The Remaking of Steve Buscemi
May 26, 2020 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Steve Buscemi has seen it all. He was hit by a car and a bus as a kid, was once stabbed in a bar fight, volunteered as a firefighter during 9/11, and somewhere along the way became one of the most accomplished film actors of his generation. And then tragedy struck: In 2019, Buscemi lost his wife of over 30 years. In a rare interview, Hollywood's most beloved misfit opens up about anxiety, loss, and the hard work of getting through it all. [SL GQ]
posted by ellieBOA (50 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
Steve Fucking Buscemi!

“We used to joke that he was our generation's Don Knotts, but he's more Jimmy Stewart in a way,” says the independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who has been friends with Buscemi for more than 35 years and cast him in several projects. “He portrays humanity.”

posted by chavenet at 9:09 AM on May 26 [20 favorites]


Then he remembers a bit that Andres used to do, when she would send in her submission for the [New Yorker cartoon] caption contest but it would always be the same joke: “Does the pope shit in the woods?”

“It actually works for a lot of them,” he points out.
In the future, everyone will have their own personal New Yorker cartoon caption that actually works for a lot of them.
posted by Etrigan at 9:13 AM on May 26 [19 favorites]


It seems impossible to me that he could have been a firefighter for half a decade before he was an actor, because I always remember him in movies -- but Reservoir Dogs, his first BIG thing, was in 1992?

He is always so at-ease on screen, I can't recall ever seeing him in a role where he is still learning the craft of acting.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:32 AM on May 26 [5 favorites]


I would love to see/know how Phoebe Waller-Bridge reacted to that anecdote about her.
posted by supercres at 9:43 AM on May 26 [2 favorites]




Aww, he sounds like a real mensch.
posted by latkes at 9:46 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]


Now I'm always going to think of him as Steve Hit-by-a-car-and-a-Buscemi
posted by Effervescent cuboid at 9:50 AM on May 26 [32 favorites]


It seems impossible to me that he could have been a firefighter for half a decade before he was an actor, because I always remember him in movies -- but Reservoir Dogs, his first BIG thing, was in 1992?

He is always so at-ease on screen, I can't recall ever seeing him in a role where he is still learning the craft of acting.


Reservoir Dogs was his 27th movie role along with a ton of TV work so he was a veteran by that time.
posted by octothorpe at 9:51 AM on May 26 [5 favorites]


I think it's worth saying that doing a gay movie in 1986 was a huge and hugely exceptional choice. This was before you would get any kind of woke accolades for this choice. It was considered a complete non-starter for any actor with ambition and no one applauded it. I am guessing, reading this interview, that Buscemi had lots of gay men and men with AIDS in his East Village artists social circle so I imagine Parting Glances did have personal resonance for him - maybe that was his motivation or maybe he just wasn't a homophobe .
posted by latkes at 9:52 AM on May 26 [30 favorites]


Great article. And now I know how to correctly pronounce Buscemi. I've been doing it wrong all this time.
posted by sundrop at 9:56 AM on May 26


He is part of what made the 90s so great for movies (and also is Ghost World the most 90s movie not to come out in the 90s?)
posted by kokaku at 10:01 AM on May 26 [10 favorites]


One of my favorite actors; Boardwalk Empire is one of the few shows I’ve watched in its entirety largely because he was so good in it.

I know it’s GQ, but it was kind of incongruous seeing his pictures captioned with the prices of his outfits.
posted by TedW at 10:18 AM on May 26 [10 favorites]


And now I know how to correctly pronounce Buscemi. I've been doing it wrong all this time.

More precisely, now you know how to correctly pronounce Steve Buscemi. I know a family of Buscemis who pronounce it "byoo-SHEH-mee" (and therefore insist that they are not related to "that guy").
posted by Etrigan at 10:21 AM on May 26


He does the narration for the Eastern State Penitentiary guided tour here in Philadelphia. It's like you're hanging out with him as you wander through the halls! Good stuff. He's a national treasure.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:25 AM on May 26 [15 favorites]


For a likable, empathetic man, he's incredible at playing unlikable characters.

The only "regular dude" I can think of him playing is Donnie.
posted by bonehead at 10:37 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]


He’s been in Park Slope since the early nineties? Dang, that’s when I was there. I saw John Turturro walking around and Andrea Dworkin in a bookstore, but not SB. Bummer.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:47 AM on May 26


He was always great on The Adventures of Pete and Pete, which desperately needs an oral history or something as there are so many interesting things to come out of it.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:52 AM on May 26 [22 favorites]


Occasionally discarding tchotchkes is nothing compared with his current cleaning project, which is more a one-man archaeological excavation of his life. The house feels too big for him these days, so he's considering renting out a floor or even moving, which would be a huge blow to neighborhood morale. Mostly Buscemi wants to ensure that his son, Lucian, a musician in Los Angeles, won't have to inherit so much of his “junk.”

