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New Rose Hotel (1998)

New Rose Hotel (1998)

New Rose Hotel (1998)

Directed by
Abel Ferrara

Writing credits (WGA)
William Gibson (short story)
Abel Ferrara (screenplay) ...

Release Date:
19 March 1999 (Italy) more view trailer

Directed by
Abel Ferrara

Writing credits (WGA)
William Gibson (short story)
Abel Ferrara (screenplay) ...

Release Date:
19 March 1999 (Italy) more view trailer

Maas and Hosaka are two large Corporations in the future world. They are fighting to get control over the best minds of the world. The best is Hiroshi and at the moment he is working for the Maas Corporation. Fox has accepted an offer to persuade Hiroshi to go over to the Hosaka Corporation. Sandii is a little Italian girl from Japan and she should be the way to get to Hiroshi. X is the man who should train Sandii to break Hiroshi's Heart. But if X falls in love with Sandii? And if the Hosaka Corporation breaks the agreement? And if Sandii is not a little Italian girl? Written by Baldinotto da Pistoia

In the not-too-distant future, two New York businessmen plot to play two multinational rival corporations against each other, with a little help from a shady Italian street woman, to obtain an important Japanese businessman for the company they work at, only things are not always as they appear. Written by Matt Patay

Manhattan in the not-too-distant future seems a lot like Tokyo. Two friends who live on the margin try for one big score. One is Fox, older, limping, philosophical. The other is X. They stand to make $100 million from Maas, a conglomerate, if they can steal the secrets of a genetics company, Hosaka, and its genius leader, Hitoshi. They enlist Sandii, a call girl, to fly to Merrekech, where Hosaka's laboratory is, to seduce Hitoshi. During the set up, X falls in love with Sandii; Fox is cynical about the relationship. She heads for Morocco; Maas is ready to wire $100 million to a Swiss bank account; X fears for Sandii's safety. Will it all work out?

Cast (in credits order) 
verified as complete

Christopher Walken ... Fox

Willem Dafoe ... X

Asia Argento ... Sandii

Annabella Sciorra ... Madame Rosa
John Lurie ... Distinguished Man

Kimmy Suzuki ... Asian Girl #1 (as Naoko 'Kimmy' Suzuki)
Miou ... Asian Girl #2
Yoshitaka Amano ... Hiroshi

Gretchen Mol ... Hiroshi's Wife
Phil Neilson ... The Welshman (as Phil Nielson)
Ken Kelsch ... The Expeditor

Andrew Fiscella ... Sex Show Man
Rachel Glass ... Sex Show Woman #1
Roberta Orlandi ... Sex Show Woman #2 (as Roberta Orlan)
Erin Jermaine Serrano ... Sex Show Woman #3
Nicole Taggart ... Sex Show Woman #4
Ryuichi Sakamoto ... Hosaka Executive
Victor Argo ... Portugese Business Man
Anna Marie Winds ... German Lady (as Annamarie Wind)
Joel St. Bernard ... Club Security
Harper Simon ... Man at Table
George Smurra ... One Eye George
Frankie Cee ... Frankie Fats
John 'Cha Cha' Ciarcia ... Cha Cha (as John Ciarcia)

Echo Danon ... Singer #1
Kyrie Tinch ... Singer #2
David Shelley ... Maitre D'

Nick Guccione ... Maas Security
Matthew Messina ... Maas Security
Al Croseri ... Maas Security

John Russo ... Maas Security
Vincent DiMarco ... Lab Scientist
Walter Abraham ... Lab Scientist
Sal Savino ... Lab Scientist
Sam Canegallo ... Lab Scientist
Tim Browning ... Lab Scientist
M. Kelly Reynolds ... Shower Girl
Janine Glickman ... Shower Girl
Raymond De Felitta ... Lab Security (as Ray DeFelitta)

Abel Ferrara
Bad Lieutenant
’s Director Still Struggles to Find Screens

Padding around in a friend’s rooms at the Chelsea Hotel last week, drinking some beers, laughing at the headlines in the Post, Abel Ferrara doesn’t give the immediate impression of a famous filmmaker. His gray hair is long and coiled under a grimy Yankees cap, his chin unshaven, his teeth crooked, his shoulders hunched in a loose denim shirt. His eyes rarely focus on you when he’s speaking in his raspy, earthy Bronx voice. He seems less a world-renowned auteur than that slightly rock-damaged lifer who’s worked for 25 years in a used-record store in the Village, or the dude who’s been your pot dealer since you were a sophomore at NYU. If he were nothing else he’d be a great New York character, like someone in one of his films.

