Tony Vitale

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Tony Vitale (born Anthony Neal Vitale; May 24, 1964) is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He is best known for his critically acclaimed film Kiss Me, Guido.

Early Years[edit]

Vitale was born in the Bronx and grew up in a predominately African-American/Hispanic neighborhood. After his father's death in 1978, Vitale began journaling about life in the Bronx. Finding sanctuary in music, Vitale revered the colorblind music of local DJ and hip-hop legend, Afrika Bambaatta, then establishing himself as a DJ while attending Christopher Columbus High School and Iona College.

After many trips to underground dance clubs in New York City, Vitale came to the realization that there were two very different worlds that patronized the clubs, but didn't co-mingle. "In the club scene, both communities, gay and straight, co-existed but never really talked to one another. I had friends from both communities and I thought, if both these guys could talk to each other, that could be some interesting stuff."[1]

Vitale took a job at Club Med in the mid-1980s, and befriended his gay boss. "He had the most dynamic personality of anybody I ever met, and I wanted to be like him, but as straight guy," Vitale said.[2] The two quickly became best friends, and because of their conflicting backgrounds, people described them as "The Odd Couple."[2] One night at a group dinner someone commented, "It would be great if somebody made a sitcom out of you two,"[2] which sparked an idea in Vitale's head for a television show.

Film & Television Career[edit]

After traveling the world as a DJ with Club Med, Vitale returned to New York and studied film at New York University whilst working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. After the death of his mother in 1990, Vitale began working in the film industry as a location assistant, eventually working as a second unit director for the opening shot of Robert De Niro’s, A Bronx Tale.

Having stuck his foot in the door of the film and television world in the early 1990s, Vitale pitched the concept of "a gay guy and a straight forced guy to live together" to executives as a vehicle for Andrew Dice Clay and Harvey Fierstein, but he was told that a lead gay character on a television series would never fly.[3] Several weeks later, Vitale happened to be watching The Arsenio Hall Show when Fierstein came out and announced the show as his upcoming project, with Fierstein playing opposite Andrew Dice Clay.[3] Furious that his idea had been stolen, Vitale quickly scrambled to get a copyright on the story. The result was 96 Greenwich Street,[3] a one-act play which was first staged at The Village Gate in New York City as part of a festival of short plays.[4] Vitale received a positive response, expanded it to a 2-act play in 1993 and turned it into a screenplay for a film in 1994.[1] The same year, Kevin Smith's Clerks had been a highly successful film made on a micro-budget, and Vitale set out to make his film the same way.

In 1996, Vitale wrote and directed the feature film, Kiss Me, Guido which became an official entry in the 1997 Sundance Film Festival and was released by Paramount Pictures to favorable reviews the same year. "Comedy this lighthearted is hardly a staple of the independent film scene, but Kiss Me, Guido has an appealing indie flavor." [1] Reviews were generally positive, but several critics picked up on its intended television origins. Roger Ebert wrote, "Like a 30-minute sitcom, it acts like you already know all the characters and are just happy to have fresh dialogue. It's as if the deeper issues have been settled in previous episodes. And yet, also like a sitcom, it's kind of fun as it slides past. Here is a movie that was born to play on television."[5] Vitale again tried to get it turned into a TV series, but it wasn't until after Will & Grace had become a hit that television executives would finally take him seriously.[6] Vitale created the sitcom Some of My Best Friends for the CBS Network with co-creator Marc Cherry, executive producer and creator of Desperate Housewives. The series ran for eight episodes and was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series/GLAAD Media Award.

Vitale's second film Very Mean Men won the 2000 Seattle International Film Festival: New American Cinema Award. The film starred Oscar winners Martin Landau and Louise Fletcher along with Matthew Modine, Ben Gazzara, Charles Durning and Burt Young. Vitale also directed, One Last Ride starring Pat Cupo, Chazz Palminteri and Robert Davi, and was Executive Produced by Oscar Winner, Ang Lee. Vitale also Co-Produced the feature film Man From Elysian Fields' starring Andy Garcia, Mick Jagger, James Coburn, and Anjelica Huston.

Upcoming Work[edit]

Vitale's latest film, Life's A Beach stars Christopher Walken, Rutger Hauer, Robert Wagner, and Morgan Fairchild and will be released in 2012.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Maslin, Janet (July 1997). "Kiss Me Guido, It's Not For The Straight and Narrow". New York Times. 

External links[edit]