He has played a screenwriter with writer’s block, a competitive game show contestant, a racist pizzeria employee and even the figment of a novelist’s imagination. John Turturro’s latest challenge in a career that spans more than three decades, however, has the Brooklyn-born actor-filmmaker going into untested waters: He needs to be convincing as a male escort. Turturro is being honored Sunday night with a Career Achievement Tribute award as part of this year’s Miami International Film Festival, and the distinction extends not only to the 90-plus roles the character actor has brought to life in front of the camera but to the five features he has directed. In his latest effort, the wistful comedy Fading Gigolo, the Golden Globe nominee plays Fioravante, a plumber who has fallen onto hard times. The solution to his money troubles comes in the form of a proposal by Murray, a longtime friend who has been forced to shutter his rare book shop and is played, in quite the casting coup, by Woody Allen.
In what sounds like a ludicrous notion, Murray suggests that his would-be business partner offer his services as a male prostitute to his dermatologist, Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone).
It’s a notable change of pace for Turturro, 57, both as an actor and the man calling the shots. He is, after all, best known for his unhinged, jumpy screen persona. Starting with an uncredited bit part in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, Turturro made a name for himself as the go-to actor for intense, unsavory and typically neurotic character roles, giving his breakthrough performance in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.