Yet around the world–if not so much at home–Ferrara is known as a great New York filmmaker. And like most great New York filmmakers, he’s an eccentric visionary who’s worked almost exclusively, and not entirely by choice, outside of Hollywood and off the multiplex screens. Struggling like a perpetual film school graduate for funding and distribution, he makes his movies for a few million dollars each and shoots them in a few weeks, a fragment of the typical studio budget and schedule.

That doesn’t always work out, but it hasn’t lessened the visceral impact of his best films. Bad Lieutenant and King of New York, his signature works so far, are classics of modern New York City noir. As in Scorsese’s films only more so, the New York he portrays is unrelentingly dark, hard and violent, a pre-Giuliani circle of hell where the brutality is matched by the metaphysics. Other films he’s spawned across more than two decades include early Bs like Driller Killer and Ms. 45, the vampyros lesbos AIDS metaphor The Addiction, the rare Hollywood-backed efforts like Body Snatchers and Snake Eyes (aka Dangerous Game)–the one with Madonna, not Nicolas Cage–and the more recent The Funeral, The Blackout and New Rose Hotel. He’s also done some tv–Miami Vice, Crime Story, HBO’s Subway Stories. Along the way, he has gotten some of the business’ most idiosyncratic actors to give him some of their most extreme performances–Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel, Lili Taylor, Annabella Sciorra.

Ferrara has rarely approached commercial success. Even Bad Lieutenant and King of New York scarcely touched the big screen; their fame, like that of all his films, was spread almost entirely by video, DVD and word of mouth.

His latest, R-Xmas, may be facing a similar future. Based on a first-person account by a woman named Cassandra De Jesus and set at Christmastime 1993, it’s about a loving couple, played by The Sopranos’ Drea de Matteo (Adriana) and Lillo Brancato (he was the ill-fated Matthew Bevilaqua), whose move out of Washington Heights and into Upper East Side respectability is financed by the heroin ring they manage. Ice-T also stars, as a kind of bad lieutenant. Critics have called it one of his most "restrained" films, as there’s almost no violence in it.

R-Xmas was well-received at Cannes and has gotten fine reviews in Europe, but it has yet to find a U.S. distributor. In fact, the film has been dogged with problems. De Jesus and Ferrara feuded over money; some funding mysteriously disappeared; original cast members bailed; and now Canal Plus, the French media company that provided the major funding for the film, has yet to get it screened here. That’s why R-Xmas will get its U.S. "big-screen debut" at BAM this weekend as part of a "Best Undistributed Films" festival.

For this interview, Ferrara was joined by Frank DeCurtis, his production designer and coproducer, whose previous design work has been seen in The Funeral, Donnie Brasco, Queens Logic and Law & Order.

When did you make R-Xmas?

Abel Ferrara: It was made over a period of time. The idea was brought to us–

Frank DeCurtis: It was at least two years before you started making it.

AF: Here is the situation. We had made King of New York, and people always talked about "King of New York, King of New York. When are you going to go back to doing films like King of New York?" King of New York took five years to get made. And after we made it it took three years to come out. And when it came out it was a total disaster.

In what sense?

AF: In the sense that the film opened up to no business at all. It played at the New York Film Festival and we never was asked back. The writer and Larry Fishburne were booed off the stage. Until I raced in from the bathroom and started booing back. [Laughs] So when people say, "Why don’t you go back to those days?" I’m like, "Yeah, fuck you too."

