Parent chat! Robert De Niro asked Sebastian Maniscalco‘s dad for tips before playing him in the upcoming movie About My Father.
The comedian, 49, said that his dad, Salvo, didn’t totally believe the Oscar winner, 79, would be taking on the role until he got a phone call from the man himself. “Robert called my father and said, ‘I’d like you to come to Oklahoma where I’m filming a movie, because I want you to help me and analyze this script and maybe teach me some Italian and how you behave,’” Maniscalco exclusively told Us Weekly ahead of the film’s release. “Then I think my dad started to really sense that this was actually happening.”
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The Heat actor stars as a fictionalized version of Salvatore in About My Father, in which Maniscalco plays himself. The comedy follows the Chicago native as he attempts to tell his traditional-minded father about his plans to propose to his girlfriend, Ellie (Leslie Bibb).
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The stand-up comic had previously met De Niro when they starred in 2019’s The Irishman, but that didn’t make his involvement in the movie a sure thing. The Godfather Part II actor joined the project after a producer sent him the script.
“It’s not like I had Robert De Niro’s number,” Maniscalco quipped. “He enjoyed [the screenplay], and next thing you know, we were in Alabama shooting it. I think we wrote it about six or seven years ago, and here we are talking about a movie [where] my father’s being played by Robert De Niro. Something I never thought would be in the cards for me.”
The Taxi Driver star is himself a dad of seven, so he had some advice for his costar about tapping into the father-son relationship depicted in the film. In one scene, Maniscalco needed to “get emotional,” but the feelings weren’t coming.
“I talked to De Niro and I tell him, ‘Listen, I need your help here. I ain’t getting there,’” the Spinning Gold star told Us. “And what he told me was to think about my dad, think about how he came [to the United States] when he was 15 years old not knowing the language and started a life for himself. And look at where you’re at, who you are now.”
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Maniscalco took his costar’s words to heart — and the tip paid off. “I started to get emotional and I started to use that coming into the scene,” the Cruise star explained. “I haven’t done enough acting where I was able to get there on my own, and he definitely helped me and guided me through that scene.”
Earlier this month, De Niro revealed that he and girlfriend Tiffany Chen recently welcomed their first child together, daughter Gia — his seventh. The Raging Bull star first became a father in 1976, welcoming son Raphael, now 46, with then-wife Diahnne Abbott. The Meet the Parents actor also adopted Abbott’s daughter from a previous relationship, Drena, now 51. De Niro later welcomed twins Julian and Aaron, now 27, with ex Toukie Smith, as well as son Elliot, 25, and daughter Helen, 11, with ex-wife Grace Hightower.
Maniscalco, for his part, shares daughter Serafina, 6, and son Caruso, 3, with wife Lana Gomez, whom he wed in 2013. The Tag star told Us that his visits to North Carolina with Gomez’s side of the family partially inspired About My Father.
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“I felt like a fish out of water,” the Green Book actor told Us. “Country club living [was] not how I grew up. I thought there was morsels of comedy within this experience that I exploit in a movie. … I come from a working-class, middle-class family. She comes from an upper-class family, and we’ve always had these differences in how we live our life, and ultimately, in the end, we love each other, but there’s this different way of maneuvering through life that we have and that they have.”
While Maniscalco is excited for About My Father‘s premiere, he has no plans to give up his bread and butter: stand-up comedy. “Stand-up is the best,” the Somewhere in Queens star explained. “You can’t beat it. I’ll always do stand-up comedy, and the moviemaking and the TV-making came out of wanting to take a break from stand-up, because you can’t tour year after year after year.”
About My Father hits theaters on Friday, May 26.
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With reporting by Leanne Aciz Stanton