There was just not enough time. That was what came to mind when I heard that the quintessential character actor Vincent Schiavelli had died this week at 57. It was the same thing I thought after interviewing him in 2001 at the San Francisco International Film Festival. He was there with AMERICAN SAINT, a film that got a round of applause after its press screening at 9:30 in the morning. Trust me, that’s no easy feat from that crowd, especially at that hour. We talked about that film, as well as cooking (writing cookbooks is his sideline), folklore, and the mysteries of male bonding.
He was very proud of AMERICAN SAINT, and rightly so, and during the interview, all I could think about was how much there was to ask him about a career that covered decades and that ran the gamut from Bond films to AMADEUS to evocative food writing to directing theater in his beloved adopted home of Sicily.
Directed by Joseph Castelo, AMERICAN SAINT follows Miles (Kevin Corrigan), a would-be actor in New York who has a breakdown of sort while waiting for his big break. Inspired by Milos Foreman casting a film about Jack Kerouac, Miles decides to not only try out for the part, but also to re-enact Kerouac’s iconic trip across America. In that spirit, he chucks his career as a waiter, jumps into a cab driven by Charlie (Schiavelli), who in a leap of faith and/or whimsy and/or fun, agrees to drive Miles to Los Angeles. Part buddy movie, part metaphysical quest, these two characters redefine the road picture.
There could be no better tribute to this courtly gentleman with a sly sense of humor and expansive storytelling talents than to finally release AMERICAN SAINT.