Mob Town is the latest feature from director Danny A. Abeckaser. The film was inspired by the real-life Mob summit, which was held in upstate New York during the 1950s. David Arquette takes the lead as Edgar Cromwell, the police offer who exposed the summit and brought the mafia to public recognition. Danny A. Abeckaser holds the supporting role of Joseph Barbara, the mobster who hosted the meeting. The film also features P.J. Byrne, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, and Jennifer Esposito and is now out to watch via VOD.
Can you tell me about how you got the film up and running, from concept to execution?
So I called my lawyer and said, “Hey, I’m looking for a script, something cool or interesting, if you see anything let me know.” He calls me one day and says “You know there’s a script that one of my clients has, it’s called The Sit Down, it’s about the famous Apalachin meeting.” I said, “Alright, send it, I’m interested”. I read it and it was nothing like I hoped. It was so different, it was all like gangster stuff like all about what the gangsters talked about and it was grim in a way where it was like on the nose, kind of like, very typical gangster talk. And, I was like, ah I’m not interested in this but the more I thought about it, I’m interested in the story. I really like this Apalachin meeting but if I can get a writer to do a rewrite and do it the way I want to see it through the eyes of the cop, then I’m interested. So that’s what we did. And, once we got the script to where we wanted it, we decided to go shoot it and we made it last year, a year and a half ago now.
What was the casting process like for Mob Town? I read that you cast your friends and for this film, that you personally called everyone to be a part of it, which I think is very cool. Did any cast members know each other beforehand or were you the common factor of everyone meeting?
I think I might have been the common factor. I mean, I know David Arquette personally for fifteen years, I’ve known Jamie-Lynn for fifteen years, I’ve known Jennifer Esposito for fifteen years, I have known Bo Dietl for years, I just met P.J. Byrne. I was in Wolf of Wall Street, in a small little role, and he was in that, I met him there, so I knew him a couple of years. I knew Nick Cardero, I did a movie with him, I saw him on Broadway. Yeah, I called everyone and they met through me. It was awesome. I mean, I wish you could continue to make movies, but I’m running out of people that I know.
Photo courtesy of Saban Films
How did you originally meet Jamie Lynn Sigler, the iconic Meadow Soprano? You two had great chemistry and were truly hilarious together.
I’ve known her for years since she was a kid. She was like seventeen, eighteen when I met her. She lived in New York shooting Sopranos and just meeting her, running around. Two young people, young kids in New York. I was not in the business yet back then. I was an actor as a kid, you know, I did a few things as an actor as a kid. We met, and then, we stayed in touch and then when I had this script, I was like “I can’t think of anyone else to play my wife besides you”, she was like “I love you, I’m going to do it”. That’s it.
The cars in the film were immaculate. That along with David Arquette being quite the gearhead leads me to believe you may be one as well. Are you into cars or was it purely for the plot?
I’m not really a big car guy. I have a nice car now because of personal reasons. I’m not a big car guy. David is a huge car guy. Those cars were very expensive and the people that owned these cars loved these here cars more than they loved their kids. So, like getting them to come to set and paying them and having them let us use it, was a big part of the movie.
What was the most challenging part of principal photography? Any big takeaways that you'll bring to your next film?
You know the biggest challenge was to get the movie to look right and get the feel of 1957 with the cars, the wardrobe, the set design. It was so difficult, you know we’re shooting a small movie on location, having to avoid modern cars and modern people and crowds, that was the hardest part. I learned so much. I learned get coverage, I learned always use drones, I learned try to get at least one or two days of like cranes, try to get a little bit more extras and so many things you learn on every movie. But, I think we did a great job with Mob Town. People really seem to like it and I’m really excited about it.
Photo courtesy of Saban Films
How does being an actor enhance your work as a director? Do you prefer one over the other?
You know, I started off as an actor, and now, I’m directing as well. It just helps me as a director knowing. The one thing I always was scared of as an actor, is you never if you’re doing a good job. There’s certain directors they don’t go “Hey, good job, buddy, let’s do that a little different, but let’s do that again” and you’re just so insecure. So I try as a director to always compliment them. The first thing you do is compliment them. “Great job!” “That was great, let’s do that again, let’s slow it down and remember” and putting them into place or where he needs to be. Once you do that, the actor really feels comfortable.
What films/directors have had the biggest impact on your filmmaking and why?
My favorite movies are not necessarily the movies that I think are the best movies. My favorite movie’s called The Family Man but I related to it so much. I like to think of myself as someone whose very sensitive. It really touched me somewhere. I tried to bring that to my movie, I remember how it made me feel. And I try to bring that sensitivity to everything. I wanted to include Jennifer Esposito’s character to Ed, so people, especially women, will feel for him and root for him, he’s a good guy. He’s willing to come in and take care of this woman, with her three kids, a widower. I feel like it’s important to have the character relate to the audience. So a lot of the movies that I love like Forrest Gump, these are just characters that I fell in love with, I feel they’re just good people. When you have a character like Ed Croswell, you want your audience to fall in love with him. You want people to go “He’s a good guy, I’m rooting for him, I want him to be right”. Those are things that I learned. The gangster movies, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, The Godfather taught me family, maturity and how to approach the characters and not overact. If you watch Mob Town, I don’t like them doing the “Boom, Ba” thing, like “Hey, what you doing”. No one talks like that, they talk normal but they just happen to be bad people. They’re criminals.
Lastly, what's next for you? More acting, directing or both?
I think I’m going to take a little break for a minute. I have a movie that I’m acting in called The Irishman, I have a little role in there. I have Mob Town coming out. I directed a movie called Black Death that is coming out this summer. I’m going to shoot a movie at the end of January. So I think I’m going to take a little break and maybe do something in the summertime. Take like four or five months off and get my life together.