Thursday, March 30, 2006

Actor Revisits Mob connection

One of the most prominent new faces on TV's most popular Mafia drama is an actor whose career in mob fiction began when he was just a boy.
The Sopranos
Though he's thoroughly ensconced in his new "Sopranos" role, Lou Martini Jr. fondly remembers one of his first acting gigs, in the wedding reception scene in "The Godfather."

"My part is when James Caan is taking the bridesmaid upstairs to go fool around . . . at the beginning of the movie," Martini said in a recent phone call from New York."Those two little kids run by into the kitchen, and there's the wedding cake the ladies are fixing, and we run around the cake. Well, the first kid is me."

Martini's father was cast as Luca Brasi in "The Godfather," the role that generated the memorable line "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes," a mob-movie quote that is second only to Marlon Brando's "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." But Lou Martini Sr. got sick on his first day on the set and was replaced by wrestler Lenny Montana. Martini had a stroke and died in 1970, and young Martini's mother took him out of acting and had him focus on school.

Still, after falling back in love with acting in college, Martini had to make a decision: scrape his way up through the world of sports broadcasting (his major) or return to New York to be with family while pursuing a career in acting.He chose family and acting.

His latest Mafia-related role is only a little shadier than "young boy at wedding party," so far, anyway. On "The Sopranos," he plays Anthony Infante, the reluctant new liaison between the New York and New Jersey crime families. When Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) needs to communicate with John Sacramoni (Vince Curatola), the jailed boss of one of the New York families, he goes through Martini's character, an unassuming optometrist who happens to be Sacramoni's brother-in-law.

Martini plays Infante as a skittish, nervous bystander who is uncomfortable at having to play the go-between for the powerful criminals. But he has some underlying complexity that may surface later this season. "I think in the back of Anthony's mind somewhere, like a lot of people, he may be a little bit excited about getting involved," Martini said. "It could be a dream of his to maybe be a gangster one day." On the other hand: "He's pretty happy selling Armani sunglasses."

Martini recently appeared as Lou the Doorman in the reality show "Gastineau Girls" and has been in Broadway plays such as "Tony n' Tina's Wedding." He also had a Sundance Film Festival hit with "Lbs.," a story about eating disorders. It hits theaters in May. And he's shopping around a sitcom based on his relationship with his mother, who died last year.

He got cut out of the March 19 episode of "The Sopranos" because of a change in the story line. That was "disappointing," he said. But he does have "a little thing" in the fifth episode on April 9. "And then my really nice episode, if it sticks the way it is -- because you never know in this business -- is episode 10," he said.

Even with as much fun as he's having in the acting world, he'd love to get back into sports broadcasting. "If you were to snap your fingers and say, 'You can be doing the sports report at 6 and 11 on ABC here in New York,' I'd take the job in a second."

Thanks to Bill Hutchens

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