But I always in my mind had the idea of a film that approached drug dealing the way it really is. Not like you take over the Colombian drug ring in a week and this and that. So I met a woman who told us that supposedly she actually did it… [At this juncture, Ferrara says, there was some disputing with De Jesus over money, which held things up for a while.] Then we got serious behind the film. And it was a story that everyone jumped on. The idea of a family dealing drugs, a husband and wife, a love story. Supposedly the financing was there, and we all got involved on a real serious level...

FD: We were looking at the interviews you were doing with her when we were doing New Rose Hotel.

AF: In other words, the idea of doing this film was around for a long time. You know, when we’re in front of film financiers, we lay out two or three different possibilities. So one will always move to the back burner. And finally we got this financed.

And you’re talking $2 or $3 million?

AF: Yeah. Of which the first quarter million was robbed. We have a lawsuit against–not against Canal Plus… One of these days I’d love to do a documentary on putting a film together. Even if the film don’t get made. In fact, the more interesting documentary would be the films that don’t get made...

And meanwhile you’re assembling the cast?

AF: We went through a real gray area dealing with Annabella Sciorra, all this bullshit. Anyway, we ended up with Drea de Matteo and Lillo Brancato and Ice-T, and that was the right combination. Unfortunately, it was a day like today [hot, sunny summer] and we had to make it look like Christmas. [Frank] was like, "Don’t worry about it. Nooo problem. Just blow some dry ice."

Was Drea your first choice?

AF: No. Drea was my last choice. But she’s not goin’ anywhere now.

FD: People’s availability changes as the film drags on. And this was a dragging-on project. People have to drop out, you know.

AF: Although Annabella, it was based on her neuroses. We’re about to shoot and then she had to do a documentary on her 100-year-old grandmother in Italy. Tell that to 200 technicians.

So how long is that period typically, of raising money and building up to actually doing a film? Two years?

AF: Yeah, couple of years. Five years for King of New York was overblown. What happens is you have films that are ready, then you have the backup film, and you have the backup to the backup. And then as things go on, one film gets made, and the next one goes to the front burner. The films that are getting made are basically the ones that are wanted to get made by the people outside our control.

Do you ever have ones that you really want to make and just can’t get the money for?

AF: Yeah, I had one when I was younger, then I got that out of my system. I’m down with the reality of the world. If something is only in my mind, I’m not gonna beat a dead horse, know what I mean? This one, R-Xmas, always had a backer, so it always felt right. It’s funny, because that now translates into the reaction to the film. It was at Cannes, it’s gotten really great reviews through the world. It hasn’t opened in the States, but everywhere else... And you know, in my heart I’m an action audience, and I’ve become not an action film director. Now I’m making films where only one gunshot goes off.

Only one? I don’t want to see that.

AF: Yeah right, exactly.

Is R-Xmas a true story?

AF: Well, that’s the joke. Is any story true? We accepted it as the truth, even though it changed every day.

FD: It’s her perspective on it. It’s what she remembers. How true is that? And she’s aspiring to be a writer.

AF: And she hadn’t written a thing. That was the funny thing. She said she was going to sue us, with the Writers Guild. Well, you have to write to be in the Writers Guild. You can’t be in the Writers Guild just for talking.

It’s not the Talkers Guild.

AF: They should have that! The Talkers Guild! Twenty dollars membership–and we only pay medical for the neck up.

Anyway, the more she saw this film was actually going to get made, the more her character changed, like a character changing clothes in a phone booth. You know, like she was gonna be in the blue and red [Superman] outfit, and her and I were gonna go on Oprah Winfrey. I said, "Honey, we didn’t win mixed doubles at the Olympics. You were a heroin dealer." That’s definitely a limited audience. [Laughs] Outside of New York Press.

So this thing at BAM...

AF: The best of the undistributed films. Now, is that a put-down? Am I happy to be in that festival?

FD: And it’s the third annual. Wonder how the films in the first two made out.

R-Xmas has been distributed in Europe–

AF: All over the world.

Why not here?

AF: We weren’t in control of making the deal in the United States. And Canal Plus, you know, they’re going through their problems with [the media conglomerate and Canal Plus’ parent company] Vivendi. Everybody’s working with the idea that they’re going to lose their job. But it’s not Canal Plus. They’ve made films with Jarmusch and John Waters and Lynch, you know? I’m with these guys. But they’re definitely going through their problems. But on July 6 there’ll be some serious distributors there. Like our first opportunity to sell it in the States.

