might not have known about A Bronx Tale.

1. A BAD EXPERIENCE AS A BOUNCER INSPIRED CHAZZ PALMINTERI TO WRITE THE PLAY.

While living in Los Angeles and trying to be an actor in the ’80s, Palminteri worked various jobs, including a gig as a bouncer at a nightclub. “One night a guy was going to come in, and he was very rude to me,” Palminteri told The A.V. Club. “I told him I wasn’t going to let him in, he got mad and told me that I’d be fired in 15 minutes. I said, ‘Sure sure, everyone tells me that.’ That man turned out to be Swifty Lazar, the biggest agent in the world at the time—this was 1989—and sure enough, 15 minutes later I did get fired.”

Palminteri went home and considered his options. “I thought that if no one was going to give me a great part—and it was very difficult to break into film, obviously—then I’d write one myself.” He wrote the play in increments—every week he wrote more and performed the material at Los Angeles's Theatre West. “I really honed it and sharpened it,” he said. “About 10 months or a year later, I had a 90-minute one-man show.”

2. PALMINTERI WOULD ONLY SELL THE FILM RIGHTS IF HE COULD PLAY SONNY.

Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri in A Bronx Tale (1993)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Palminteri's play garnered enough buzz that studios offered anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million to purchase the story rights, but they didn’t want Palminteri to act in it, as he wasn’t a big enough name. De Niro saw the play and decided to help Palminteri out. “At first, I didn’t want anything in the ingredients if I did a film of it—I wanted a totally clean slate—but I saw it and liked it and liked Chazz,” De Niro told Interview Magazine. “While he was writing the screenplay I said, ‘Let me make this clear. If you give it to a studio, they’ll pay you for it and people will get involved and they’ll give the Sonny part to another actor. If you give it to me now, I can guarantee you’ll be in it and we’ll set it up our own way and I’ll have more control, which is what I want. I don’t want any producer getting in the way and telling me what to do.’ I didn’t want all that mishmoshing—I knew what had to be done.”           

3. PALMINTERI WANTED TO MAKE A FILM ABOUT “THE WORKING MAN.”

In real life, Palminteri’s father was a school bus driver and a saxophone player. “Too many movies speak about us as just gombas or Mafioso,” Palminteri told Roger Ebert. “I wanted a movie about the working man, about a real Italian-American community. The real fabric comes from working men. My dad was similar to Lorenzo. I used to see him put his boots on in the morning to go out and drive the bus. He’d get up in the rain, the snow, smiling, just to make his children’s lives better. That's all he wanted. No dreams to be this, or that. To me, a man like that is a hero, and I wanted the movie to reflect that.”

4. ROBERT DE NIRO WANTED TO WORK WITH KIDS FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

In casting the film, De Niro wanted to hire non-actors from New York. “One day Marco Greco, who was casting for us, was on Jones Beach and he saw this kid and asked him if he wanted to audition for us,” De Niro told Roger Ebert. “The kid says, ‘You’re not looking for me. You’re looking for my brother.’ And his brother, Lillo Brancato, came out of the water, and started doing impersonations of me and Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. He was great. He was perfect for C. It always excites me to work with people who are new, who fit. To create this world—this medieval village in the Bronx—I needed real teenagers, not actors trying to be teenagers.”

5. DE NIRO WARNED LILLO BRANCATO ABOUT THE DANGERS OF FAME.

Soon after the film’s release, Brancato became an in-demand actor, even starring in season two of The Sopranos. But his on-screen father warned him about the trappings of fame. “De Niro came to my house in spring or summer of 1993, not only to warn me, but also my parents,” Brancato told People. “My parents are Italian immigrants and knew nothing about show biz and the temptations that lie ahead. De Niro talked about the changes that will occur in my life. He said this can be very dangerous if not handled the right way.”

Unfortunately, Brancato did not heed De Niro's advice and ended up serving eight years of a 10-year prison sentence following a 2005 attempted robbery that led to the death of a New York City police officer. Brancato was found guilty of attempted burglary but acquitted of murder. His co-defendant was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

6. DE NIRO ASKED MARTIN SCORSESE FOR DIRECTING ADVICE.

Because it was De Niro’s first time directing, he turned to regular collaborator Martin Scorsese for some tips. "I asked certain things about the way you do this or that," De Niro told Interview Magazine. "I also talked to other actors who have turned directors, like Danny DeVito. I guess I felt that I’d be okay. I didn’t want to build up some kind of fear of it. Directing yourself isn’t stressful—you’re just a bit uncomfortable, because [when you’re acting], you have to set your mind in a certain way, and then you have to direct everybody else."

