Hollywood loves a second act. Take Danny A. Abeckaser, the New York City nightlife fixture who hung up his velvet rope to live as a working actor.
For over 15 years, Abeckaser catered to movie stars, models, athletes and musicians as he climbed the ranks from promoter to owner at venues like Avenue and the still-raging Marquee. But his day (or late-night) job cloaked a desire to pursue acting.
“I was doing so well in nightlife but I wasn’t really happy,” Abeckaser told TheWrap. “I would tell anyone who would listen, ‘I don’t really drink that much. I don’t do drugs, I don’t party’ — it was a business and I enjoyed it, but at some point I had to progress to my first love.”
Speaking from the set of Bruce Willis‘ dark bank heist film “Marauders,” where he has a supporting role, Abeckaser revisited his earlier days trying to break into the business — at first by producing, a skill set he developed in the clubs.
“The producing part of it really came from nightlife, because I did so much of that for so long. I produced events, I was a promoter and wound up becoming a club owner. I put my first movie together — it took five years but I got it done,” he said.
That debut movie was “Holy Rollers,” a 2010 comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg as a young Orthodox Jew who starts dealing Ecstasy.
“I was still doing the club stuff. I found this story, I bought the rights from the New York Times,” he said. “Then I decided to hire a writer, attach a director and to go out and get Jesse Eisenberg. It took five years, it gets into Sundance — we sell it, we get distribution. It was beautiful. And then you realize you have to do it all over again.”
Pivoting to showbiz after 15 years in hospitality was never going to be easy. “When you’re making a living, you’re so consumed and its scary to think, ‘Could I actually do something else to make money? Be successful?’ It was very scary to step away, but once I did it was the best decision I ever made,” he said.
To date, Abeckaser’s acting credits include Michael Shannon‘s “The Iceman,” a part in the pilot for Martin Scorsese‘s HBO series “Vinyl,” Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder‘s “The Experimenter,” among others. It’s work he’s grateful for — not that he hasn’t had some close encounters from his old life.
“I remember doing a movie that Stephen Dorff was in, and he looked at me on set and said, ‘What are you doing here? You’re Danny A.!’ And I said, ‘What do you mean? I’m acting,” Abeckaser said.
He concedes that big movie stardom “is kind of impossible, I’ll never be that. It’s not in the cards for me. But being a working actor? That’s a unique position alone. I just want to work.”
“Experimenter” is currently in limited release. “Marauders,” also starring Christopher Meloni, hits theaters in 2016.