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Director Chazz Palminteri talks to MovieWeb about Noel sequel

It's tough to play catch-up with Chazz Palminteri, the award-winning actor, screenwriter and playwright.

The born and bred Bronx boy is busy playing the boss to Ving Rhames's Kojak in a big-screen remake of the hit TV series. He's starring in the latest film from Wayne Kramer (director of last year's sleeper hit, The Cooler.) He's recently written a new screenplay. And, most recently, the Renaissance man has taken on yet another new role -- that of film director.

"I love being a director because I love being in charge. I'm a real control freak" admits Palminteri with a laugh at a recent midtown Manhattan screening of Noel, his directorial debut.

Due in theaters this Friday, the film stars Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Alan Arkin and Penelope Cruz in what Palminteri promises is a unique take on the holiday season.

"I love action films. They're fun to watch but Noel was the type of film I had to make," said Palminteri, a fan of Hollywood classics that touch the heart. (He names among his favorites Frank Capra's perennial Christmas classic, "It's a Wonderful Life.")

"I'm an optimist, a happy guy," said the father of two. "And for me to spend a year and half with a film, I have to have a personal connection to it."

Set in New York but shot knee deep in Canadian snow, Noel centers around a seemingly random selection of strangers who find themselves alone at Christmas ˜ at first. As their stories unwind, their paths cross, their lives change and unexpected miracles occur.

"What I love about Noel is that it's about hope, it's about joy but it's joy that can come from suffering, too, which is just like real life."

Palminteri knows plenty about real life experience, having found success far from overnight. Growing up in the Bronx, he paid for acting classes with a series of day jobs. Moving to Hollywood in his early 30s,Palminteri found more of the same. While playing small parts in big TV shows like Hill Street Blues, he was working as a doorman by day to get by. Until losing his job.

"I had $200 bucks in the bank," said Palminteri who on his worst day nonetheless never considered quitting.

"I thought of my father's words: There is no greater shame than a waste of talent," said Palimteri, who that same day bought three notepads from a convenience store in the Canyon and penned A Bronx Tale (1988). The film, directed by Robert DeNiro (in his directorial debut) would showcase Palminteri's breakthrough script and performance.

Busy ever since, the Italian American actor proceeded to win an Academy Award nomination for his role as the gangster turned playwright in Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway. He's made a name for himself with strong performances in hit films (The Usual Suspects, Mulholland Falls, and Analyze This) and was a saving grace in a few lesser films (the remake of Diaboloque and the ill-fated Jade starring David Caruso). He's brought a second play to the big screen; the award-winning Faithful starring Cher and Ryan O' Neal. Plus, he's directed projects for the small screen, including an episode of the hit series Oz as well as Men Vs. Women,which he also directed for HBO. He's also been working on a musical version of A Bronx Tale as well as looking forward to his next opportunity to direct.

"I made a great movie," said a pleased Palminteri about Noel. "I don't care if the film make's 10 cents."

Sentiments notwithstanding, Noel is being marketed with both innovation and aggression. The cable station, TNT, will be airing the film one night only, on November 28th. And, in addition to its theatrical release and one-night-only TV premiere, holiday film fans will be able to purchase disposable DVD's of the film. The DVD stocking stuffer, which can be watched just once (until activating auto-erasure), costs less (under $5) than the typical DVD and dispenses with the hassle of rental returns (and/or associated late fees.)

"Clear Channel and Convex really know what they're doing," said Palminteri, happy that his film is a premiere vehicle for the latest in DVD technology. "It puts more control in the hands of viewers who want to see all different types of movies. And it gives small budget films like Noel the chance to be seen alongside big-budget blockbusters.

Dont't forget to also check out: Noel