7. THE REAL EDDIE MUSH PLAYED EDDIE MUSH.

Eddie Mush was a gambler both in the movie and in real life. During a racetrack scene in the movie, Mush, Sonny, and Calogero bet on the same horse, Kryptonite, and lose. “We were looking for someone to play Bad Luck Eddie Mush, the guy who is a jinx,” Palminteri told Roger Ebert. "We couldn’t find anyone. Finally I told Bob [De Niro] the real guy, Eddie Montanaro, was still around, 63 years old. Bob saw him and cast him—but I was worried, because Eddie really does bring bad luck, and sure enough, the first day he worked, it rained."

8. DE NIRO WANTED TO PLAY AGAINST TYPE.

In 1993, De Niro told Interview Magazine he thought casting himself in the movie would “get it off the ground more easily.” He had already promised Palminteri the role of Sonny, a part De Niro could’ve played, but the role of Lorenzo—Calogero's father—was more interesting to De Niro. “I hadn’t done this kind of part, and it’s something really different, and I wanted to do it for that reason, because people would expect me to play Sonny. As Lorenzo, I had my own experiences to draw on, and it’s something closer to me because of my kids. I have a son Lillo’s age.”

9. THE CALOGERO-JANE ROMANCE ALMOST GOT CUT.

Lillo Brancato and Taral Hicks in 'A Bronx Tale' (1993)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

One of the film's main storylines focuses on Calogero's romance with Jane (Taral Hicks), a black girl from the neighborhood. De Niro told Interview Magazine the plotline almost got excised, but he wanted to keep it in. “People would say, ‘Just make it between a father and a son—that’s really a story in itself,’ which it was. But I felt that to take away any one of those elements would be wrong. The part with Jane is the one part that you didn’t expect, and for that reason alone I didn’t want to take it out. There’s a beginning, middle, and end to this whole relationship. It happens fast. They meet and fall in love and boom!—they come together.”

10. TOMMY MOTTOLA MADE THE MUSICAL HAPPEN.

The chairman and CEO of Sony Music—who’s also known as Mariah Carey’s first husband—helped get the musical off the ground. In an interview with The A.V. Club, Palminteri said it was the Bronx-born Tommy Mottola who suggested adapting the film into a Broadway musical. (He ended up producing it.) “Even though I had been trying to do one for years, it was him who put it on his back and made it happen,” Palminteri said. “If not for Tommy Mottola, it would not have happened. He put his money where his mouth was.”

11. PALMINTERI THINKS THE FILM IS ABOUT CHOOSING LOVE OR FEAR.

During a 2016 interview on The Today Show, Palminteri explained why he thinks the film and musical still resonate today. “There’s the black neighborhood and the Italian neighborhood, and what A Bronx Tale talks about is how people can come together,” he said. “One of the main aspects of the play is: Is it better to choose love or fear? Because Sonny studied Machiavelli in jail. He tells the boy, ‘What do you choose, love or fear?’ In the end, Sonny ends up choosing love. So I think that’s why it’s so relevant today.”

7 Top-Rated Portable Air Conditioners You Can Buy Right Now

Black + Decker/Amazon
Black + Decker/Amazon

The warmest months of the year are just around the corner (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), and things are about to get hot. To make indoor life feel a little more bearable, we’ve rounded up a list of some of the top-rated portable air conditioners you can buy online right now.

1. SereneLife 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner; $290

SereneLife air conditioner on Amazon.
SereneLife/Amazon

This device—currently the best-selling portable air conditioner on Amazon—is multifunctional, cooling the air while also working as a dehumidifier. Reviewers on Amazon praised this model for how easy it is to set up, but cautioned that it's not meant for large spaces. According to the manufacturer, it's designed to cool down rooms up to 225 square feet, and the most positive reviews came from people using it in their bedroom.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black + Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner and Heater; $417

Black + Decker portable air conditioner
Black+Decker/Amazon

Black + Decker estimates that this combination portable air conditioner and heater can accommodate rooms up to 350 square feet, and it even comes with a convenient timer so you never have to worry about forgetting to turn it off before you leave the house. The setup is easy—the attached exhaust hose fits into most standard windows, and everything you need for installation is included. This model sits around four stars on Amazon, and it was also picked by Wirecutter as one of the best values on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mikikin Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $45

Desk air conditioner on Amazon
Mikikin/Amazon

This miniature portable conditioner, which is Amazon's top-selling new portable air conditioner release, is perfect to put on a desk or end table as you work or watch TV during those sweltering dog days. It's currently at a four-star rating on Amazon, and reviewers recommend filling the water tank with a combination of cool water and ice cubes for the best experience.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Juscool Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $56

Juscool portable air conditioner.
Juscool/Amazon

This tiny air conditioner fan, which touts a 4.6-star rating, is unique because it plugs in with a USB cable, so you can hook it up to a laptop or a wall outlet converter to try out any of its three fan speeds. This won't chill a living room, but it does fit on a nightstand or desk to help cool you down in stuffy rooms or makeshift home offices that weren't designed with summer in mind.

