“Write what you know,” is the sage advice usually attributed to Mark Twain. And comedian extraordinaire, Sebastian Maniscalco, has made a very successful career taking it literally. Although his standup act has brought him fame, his latest project, the autobiographical film “About My Father,” is the passion project he says his father has “been living 77 years for.”
Although much of the plot to the comedy film that Maniscalco both stars in and cowrote is fictional, what is hit-the-nail-on-the-head true is his relationship with his father, played in the movie by screen legend Robert De Niro.
“My relationship with my father’s pretty accurate. My father’s, you know, stubborn, hardheaded, judgmental, you know, that seems to be true to form,” Maniscalco told TheWrap — not in a “curse that man” way, but an “I love the old guy” way.
“I was just writing about what I know, and I just know that Italian and Italian culture, we’re very opinionated. We never really shy away from speaking our true feelings. And there’s generally no filter,” Maniscalco said. “I know that to be a fact that with my father, just how he communicates with me is extremely honest and sometimes a little bit harsh. I don’t know any other way. It’s like growing up, we were either laughing or crying. It just seemed to be how we communicated with one another.”
That relationship is something that Maniscalco says he “exploits” in his standup but wanted to give more context to in a longer form.
“I thought: Hey, I want to exploit my father’s relationship and my relationship. I do it in my standup, but in a film, you could give it more of a runway, a ramp and kind of see both sides of the coin. And then I thought it would be great to kind of have those two cultures — upper-class and working middle-class — clash. I thought [that] would make a good combination for comedy.”
And it does. The film centers around Sebastian (Maniscalco) who is encouraged by his fiancée (Leslie Bibb) to bring his immigrant, hairdresser father, Salvo (De Niro), to a weekend get-together with her super-rich and exceedingly eccentric family (Kim Cattrall, Anders Holm, Brett Dier, David Rasche). The weekend develops into what can only be described as a culture clash, leaving Sebastian and Salvo to discover that the great thing about family is everything about family.
When Maniscalco first mentioned to his dad that De Niro was playing him on the big screen, he didn’t believe it.
“I come from a negative family, so we always think the worst,” Maniscalco said. “So when I told him [De Niro] signed on to play him, of course, my father didn’t believe it. But I think when De Niro called him and wanted him to come down to Oklahoma to do some script analysis, I think that’s when it sunk in for my father… Never in a million years did I think Robert De Niro would be playing my dad in a movie. I mean, it’s Robert De Niro, a guy that we watched growing up as a family. It was part of our upbringing.”
And when it all set in, the real-life Salvo loved it so much so that it may have gone to his head a little.
“He had some minor surgery and is in the hospital right now,” Maniscalco said. “I just talked to him and I go, ‘What’s going on?’ He goes, ‘A nurse came in; she didn’t even recognize me. Could you believe it?’ I go, ‘Recognize you? What the hell do you–?’ I took him on the press tour in Chicago, in New York and the premiere party. He’s been living 77 years for this.”
You can watch our interview with Maniscalco in the video above.
“About My Father” is currently in theaters.