Is that part of the point of the festival?

AF: I think the point of the festival is to get people to go to BAM. Get people to go to Brooklyn. It’s just over the bridge. We’ll pay the extra cab fare.

FD: But it’s not a nightclub. No comps.

AF: But it’ll be a quality evening. You’ll see some stars. We’ll answer questions from some critic from the Voice. Michael Wilmington?

Michael Atkinson. He used to write for us.

AF: Yeah, Atkinson. You shit-canned him? So who writes for you?

Armond White and Matt Seitz.

AF: Well make sure they see the film. This could be their only opportunity.

I’m sure they’ll go.

AF: Yeah, he says. The boss says they’ll go.

Now let’s say it doesn’t get distributed in the U.S.

AF: We burn the negative. We eat the negative with tomato sauce. On D.W. Griffith’s grave.

Is it going to get art house–

AF: Art house distribution? Art house distribution is major-league distribution. This day and age, anything that gets put into a theater is like sacrosanct. More and more, people in the business, no one says anymore, "Oh, it’s gone straight to tape." Because of the pressure now on producers to pay residuals to the actors and the crew members. If it goes to tape, then they’re forced to pay, you know, what they’re supposed to pay. So a lot of these films now aren’t going to tape. So there’s no longer that expression. Going straight to tape now is like going into the theaters. Unfortunately, because films never see the light of day, because of that money. So I don’t know, man, it’s a funny situation.

So they don’t get distributed, and they also don’t go to tape or DVD, so what, they just disappear?

AF: Yeah, disappear. That’s a good word. Thank God for Kim’s Video and places like that. Like with King of New York, if it wasn’t for videotape–I mean, that’s a famous film. But only because of video.

A lot of people know Bad Lieutenant that way too.

AF: Oh yeah. Five, 10 people saw that in the movies. [Laughs] I’m really happy with the fact that they get screened on tv, on cable. You go to some people’s houses, they’ve got like these flat-screen tv sets and Dolby sound, and I go like, "This makes the theater I was just at look like shit!" Pretty soon that’s going to be de rigueur. Point is, that’s what every filmmaker, every independent, has to think. I tell these kids that are making films, "You put it on digital video, you got a 100-year run." As long as you got the story. But then it comes back to the basic scratches on the cave wall. You got to have the story. There’s no excuses. You can’t say, "Well, we can’t raise $100,000." You can’t raise $10 for a videocassette? That’s two hours long. That’s basically the length of a movie. But you gotta have the story. It’s like anything, you gotta have the goods.

How long did it take you to shoot R-Xmas?

AF: The way we do it now, instead of shooting like 40 days, we rehearse 20 and shoot 20. So we’re prepared most of the time. Any film financing group, whether it’s the studios or an independent group, they don’t want to see you have a star actor when the camera’s not on. But if you’re not rehearsed, all you do is fuck around. And it’s not easy rehearsing in front of 50, 60 crew members getting coffee and going, "What’s this shit?" It doesn’t take long to film. You’re basically looking for two or three minutes a day of quality stuff. You go back to Bad Lieutenant and Harvey doing that scene with the two girls in the car. He came back an hour after we set up and did a three-minute take. And you’re not going to top it, you can’t. I’m thinking, "Jesus, now what are we gonna do? The guy’s not gonna top that." He’s like Dennis Hopper. You say, "Let’s try it again," and he says, "Why?" And you better have an answer. Quality actors, they’re gonna find the space to rehearse.

It’s set in ’93, but you approached it like a period film.

AF: 1993 became as difficult as shooting 1936. Even more, because it’s a subtle change. This city was so different eight, nine years ago.

FD: A year before [the actual filming], I was out at Rockefeller Center to shoot some scenes of the Christmas tree... And there was all these barricades across the street, like at Saks or whatever that store is. All the traffic was beautiful, everything went so smooth.

AF: There’s lines to get a cab.

