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Toronto 2012: Woody Allen and John Turturro, pimp and hooker?

September 07, 2012|By Steven Zeitchik
  • John Turturro
John Turturro (First Run Features )

TORONTO--It's been a long time since Woody Allen acted in a film he didn’t direct. It’s probably even longer—as in never—since he’s played a pimp.

The 76-year-old bespectacled one will do just that in “Fading Gigolo,” a movie conceived and written by John Turturro. Turturro will direct and—of course—play the hooker. The johns? Those would be Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Paradis and Sharon Stone.

There are plenty of highly touted Hollywood movies at the Toronto International Film Festival playing to the eager masses and media. But somewhat below the radar are a number of not-yet-shot projects, like “Fading Gigolo,” that are seeking attention within the industry as their principals talk them up to distributors. (A poster at the festival shows roses strategically covering the lower half of a naked body. It's not Turturro's. We don't think.)

On Friday morning, Turturro took a break from peddling the film to stop to chat with The Times about his strange project. Turturro has directed before, but it’s usually movies set in a world he (presumably) knows a little bit more about, like 2010's “Passione,” about music in his ancestral Naples, Italy.

“Gigolo” is a comedy, the 55-year-old said, “but tender, sweet." Turturro’s character offers his skills to women in various New York social subsets, the comedy emerging from the attendant culture clashes. (Paradis, for instance, plays a Hasidic woman who decides to hire his services.)

If the story of the movie is strange enough, its back story is even weirder. Turturro woke up one day and had an idea to play a male prostitute. He told his barber, who was Woody Allen’s barber, who told Allen, who liked the idea and wanted to play his pimp.

Pretty soon they were going back and forth on the script drafts Turturro was writing—Allen, needless to say, didn’t love the first attempts—and the “Midnight in Paris” director was editing those drafts. (Their collaboration also resulted in Turturro directing the 2011 Broadway triptych “Relatively Speaking,” for which Allen had written a segment.)

Turturro said he was driven to make the movie because the idea was funny, and because he felt it would, er, add something to the canon of cinema.

“It’s a genre [the prostitution comedy] you don’t see much of, and when you do, maybe with the exception of “Midnight Cowboy,” you only really see women as the hookers. Why not men?”

Turturro and Allen begin shooting “Fading Gigolo” this fall.

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Toronto 2012: Brian De Palma applies his passion

Spike Lee's 'Old Boy' finds a home

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