Buy it: Amazon

5. SHINCO 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $320

Shinco portable air conditioner
SHINCO/Amazon

This four-star-rated portable air conditioner is meant for rooms of up to 200 square feet, so think of it for a home office or bedroom. It has two fan speeds, and the included air filter can be rinsed out quickly underneath a faucet. There's also a remote control that lets you adjust the temperature from across the room. This is another one where you'll need a window nearby, but the installation kit and instructions are all included so you won't have to sweat too much over setting it up.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Honeywell MN Series Portable Air Conditioner and Dehumidifier; $400

Honeywell air conditioner on Walmart.
Honeywell/Walmart

Like the other units on this list, Honeywell's portable air conditioner also acts as a dehumidifier or a standard fan when you just want some air to circulate. You can cool a 350-square-foot room with this four-star model, and there are four wheels at the bottom that make moving it from place to place even easier. This one is available on Amazon, too, but Walmart has the lowest price right now.

Buy it: Walmart

7. LG 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $699

LG Portable Air Conditioner.
LG/Home Depot

This one won't come cheap, but it packs the acclaim to back it up. It topped Wirecutter's list of best portable air conditioners and currently has a 4.5-star rating on Home Depot's website, with many of the reviews praising how quiet it is while it's running. It's one of the only models you'll find compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and it can cool rooms up to 500 square feet. There's also the built-in timer, so you can program it to go on and off whenever you want.

Buy it: Home Depot

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The Maestro: 10 Facts About Ennio Morricone

Peter Tea via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Peter Tea via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Famed composer Ennio Morricone died on July 6, 2020 at the age of 91, leaving behind a body of work that eclipses the idea of “productivity” itself. It’s not just that Morricone composed thousands of hours of music for hundreds of movies. It’s that he managed to create so many original, indelible moments over and over again, in such a broad variety of genres for so long, without acquiescing to repetition or compromising his creativity. The last, best comfort to take in his absence is the thrilling—and rather intimidating—volume of music he left for us to revisit and, more likely, discover while celebrating his legacy in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

In spite of his seemingly constant presence in the film industry for more than 70 years, there are many details about Morricone's life and career that even longtime fans may not know. In honoring the man and the artist, we’ve collected a handful of facts and figures about the Oscar-winning composer and his vast, incredible, and unforgettable body of work.

1. Ennio Morricone made music for 85 of his 91 years.

Ennio Morricone was encouraged to develop his natural musical abilities at a young age—he created his first compositions at age 6. He was taught music by his father and learned several instruments, but gravitated toward the trumpet. When he was just 12 years old, Morricone enrolled in a four-year program at the prestigious National Academy of St. Cecilia in Rome, where he was born, and completed his studies within six months.

2. Ennio Morricone's career primarily focused on film, television, and radio compositions, but he also worked in popular music.

Morricone’s professional career began in 1950 as an arranger for jazz and pop artists. He helped compose hits for a diverse slate of stars including Nora Orlandi, Mina, Françoise Hardy, Mireille Mathieu, and Paul Anka, whose song “Ogni Volta” (“Every Time”) sold more than 3 million copies worldwide.

Morricone later worked with Pet Shop Boys, k.d. lang, Andrea Bocelli, and Sting. From 1964 to 1980, he was also part of Gruppo di Improvvisazione Consonanza (or “The Group”), an ensemble focused on avant-garde improvisations. Although it was reissued a few years ago, original copies of their 1970 album The Feed-back once fetched as much as $1000 on the collector’s market.

3. Ennio Morricone hit the ground running as a composer—and never slowed down.

Many of Morricone’s first efforts in the movies were as an orchestrator for more established composers, but he quickly joined their ranks. Between 1955 and 1964, when he created his breakthrough score for A Fistful of Dollars, he either orchestrated or composed (or both in some cases) some 28 film scores. During this time, he was already working with Michelangelo Antonioni (L’Avventura), Vittorio De Sica (The Last Judgment), Lucio Fulci (twice!), Lina Wertmüller (I basilischi), and Bernardo Bertolucci (Before the Revolution).

4. Ennio Morricone helped turn A Fistful of Dollars into a worldwide classic.

When Sergio Leone hired Morricone for his first Western, he’d already embarked on an iconoclastic journey, referencing Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. Leone’s initial “concession” was to evoke Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for Howard Hawks’s Rio Bravo in its music. Morricone combined ideas from Tiomkin’s music with an arrangement of folk singer Peter Tevis’s cover of the Woody Guthrie song “Pastures of Plenty” to create what became the opening title theme. The music won the Silver Ribbon Award for Best Score from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists and forged a longtime partnership between Morricone and Leone.