“He'd be the only one when I'm gone,” Buscemi says matter-of-factly. “It's him that's going to have to go through everything.”
As an only child who had to clear out a parent's home after their death, I see this as another example of the kindness people apparently keep mentioning about him.
posted by Lexica at 10:53 AM on May 26 [63 favorites]


I think it's worth saying that doing a gay movie in 1986 was a huge and hugely exceptional choice.

And he isn't even the main character in it, but he still managed to leave a huge impression. No small roles...

I'd have never thought Nikita Khrushchev could be played by him, from what little black-and-white footage I saw in middle school during duck-and-cover sessions, but then Khrushchev is probably a blank slate for nearly everyone. He definitely seemed to have fun with the role.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:56 AM on May 26 [5 favorites]


And now I know how to correctly pronounce Buscemi. I've been doing it wrong all this time.

Me too! Just realised it’s pronounced as if it was an Italian word.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:05 AM on May 26


A friend of mine was a set PA on Trees Lounge and invited me to the small and low-key wrap party. I danced with Buscemi twice, and can confirm that he's an excellent dancer. One of the dances was a jitterbug!

His wife was very nice, also. I'm sorry to hear that she's passed away.
posted by droplet at 11:13 AM on May 26 [13 favorites]


Steve Buscemi is one of those people who, without looking it up, could be maybe about 55 years old, or 70. Turns out he's right in the middle, and younger than Jerry Seinfeld.
posted by rhizome at 11:32 AM on May 26 [2 favorites]


I'd have never thought Nikita Khrushchev could be played by him

Death of Stalin was a revelation.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:36 AM on May 26 [8 favorites]


I'm 54 and I often feel like life treats me the way Steve gets treated in a lot of movies. I think that's part of his secret.
posted by valkane at 11:37 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]


He was hit by a car and a bus as a kid, was once stabbed in a bar fight,

I knew a kid who was hit by a car more than once before he was ten -- don't know about subsequent bar fights or career accomplishments as we lost touch when my family moved west. He lived near a main road with a big playground area just the other side, but the nearest proper pedestrian crossings were blocks away. So he took chances. As did I when hanging with him until my parents found out about it. He did teach me one important thing which is, "... you've gotta stop talking when you're crossing the road, just forget about everything but getting to the other side."

Words to live by.
posted by philip-random at 11:47 AM on May 26 [13 favorites]


The only "regular dude" I can think of him playing is Donnie.

I'd say Chet from Barton Fink is also a regular dude :)

For a likable, empathetic man, he's incredible at playing unlikable characters.

I feel like even when his characters are shit-bags, there's usually still something human about them that makes them a little bit relatable/understandable. Take Carl Showalter in Fargo: he's a greasy little shit, but also, he has terrible luck and everyone treats him like garbage, so you can sort of see why. His characters (especially in Coen bros. films) are like walking examples of Murphy's Law.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:01 PM on May 26 [7 favorites]



The only "regular dude" I can think of him playing is Donnie.

you say, regular dude, others say ghost
posted by philip-random at 12:13 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


This was a great article, thanks for posting it.

I hadn't realized until about a week ago that Buscemi has a brief part in Pulp Fiction as well - he's the Buddy Holly waiter in Jack Rabbit Slims.
posted by doop at 12:23 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Filmography (from Wikipedia)

There's even something disturbingly charming about his role in Con Air...
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:29 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


He's the subject of a Who Do You Think You Are? episode. He and his immediate family seem like the most regular of folk. The family history is mostly kind of sad - depression, war and communicable disease leaving heavy marks.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:03 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


doing a gay movie in 1986 was a huge and hugely exceptional choice

Somebody should produce a John Waters biopic for the sole purpose of casting Buscemi as Waters.
posted by mikeand1 at 1:25 PM on May 26 [21 favorites]


Somebody should produce a John Waters biopic for the sole purpose of casting Buscemi as Waters.

But why downgrade from one of the all-time great Christmas cards?
posted by Etrigan at 1:33 PM on May 26 [9 favorites]


I saw John Turturro walking around and Andrea Dworkin in a bookstore

I read this as: I saw John Turturro walking around with Andrea Dworkin in a bookstore and my mind was briefly blown.
posted by latkes at 2:15 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


@Halloween Jack, I worked at Booklink and The Scouting Party, one of which is where you probably saw Andrea, since she was a regular at both.

My best friends at the time lived in Steve's brownstone - it used to be the old republican's club of Park Slope (if i remember correctly) and the place was big and amazing (pool table came with the rental).