FD: There’s no pandemonium.

AF: Nobody selling anything outside the store.

FD: Everything was so orderly and perfect. I said, "Hey, this is a whole different world from a couple of years ago."

AF: Right. Whereas 1993 Christmas, it’s mass hysteria. They’re selling Saks stuff in the middle of the street off of a stand, while a three-card monte game’s going on–Santa Claus is dealing three-card monte. But Giuliani’s Christmas is, you want a cab, you stand behind these barricades. You want to see the tree, stand behind those barricades. You want to sell something, you get your head broken. And who even remembers this?

New York in all of your films is about the most grim, bleak, pre-Giuliani New York anybody’s put on film.

AF: We’re shooting in the streets. You see New York in the Hollywood world, but we’re shooting the reality. Like I was on Canal St. If you want to create what I was looking at–I mean, it is total, absolute gridlock. Nobody’s getting upset. This is the norm. On the side of the street people are selling things from stands, there’s barbecue pits going. If you did a union shoot it would cost $5 million just to get that character to cross the street. I never see that in a movie. I remember doing Subway Stories for HBO. It wasn’t my crew. This is [supposed to be] like rush hour in the subway. There’s like 35 white people in suits and ties, sitting every other seat. I said, "This is like a cocktail party." Who’s kidding who, man?

When you get a basic story like this one, do you hand it to a scriptwriter? Do you write the script?

AF: We work within the company. The script supervisor does the main writing, and then [Frank] and I just keep–you know, we only write about things we feel we know about, which is limited. [Laughter] Right now, we don’t have any brilliant screenwriter. We just work within the crew... Instead of trying to find some brilliant screenwriter, we just go for stories we feel are out of our reality, and then we just start hammering and make it work. I tell ya, there’s no such thing as a great screenplay, there’s only great movies.

Of course, as a writer I take offense at that.

AF: What do you write? If you’re going to write a novel, that’s it. But if you write a screenplay, then you’re writing for film. You’re not going to be satisfied with a great screenplay that doesn’t get made... If you’re gonna write a novel, if you’re gonna write poetry, something that’s an end-all, fine. But if you write a screenplay, you’re basically doing a blueprint that 100 people–or 20 people, the budget could be $10 or $10 million–it’s still only Point A toward the finish line.

We’re all willing to pay the price to write. To me, I don’t want to write, because whenever I do in a solo situation I go out of my mind. To me it’s the biggest test of sanity.

What is it about it that makes you crazy?

AF: The fuckin’ blank page! What do you think it is? At the same time, the actors–you approach Chris, Harvey, Drea–you can’t give them half-baked shit and say we’re gonna improvise.

Besides Body Snatchers and Dangerous Game, you haven’t done much Hollywood.

AF: We got our entrees into the studios. The problem with doing those films is you have to live in Los Angeles for an extended period of time... It’s funny working on that level where money is no object.

Do you prefer working this way, with much less money?

AF: I prefer it when we get financing without getting to the point of suicide.

FD: You know what you’re going to shoot going in. It’s not like you need a limitless budget to shoot something. If you’ve got the money to shoot that–

AF: We’ve never gone over budget, and we’ve never gone over schedule. When I first started out I thought, "If we can get $100,000 to make a movie I will never ever ask for more." It comes down to a blank page, and what are you going to tell an actor. We could make a great movie here [in the hotel room]. Digital video, I kiss the feet of the guy who invented that. We haven’t even done it yet. I was the first director to talk about doing it, and I still haven’t done it.

There’s that whole discussion about film versus digital, and digital is never going to look as good as film.

AF: Well, it won’t look like film, but it will look as beautiful as you make it.

FD: You still have to do costumes, locations, sets.


t’s all about what story you’re telling, to me. You’ve got Keitel, Walken, Annabella, you’re halfway there.

What’s you’re next project?

AF: We’re doing two things. We’re doing a prequel to King of New York. That’s called The Last Crew. And we’re doing something called Go Go Tales. It’s like a Cheers meets The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. [Laughter] It’s about one night in the life of a surreal/real go-go club. It’s our first comedy. It’s like a slapstick.

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