The actor Stanley Tucci, raised in a suburb of New York, played a lot of bad guys in movies and on television – especially Italian heavies. He wrote, with his cousin Joe Tropiano, a screenplay that focused on the southern Italian cooking of their family – a story about two Italian brothers and their restaurant, which was not doing well. He co-directed the movie Big Night with a friend from high school, another actor, Campbell Scott. Tucci said the movie was about “the struggle between art and commerce.” For him, it was a chance to write a role for himself different from the roles he was cast in by others. The picture starred Tony Shalhoub, Tucci, Minnie Driver, Ian Holm, Alison Janney and Isabella Rossellini. The cinematography was by Ken Kelsch. It was shown at the Sundance film festival in Utah in January, 1996 to great acclaim, and was released in the United States in September, 1996.
The movie did very well – making over $12 million in movie theaters on an investment of slightly over $4 million. People remember it, many as their most favorite film. Roger Ebert wrote “It is about food not as a subject but as a language--the language by which one can speak to gods, can create, can seduce, can aspire to perfection.” Big Night, like other movies in this series, traces the myriad intersections of food and family relationships. The ending – which I won’t give away – is quite beautiful. I hope you enjoy watching Big Night with me tonight.