5. During their heyday, Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone worked in a way that was virtually unprecedented outside of musicals.

The music in Leone’s films is at once one of their most distinctive features, and also one of their most inextricable. Later in his career, Morricone explained that he would often compose portions of the music for Leone’s films before shooting began, and then scenes were staged and shot to match the timing and rhythm of the composer’s music. “That’s why the films are so slow,” Morricone joked in 2007. His use of so many then-unconventional instruments, including electric guitars, the mouth harp, and sound effects like gunshots redefined the musical landscape of the genre, while Leone razed its traditional morality tales to explore darker, more complex stories.

6. A Fistful Of Dollars spawned a lifetime of awards.

Morricone won his only competitive Oscar just four years ago, and had previously received an honorary Oscar in 2007. But after that recognition from the Italian National Syndicate of Journalists, he racked up hundreds of nominations and awards from the Motion Picture Academy (five other nominations), the American Film Institute (four), the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (six nominations, three wins), the Grammys (five nominations and four awards including their Grammy Hall of Fame and Trustees Award), and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (a Career Achievement award and a win for his score for Once Upon a Time in America). Somewhat predictably, much of the work he did in “genre” films, even the acclaimed “Spaghetti Westerns,” was marginalized at the time, but went on to be appropriately recognized and reevaluated for its impact and artistry.

7. Ennio Morricone was both a critical and a commercial success.

Morricone's work with Leone raised his profile as a formidable collaborator for filmmakers and gave him worldwide chart success. His score for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly sold more than 2 million copies, and the soundtrack to Once Upon A Time In The West, his fourth collaboration with Leone, sold approximately 10 million copies worldwide. It remains one of the top five best-selling instrumental scores in the world today. To date, Morricone has sold more than 70 million records worldwide.

8. Ennio Morricone’s partnership with Sergio Leone was exemplary, but he wasn’t the composer’s only frequent collaborator.

From A Fistful of Dollars to Once Upon a Time in America, Leone’s final film, he and Morricone always worked together. While working primarily in Italy, he often teamed up with Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Sollima, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Dario Argento, among others. After being courted by Hollywood, Morricone began developing long-term partnerships with American and international filmmakers like Brian De Palma, Warren Beatty, Samuel Fuller, and Roland Joffe. By the late 1970s, he was working with John Boorman and Terrence Malick, and by the 1980s and ‘90s, he was regularly collaborating with John Carpenter, Barry Levinson, George Miller, and Pedro Almodóvar.

Beginning in 1988, Morricone began working with Giuseppe Tornatore on the Oscar-winning Italian film Cinema Paradiso, and subsequently worked on all of Tornatore's other films, including 2016’s The Correspondence and the director's commercials for Dolce & Gabbana.

9. Quentin Tarantino championed Ennio Morricone’s work even before the two of them ever worked together.

Quentin Tarantino’s films are always an exciting pastiche of past and present influences, and he has used cues from Morricone scores in many of his films, beginning with Kill Bill: Volume 1 and 2. Tarantino first hoped to work with the composer on Inglorious Basterds, but when the timing couldn’t be worked out, the filmmaker utilized eight older tracks by Morricone on the soundtrack.

Morricone composed the song “Ancora Qui” for Django Unchained, but it wasn’t until The Hateful Eight that he composed a full score for Tarantino, who still used archival tracks—namely, some unreleased cues from his score for John Carpenter’s The Thing—to expand the film’s musical backdrop. In 2016, Morricone won his first competitive Oscar for his work on Tarantino's film after being nominated six times over the course of nearly 40 years. Morricone also earned an Honorary Oscar in 2007 "For his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music."

10. Morricone’s discography remains an embarrassment of riches—at least, whatever’s left of it.

Though the extent of the loss hasn’t been reported, Morricone’s was among the work reportedly destroyed in the 2008 fire on the Universal backlot where the company’s Music Group stored original recording and master tapes from some of the world’s best-selling artists. But Morricone recorded more than 400 film scores throughout his career and more than 100 classical pieces, not counting the thousands of pieces licensed for use. More and more of them have been restored and re-released digitally, on CD and vinyl. Meanwhile, his work continues to elicit as strong reactions from moviegoers as the images they were originally written to accompany.

Yo-Yo Ma released an album of performances of Morricone pieces in 2004 that sold more than 130,000 copies. His work tested and redefined the boundaries of film composition, what instruments could be used, and how music and imagery could work together to tell stories and generate powerful feelings. And each listen of those recordings, whether of transgressive experimentation, pointed drama, or lush sentimentality, honors Morricone's enormous talent and evokes his irreplaceable spirit.