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Local color

Michael Corrente draws on his roots
By BOB GULLA  |  August 2, 2006


HIGH POINT: Corrente sees the Cianci story as the place where his sensibility and local background will converge.
Michael Corrente will be presented with the Creative Vision Award for his influential and ambitious work next week at the 10th Annual Rhode Island International Film Festival. The Pawtucket-bred talent began his career in the early ’80s with Trinity Rep and has since made high-profile films with Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Franz, Alec Baldwin, Robert Duvall, and David Mamet, as well as fellow Rhody filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly.

Corrente has made his native state the star in many of his films, including the acclaimed Federal Hill. “Most of the films I’ve made in Rhode Island are about Rhode Island,” he says. “I’m not simply using it as a backdrop. It’s the foundation where I draw my creative resources.” Corrente directed the Farrelly Brothers-scripted Outside Providence, a coming of age film set in Pawtucket, and is in discussions to set the Buddy Cianci biopic based on Mike Stanton’s The Prince of Providence in motion. “Being the most densely populated state in the country you can’t help but see the stories here,” he says. “It often seems like one big family and everything feels interconnected. That’s one thing I truly love about the place.”

Most of Corrente’s films are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and his plots revolve around how those characters deal with their fate. Of course, there will always be folks who will disagree about how they’re portrayed. Federal Hill, for example, divided its viewers. “Sometimes they’re more lenient in your hometown,” he says, “but sometimes they expect more. And they’ll take you to task when they feel that you didn’t get it right. You can bullshit some people when you’re making stuff up, but when you’re home and talking about your own people, that’s not an option.”

Corrente’s versatility — he also produces, acts, and writes screenplays — has been one of his signatures. “If I had to pick one creative interest,” he says, “I would say that it’s directing. By nature I’m a producer. I like making things happen. But creatively I like directing, even though you’ve got to be a cheerleader, a babysitter, a dad, and a general, sometimes all at once.”

Along with his production partner Marisa Polvino, Corrente is overseeing the Fred Durst-helmed The Education of Charlie Banks. He has high hopes for the future of their production company. “The great news is that I can green-light every picture I make now,” he says. “We can pick and choose and make sure not to screw it up.”

Corrente is currently working with Mamet and Howard Korder on the screenplay for the Cianci film. “I’m in talks with the studio and actors, and now I have to sit down with the financiers to decide how it’s going to move forward.” Corrente sees the film as the place where everything — his sensibilities, artistic background, heritage, and weight as a reputable filmmaker — will come together in one important package. “I’ve been waiting to make this Cianci film since before Federal Hill,” he says. “There isn’t a director alive right now who can handle this film better than I can. Everything culminates in this picture. I can draw on all the things that make me who I am.”

Plus he has a line on Russell Crowe as the frontrunner to play the title character. “Buddy can run for office right now from prison and win,” says Corrente, marveling at the thought. “But this is not necessarily a good humor story. It will be the truth as I see it. He was a political genius with the kind of drive and passion for a city that made him both amazing and seriously flawed. That would make for a great picture.” And another perfect, if controversial, depiction of the city Corrente finds so irresistible.

Corrente will be honored on the opening night of the RIIFF, which will also feature a showcase of short films and a new animated short by the Walt Disney Studios. The event is at 7 pm at the Columbus Theatre, 270 Broadway, Providence. Tickets $15. Call 401.861.4445 (www.RIFilmFest.org).

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