Robert Davi’s unforgettable face and steely eyes have improved many films over the last 36 years. Known mostly for villainous roles and the occasional good guy part, Davi hit the big time in the TV crime series Profiler, with Ally Walker. And then there was his star turn in The Goonies. Davi’s first film back in 1977 was Contract on Cherry Street, a hardboiled mob story starring his idol Frank Sinatra. Davi, a trained opera singer, suddenly found Sinatra taking an interest in his music and acting. All these years later, Davi pays tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes on his new CD Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road to Romance, available this week on Sun Lion/Fontana North. Also this week for Davi is the release of The Great Chameleon, a satirical and expletive-crammed comedy in which Davi plays a parole officer to a career criminal. We spoke with Davi in Toronto where he will receive an honour from the Italian community.
Congratulations! You’re starting the week off with a star on the Italian Walk of Fame.
Robert Davi: I’m very excited about that, especially since it’s in Toronto and Canada. I’ve filmed a lot here and to be able to have this vibrant community outside of Italy is great. It’s so familiar to me and I’m very honoured. Also, I love Canada and I’ve worked here a lot.
The Great Chameleon is out this week too. It’s a silly film, but it must have been fun. We actually see you laugh and smile and deliver zingers.
RD: Here’s the thing with that film. I’ve got kids and they watch those Adam Sandler films and they’re crude stuff that I wouldn’t watch normally. I like watching as a fan sometimes, but I hadn’t had an opportunity to do anything as crazy as this. We’re in an age of political correctness that stifles creativity and self-expression and offending this and that. I went to the edge. Victor Altomare, the comedian, pushes the ethnicities. There’s the Scotsman, Latino, Jamaican and it’s so politically incorrect. It’s mayhem especially in the scenes with the Rastafarians. Altomare is one of the funniest guys. He was one of those guys knocking around trying to make a mark in town and he’s a hidden gem. I hope the film brings him to the public consciousness.
It’s so rude.
RD: In LA I talked about how political correctness is stifling us and this film feeds into that. Let’s be able to laugh at everything, every institution and have some laughs. I went along for the ride. I put myself out there to laugh and forget the misery of the world.
There’s been an amazingly positive response to your album.
RD: I went to No. 6 on Billboard Jazz and Quincy Jones loved it. I played The Venetian in Vegas and the album is out in Canada this week. I’m hoping to draw attention to that and enjoy it all. I’ve been touring the States and the world and eventually Canada. It’ll be great. I worked with Sinatra in 1977. He was my mentor.
What does he mean to you?
RD: Frank is the greatest entertainer of his time, the Picasso of music and he came out against racial bigotry and wouldn’t play where blacks couldn’t. He fought anti- Semitism and was a real role model for the huge Italian community. He gave the immigrant society a face and a name. He was the son of Sicilian immigrant parents and proved that immigrants can come here and be anything they want to be in North America.
Your career has been solid and consistent. What made it so?
RD: I believe that you can accomplish anything you envision. I would hope one can. At least have an imagination and a dream and work hard and put all your energies into something you care about intensely as I do the music. The great American songbook, the Shakespeare of America has made the world fall in love with our country even in difficult times. No matter where you are in the world, in South America and South Africa there are fans and my music is an amalgam of the songbook. If you have that passion and approach it with all your love and hard work you can make it work.
Top image: Robert Davi in The Great Chameleon. Courtesy GAT PR.