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Steve Buscemi: The Face of Indie Cinema

By Stephen Applebaum from The Independent
Read the full article here.

“Eventually enrolling at Manhattan’s Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute two years after he left high school, Steve Buscemi studied acting by day and did stand-up comedy at night.”

Steve Buscemi was never going to be regarded as one of Hollywood’s beautiful people, or find regular work as a romantic lead. But it is his less-than-perfect appearance – his unvarnished ordinariness, if you will – that is a major part of the New Yorker’s appeal.

In an era where even politicians are vainly succumbing to airbrushing, he feels authentic; and even though we might not always like his often jagged, weak or weaselly characters, we can at least empathise with their flaws, vulnerabilities and insecurities, precisely because Buscemi feels like one of us. As his friend and sometime collaborator Jim Jarmusch observed: “In the characters he plays and in his own life, he’s representing that part of us all that’s not on top of the world.”

Eventually enrolling at Manhattan’s Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute two years after he left high school, he studied acting by day and did stand-up comedy at night. Buscemi was good enough to get a slot at New York’s prestigious comedy club, The Improv, but realised that he wanted more to be an actor. “I liked working with other people rather than being up there alone.”

His first screen job came courtesy of Eric Mitchell, who cast him in The Way it Is. But it was his third film, Parting Glances, in which he played a dying HIV-positive rock musician, that got the ball rolling, Buscemi says. (“The first couple of films didn’t get released until after Parting Glances.”)

While working with the likes of Jim Jarmusch, Tom DiCillo, Alexandre Rockwell and the Coen brothers turned him into a mainstay of American independent cinema, Buscemi has avoided pigeonholing by also appearing in more mainstream fare, including the ludicrous Michael Bay-directed Armageddon and Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Con Air.

“I just go where the interesting work is,” he says. “That has been primarily in independent film, but I’m certainly not opposed to doing more commercial work.”

The bigger paydays that come with commercial vehicles also give him the financial wherewithal to be able to direct his own films, such as 2007’s Interview, starring himself and Sienna Miller. “It helps to know that later I can do a bigger film and be okay.”

If truth be told, one look at Buscemi’s ever-expanding CV, which now features a recurring role in HBO’s Martin Scorsese-generated show Boardwalk Empire, suggests that he is probably doing a lot better than just “okay”. So what does he think of Jarmusch’s quote about him not being on top of the world? I ask.

“I think it’s good not to be on top of the world,” he says, sounding like the anti-James Cameron.

“It must be lonely being on top. I’d rather be with everybody else.”

-Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi is an alumnus of The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute®. Learn more about the programs and classes available here. Apply here.

Winter 202111/1 Update: Online

The Lee Strasberg Institute announces that Winter 2021 term classes will begin with fully online instruction, per State & Local guidance.

Click here for Winter online classes in New York City. | Click here for Winter online classes for Los Angeles.

The Institute is also offering new short-term online only classes. See Online Acting

Please note that the State of California color-coded reopening system does not permit any in-person instruction until the County is at least in the red tier (25% capacity). Los Angeles remains in purple.