I met Steve and Jo once or twice and they were super nice, regular people. Their son Lucian gave my buddy the chicken pox (he makes it for a funny anecdote).

We had some legendary parties at that spot. I really miss that neighborhood when it had some rough edges (Jason from 13th street, I'm looking at you).
posted by BigBrooklyn at 2:18 PM on May 26 [8 favorites]


This is a nice article about someone who seems like a great guy, but every time I read something on GQ or something similar, I get this weird whiplash between the article content and the styled photos listing single items of clothing costing literally thousands of dollars. Is it just me? It's so weird.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:08 PM on May 26 [6 favorites]


Steve Buscemi is one of those people who, without looking it up, could be maybe about 55 years old, or 70.

And he's just a skateboard and a MUSIC⚡BAND T-shirt away from playing a high school teenager.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:11 PM on May 26 [26 favorites]


The price details strike me as "weird, but expected from GQ", but the detail I *did* notice and like in that was amidst all those thousand-dollar pants and the like: socks, $4, Uniqlo. There's only so far a guy can go, I guess.
posted by CrystalDave at 3:11 PM on May 26 [7 favorites]


Death of Stalin was a revelation.

It was cast perfectly.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:34 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


Well, none of those clothes are his (you can tell from the caption regarding his sunglasses, which didn't list a price and instead something like "provided by Buscemi"), so that doesn't make it feel quite as weird. I just hope he gets to keep the spiffy clothes he's told to wear.
posted by el io at 3:51 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


you've gotta stop talking when you're crossing the road

That has great rhythm. Which Buscemi character would say it?
posted by clew at 4:31 PM on May 26


My favorite living actor. Seymour from Ghost World and Carl Showalter from Fargo are his best roles ever. Stellar director as well - Trees Lounge is hard to beat.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:18 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


you've gotta stop talking when you're crossing the road

That has great rhythm. Which Buscemi character would say it?
posted by clew at 7:31 PM on May 26 [+] [!]


Nikita Krushchev, in the sequel to The Death of Stalin, either to JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis or after banging his shoe at the UN.
posted by Luminiferous Ether at 5:41 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


And now I know how to correctly pronounce Buscemi. I've been doing it wrong all this time.

More precisely, now you know how to correctly pronounce Steve Buscemi. I know a family of Buscemis who pronounce it "byoo-SHEH-mee" (and therefore insist that they are not related to "that guy").


I saw an interview once where the interviewer asked something like, “But isn’t ‘boo-sheh-mee’ the proper Italian pronunciation?” and he replied, “Hey, my Dad pronounces it ‘byoo-seh-mee’ so I thought it was a good compromise.”
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:50 PM on May 26


I second that Steve Buscemi episode of Who Do You Think You Are linked above. It's my all-time favorite episode and I can't recommend it highly enough. It focuses mainly on a great-great-grandfather who fought in the Civil War and it should be turned into a movie. It is also a cautionary tale for what life is like when there is no social safety net. I will never forget his reaction on seeing his great-grandmother's name in a census as living in a household - age 11 - servant.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:44 PM on May 26 [5 favorites]


In the future, everyone will have their own personal New Yorker cartoon caption that actually works for a lot of them.

"Christ, what an asshole."
posted by bendy at 9:00 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Hopefully I'm not stating the obvious, but "Does the Pope shit in the woods?" is a Steve Martin joke, a portmanteau of the snappy answers to stupid questions: "Does a bear shit in the woods?" and "Is the Pope Catholic?"
posted by rhizome at 9:58 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


Funny, I’m just about to watch The Death of Stalin because people on twitter were talking about his role in it.
posted by gucci mane at 11:11 PM on May 26 [4 favorites]


I’d say Chet from Barton Fink is a regular dude

It’s not Chet; the character is specific that Chet! is his name.

As an only child who had to clear out a parent's home after their death, I see this as another example of the kindness people apparently keep mentioning about him.

Indeed. I am the only child of my mom and about ten years ago she moved from a sprawling Victorian house to a one-bedroom apartment which will, I suppose, ease the difficult task someday. To give a sense of the size of the old place, when she moved she asked me about whether I wanted (among other things) a lamp.

“Maybe. Which lamp are you getting rid of?”

“Well, I have nineteen.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:17 AM on May 27 [5 favorites]


Thanks for posting that! I always loved his acting (who wouldn't?!) and now I'm adding him to my list of people I wish were my close friends.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:58 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned Buscemi's greatest film role -- Happy Franks in The Impostors.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 4:35 PM on May 27


« Older Beishan Broadcast Station: wall of (anti-communist...   |   ancient seafloors Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments