Vincent Curatola plays a great mobster, and for all you aspiring actors out there, here's his secret: "I always approach these roles with the idea that I win," Curatola explains. "If I'm going to win and I know I'm going to win, if my character is that powerful of a guy, then I don't need to go out there and start shrugging my shoulders, pointing my fingers at people or raising my voice. When you look somebody in the eye and tell them exactly how you're going to change their life, and not to their benefit, and you don't blink and you keep your voice very low, believe me, it gets across."
Curatola, who was born and raised in Englewood and lives with his wife, Maureen, in Upper Saddle River, perfected the art of mobster-dom during his long run on The Sopranos. From 1999 to 2007, he portrayed Johnny Sack, a formidable Mafioso and, depending on the day, friend and/or rival to the show's main character, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). So associated with Sack and The Sopranos is Curatola that even five years since Sack succumbed to cancer and The Sopranos faded to black, the actor can't go anywhere without someone engaging him in conversation, cowering in mock fear or asking to shake his hand.
"I get all of that and 'Johnny!'" Curatola says. "I'm getting a lot of 'Mr. Curatola' lately, so maybe I'm getting older. But it's every day. It's no matter where I go. And it's an incredibly gratifying feeling. The biggest question I get is, 'Will there be a Sopranos movie?' I always defer on that one and say, 'You've got to ask David Chase.' I don't think there will be a film. I don't see why there'd be a need for a film. But I do get that question each and every day."
The show long behind him, Curatola keeps busy with a variety of endeavors personal and professional. He and Maureen, for fun, buy and sell properties, which isn't surprising considering Curatola spent years in the concrete and masonry business before pursuing his career as an actor. They also spend as much time as possible with their son, Ryan, and his wife, Danielle, who live a few miles away in Park Ridge and have "blessed" them with two "very, very cute" grandsons for them to dote on. Also, Curatola is on the foundation board at Hackensack University Medical Center.
And, to be sure, Curatola continues to seek acting opportunities. He guest starred earlier this year in an episode of the television series Person of Interest, and he co-stars with Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn in the film Killing Them Softly. Set to open on Oct. 19, Killing Them Softly is directed by Andrew Dominik and based on the 1974 novel Coogan's Trade by George V. Higgins.
Anyone who plunks down money for Killing Them Softly expecting a Sopranos reunion will be disappointed, since Curatola and Gandolfini don't share even a single scene. But the characters mesh in a vital, story-driving fashion.
The film, which was shot in New Orleans, stars Pitt as an enforcer who investigates a heist, pulled off by two of Curatola's hired guns (McNairy and Mendelsohn), during a mob-protected poker game. Pitt recruits Gandolfini's character, a hopeless drunk, to help him hunt down Curatola.
"So I'm tracked the whole film," Curatola says. "And I'll leave it at that."
Curatola can barely contain his enthusiasm for Killing Them Softly. He calls McNairy "tremendous" and deems Mendelsohn "absolutely, ridiculously" talented.
"I had such a ball I actually started to believe I was sending these guys out to do a job for me," Curatola says. "We ate together. We hung out together. Obviously we worked together. It was very, very satisfying."
That Pitt kid, he says, has a bright future, too.
"Brad is one of the most gracious, complimentary actors I've ever met," Curatola says. "When we began, he ran up to me and said, 'I'm such a big fan of yours and I am so happy you agreed to come down and do this.' I said, 'I didn't even know you watched the show, but thank you for that.' I can't describe our stuff together because it'll just blow the whole thing up, but he's very much a gentleman and I was very impressed with him."