Robert Davi is no stranger to the spotlights of Hollywood. Davi whose career started in the mid 1970’s has appeared in everything from television series to feature films. He is probably best known however for his role as Jake Fratelli in the 1985 cult classic “The Goonies”. At the age of 62 Robert shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Media Mikes had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Mr. Davi recently about his venture in to music as well as his upcoming appearances in the films “Doonby” and “The Expendables 3”.
Adam Lawton: Which did you start with first, Music or acting?
Robert Davi: I think they both sort of happened at the same time. Film and music was a concurrent thing in my Italian-American household growing up. In school I really enjoyed language and reading during literature class. Around 8th grade I found my voice and that carried over in to high school. I had a huge passion for both singing and acting. I started performing and actually placed first in the New York State Music Association contest as a voice soloist. From there I started to study opera. I always like to say that in and Italian-American home there are two figures, the Pope and Frank Sinatra and not necessarily in that order. (Laughs) The acting and music really went hand and hand when I first started.
AL: When your acting career started to take precedent was music performance still always in your mind?
RD: Yes. In the back of mind it was always there. You can actually see that with some of my performances like with the character of Jake in “The Goonies”. Those scenes where I sing opera were actually all improvised. Singing was a fun thing to add to that character. I actually told Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg that I wanted to make the character a frustrated opera singer who no one listens to except Sloth down in the basement. (Laughs) They thought the idea was pretty funny.
AL: What do directors think when they realize you have the ability to sing as well as act?
RD: I haven’t really done a lot of films with that yet. Besides doing my recent album I have kept that side of things pretty quiet. I haven’t been out auditioning for Broadway plays or anything like that because I have always had a certain game plan. The first time I actually performed on film outside of the scenes from “The Goonies” was with Chazz Palminteri in “The Duke” which I wrote/produced/directed and appeared in. I wanted that character to be my foray or transition in to the parts of my musical life. I was ready at that point and this film was me dipping my toe in the water. Of course that led to my album “Davi Sings Sinatra- on the Road to Romance. I love performing music.
AL: With music moving to the forefront of your career do you see yourself slowing down in the area of acting?
RD: I have been pretty busy with the acting still. I did a film called “The Iceman” which came out recently and I just got back home from Bulgaria where we were filming “Expendables 3”. I also have a few other films coming out soon and am working on some other projects as well. That includes a script I wrote about music that I will also be in. I do love the music and I think I get more of a kick out of music right now. There is nothing like communicating through a live performance. It’s the best. I have been able to headline the Venetian in Las Vegas; I opened for Don Rickles at The Orleans which was something I had always wanted to do. We really kicked ass that night and I got several standing ovations. It’s been great.
AL: Can you tell us about the new Christmas song you have coming out?
RD: It’s called “New York City Christmas”. The song is really a tribute to New York. How this all started was a gentleman had come to one of my shows and he wrote a tremendous review of the show. This guy’s dad was actually the guy who ran the famous Copa Cabana night club. He had this song he had written and his uncle new I was a singer so he mentioned my name to him. He ended up coming over to my house to play the song for me. It sounded sort of like a bad Bob Dylan song. (Laughs) However there was something in it. I knew if we could do it as a swing tune with a big band that it could work. It’s hard for people to accept a brand new Christmas song but I feel this has a classic touch to it and if it gets the right attention it will have a shot. The artist Steve Penley did the cover art for it and he did a terrific job. I think the song is going to be a great lift for New York City.
AL: Can you give us some info on the film you did recently titled “Doonby”?
RD: The people doing the film came to me about working on it. I knew they were hitting a subject matter without being preachy in anyway. Instead they were showing things from an alternative view. It took on the prolife issue and really looks at it differently. The film shows us how each life matters. That appealed to me. The film wasn’t judgmental in anyway. I was able to wear a cowboy hat and have a little bit of fun with the role. (Laughs) It was quite a bit different than another film I did recently called “The Iceman”. On that film I was able to work with people like Ray Liotta, Michael Shannon and Winona Ryder. The film is the true story of Richard Kuklinski who was a serial killer for the mob. That was a really cool film to work on. “Doonby” was also fun but in a different way. Writer/Director Peter Mackenzie had such enthusiasm.
AL: You also just finished work on “The Expendables 3”. What can you tell us without giving anything away?
RD: I have known Sly for many, many years now. My 12 year old son is a huge “Expendables” fan. He just loves those films. This was a film I had to be in! (Laughs) In the film I play the character of Goran Vogner who is head of the Albanian Mafia. That is a great group to be a part of.
AL: What type of process do you take when preparing for your roles?
RD: With every role I do research. For instance for my character in “Doonby” I talked to a friend of mine who is the head of the FBI in that area. I talked with guys who were transplanted in to that area in an effort to pick up a subtle type of accent. The rest of the role comes from your imagination. Some roles do require more research than others. If I have played a similar role in the past there may be less prepping needed. For “Expendables 3” I had never played an Albanian mafia character before. I was able to consult with people from that world and learn their mind set and behavior. Those are some pretty tough guys.
AL: Looking back on your work in “The Goonies” did you ever expect the film to be still relevant almost 30 years after its initial release and what was like working on that set?
RD: I remember very vividly while we were still shooting Richard Donner telling me that this film was going to be a classic like “The Wizard of Oz”. That film was such a great time and everyone who worked on it was just so wonderful to work with. The only real pain in the ass was Joe Pantoliano. (Laughs) he and I went at it which was good for the movie. That’s actually how we got the roles. During the casting of the film they were pairing guys up and he and I got matched up together. What you see in the film is what we were. That line from the film about Francis’s toupee was completely improvised. (Laughs) Anne Ramsey was lovely also. I told her that every time my character spoke I wanted her to slap me. (Laughs) Everyone was just great and getting to work with guys like Richard, Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall all on this one film was amazing.
AL: Besides your Christmas single are there any other projects of yours we can be watching for?
RD: I am working on another album which should be coming out next. I have a film that I wrote called “the Voice” coming out. Of course “The Expendables 3” is coming out on August 15th. I will be working on some other shows as well as touring Australia with my music. I have a bunch of stuff going on worldwide and new stuff pops up every day.