I’m a sucker for gangster films, and director Danny A. Abeckaser (First We Take Brooklyn) refreshingly subverts the genre by telling the story through the eyes of state trooper Ed Croswell (David Arquette) in Mob Town. Check out my interview below with Abeckaser as he talked about the challenges of directing as well as acting in his sophomore feature.
Mob Town is the fact based drama about Sgt. Ed Croswell (David Arquette), a state trooper who suspected a suspicious Mafia meeting was set to take place in 1957 New York. Set in the small town of Apalachin, Croswell is in over his head as his fellow police officers believe he’s barking up the wrong tree. Jennifer Esposito (The Boys) co-stars as Natalie, a widow who catches the eye of Croswell and Abeckaser does is Joe Barbara (he’s dubbed “Joe the Barber“), the gangster whose domicile is the setting for the meeting. Jamie-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos) rounds out the ensemble as Joe’s wife Josephine.
Mob Town hits theaters, VOD, and Digital today, and I’ll be giving this movie a positive review on the next episode of CinemAddicts. If you’re a fan of gangster dramas and also appreciate David Arquette as an actor, check this flick out!
I’m sure you get this question on a daily basis, but what is the key to acting and directing a movie?
It’s really hard. When people told me it was hard, I said ‘Yeah I get it, I’m a hard worker.’ But the thing is once I realized this is what I wanted to do and I was going to direct it and play Joe the Barber, I basically put a lot of faith in the other actors to bring it.
So (with the casting), I had to make sure I got the best actors to just be able to work with me so we don’t have to spend a lot of time on actually every scene and continue to shoot it. I’m watching the monitor on one take, so I would do a scene. I would then cut, watch the monitor, watch exactly what I like and what I didn’t like as far as my performance is concerned.
I prepared for the movie for months before. I set up my own shot lists. I knew exactly how I wanted to shoot it. It’s challenging, but I did it. It’s hard, but it’s one of those things where you’ve got to stay focused and really work your butt off.
Mob Town is based on historical fact but the heart and soul of your film centers on Sergeant Ed Croswell’s (David Arquette) journey. Can you talk about why David was perfect for the role?
So David Arquette is the greatest guy in the world. He cannot be any nicer, sweeter – he’s just an amazing human being. Just working with him was a pleasure.
As far as acting is concerned, he’s so good in this. I explained to him when I first spoke to him, I said ‘Look, this guy, Ed Croswell, is your average guy, he’s a good guy, he’s the type of guy who’s hard working and will hold the door for a woman and all you have to do is play him very simple but with a lot of passion and a lot of drive in figuring out what’s going on.’
And honestly, I didn’t have to say anything more. He really ran with it. I didn’t want to make the movie through the eyes of the gangster, I thought that was boring. We’ve seen that a million times. What was interesting to me was this state trooper from a little town stumbles into the biggest meeting in the world! Who is this guy? What’s his life like? What does he do every day? How does this even happen? That was the most important.
Creating a love interest for him gave him more drive and obviously we wanted to tell his story. We decided to bring Natalie (Jennifer Esposito) because he was going to tell secrets to her and that would give the audience the secrets (as well). No one in the police force believed him. So we created that character – there was no love interest with Natalie – in real life he was married. We felt it was an interesting take. So yes it is a love story. He falls in love with her from afar and she finally gives in. She’s got the kids and the husband dies on the job – that whole thing was a great dynamic and we worked really hard on that.
Can you talk about casting Jennifer Esposito in that role?
I’m a New York filmmaker. I’ve known Jennifer for years. When I put together a movie and I’m looking at the characters, I’m saying ‘Who’s right for this?’ I try to go after them. We got lucky. Jennifer looked at it and she responded to it and said ‘Oh, I’d love to do this.’ Same thing with Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Everyone who read the script was really excited. I would like to think it’s a good movie.
And that’s how you make a good movie. People are passionate and excited. I as an actor don’t do movies I don’t really like. Even though I’m not considered a huge movie star (laughs) – if I get a movie I don’t like, I don’t do it. If I’m not excited, I’m not going to give a great performance. I know myself. It doesn’t do anything for me. I need to really be excited and a lot of the actors liked (the Mob Town) script and they were excited to tell the story that’s never been told in a feature film. And you can tell by the performances.
Do you see yourself in 5-10 years directing mob dramas? You also recently worked with Martin Scorsese on The Irishman, and what was that collaboration like?
In answer to your first question, growing up I loved Martin Scorsese. I love gangster movies. I just directed another movie about a basketball player and it has nothing to do with gangster. I love those kind of movies and characters. If the story is right, I’d love to do it. I still think I have my one big gangster movie that I would love to do and showcase it, but I’m just attracted to good stories and scripts. I love telling stories about real people.
Working with Scorsese as an actor was a dream come true. Watching him on set and directing me with Robert De Niro and those guys. I learned so much from him as a director.
My final question to you is can you name one of your favorite films and why does it still speak to you?
I love Forrest Gump. I’m a very sensitive person and I love Forrest. One movie that really resonated with me in my life is The Family Man. I know a lot of people really don’t know what it is – The Family Man (stars) Nicolas Cage. Have you ever seen it?
Yeah I’ve seen it. Brett Ratner directed it if I recall.
Oh my gosh. In my twenties I was running around New York living in a loft. It really touched me – the decisions you make in life, you know? If I decided to stay with this one girlfriend, would I have been married with kids? And would my whole life be different. I just felt like it was one of those movies that resonated with me like ‘Wow, I never thought about what my life would have been like if I made a different decision!’ So I love that film.
My top 5 (include) Goodfellas, The Godfather Part II. I love Back to the Future. I love Grease. There’s so many.
Danny thanks for your time. I really enjoyed your film.
I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
**** Mob Town hits theaters, VOD, and Digital HD today!!