Nicholas Celozzi brings a new perspective to the phrase “well-connected” and Press Pass LA got a chance to talk to the man behind Momo: The Sam Giancana Story. Celozzi has been an accomplished actor in film, television, and the producer of over seventeen studio/independent feature films, three of which he directed.
His 20-plus year career reaches across film and television and he has worked with industry giants like Warner Brothers, Showtime, USA Cable, Sony,Columbia/Tri-Star, United Artists, MCA Universal, TNT, VH1 and Lifetime Channel.
As an actor, he co-starred in movies and TV shows like The A-Team, Walker Texas Ranger and even held a role as a re-occurring character in Days of Our Lives. Celozzi’s award winning documentary on his Great Uncle and famous mobster, Sam Giancana, details his life from his impoverished childhood to becoming the head of the Chicago Mob, also referred to as “The Outfit” ran by Al Capone. The documentary also uncovers Giancana’s life as a family man showcasing his daughters who open up for the first time about their father. With a welcoming tone, Nicholas Celozzi talked about the industry, politics, and what his upcoming projects really mean.
PPLA: So what led you to your purpose? What made the entertainment industry home?
NC: There wasn’t one defining moment. I was always fascinated by the entertainment industry. You gravitate toward what makes you feel good. The defining moment was when I figured out I could make a living (Laughs).
PPLA: I want to do a brief word association game. Tell me what comes to mind when I say the word life.
NC: My family. My kids. They are most important.
PPLA: How about love?
PPLA: The color black?
NC: I like it. (Laughs) I think I look good in it. Style.
PPLA: What if I say the city?
NC: Opportunity. The city of Chicago allowed me to dabble in the business at an early age. A lot of opportunity.
PPLA: You have said it quite a bit so what is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say family?
NC: Passion. I find that to be a common denominator with my work as well. It’s the main ingredient you need to create.
PPLA: While we are on the subject of “The Family” let’s talk about the Sam Giancana documentary. What personally made you want to tell this story?
NC: Seeing a lot of bad documentaries and silly one dimensional stories about it. I was writing a show for Warner Bros. called The Outfit and while doing research I came across a lot of what was out there that poorly told the story and I wanted to do it the right way. It was like being pushed around by bullies, especially after a cousin who was never really around attempted and failed at telling the story using downloaded one-sided information that was offensive to the family.
PPLA: How did the family react to the project? You got members to speak out that never did before. Were they always supportive?
NC: In the beginning, they understood where I was coming from as a film maker. I’ve worked on a lot of films and they knew it wasn’t my first barbecue. I’m a professional. I told them I’d give them a very well balanced story. They knew I was going to tell the whole story; the right way, one time, and that I’d balance it with them. We went from the beginning to the end. Talking about him taking care of his siblings and the abuse he took as a child. Stealing bread to feed them was crime out of necessity. Anybody can tell a Sam Giancana story, we wanted to tell what couldn’t be found any place else. They still weren’t sure; it took a while to get them comfortable.
PPLA: Some who have seen the documentary refer to it as history changing? What do you want the public to take away from the film?
NC: My motivation was to make an excellent documentary on a very interesting person. I just wanted to tell the story and a lot of things were just uncovered along the journey. What I take away is how hypocritical the government is. The people are forced to live one way while they go by a different set of rules. It has been documented that Sam Giancana was hired by the government to kill Fidel Castro. Think about it, the head of organized crime was hired to kill the head of a country by the government. The information went public and nobody went down for it. While making the film I found myself thinking what would happen if we were to catch the government in something like that today. We are so desensitized with all of the events we do know about that I wonder if we would even care.
PPLA: How do you feel about the public’s obsession with mob life? What do you really think of Mob Wives on VH1?
NC: I was supervising producer and assisted with casting for the show.
PPLA: How do you feel about how it was received?
NC: I think you can read anywhere and tell that it wasn’t received well. I think the Chicago show had the wrong women with a bunch of silly behavior and no story. Anybody would get tired of that. Women don’t behave like that. The Staten Island show was obviously more entertaining. There was a story, their relationships were interesting, and they were definitely more attractive.
PPLA: Mob Wives served its entertainment purpose. Do you find any benefit in following descendants and their stories?
NC: To tell a real story, sit down and follow people who have descended from that life in real time, like a “Where are they now” story can be very beneficial with the right approach. You can tell the story of the ones still involved along with the ones who distanced themselves from the lifestyle, and the way some have to deal with the negativity they face because of who they are related to. There is enough drama in real life. There is a lot of interest among the descendants themselves to tell the real story
PPLA: Is this something you are interested in doing? Can we expect to see something like this in the future?
NC: There has been some talk. You definitely may see something like that.
PPLA: Speaking of reality shows, you have one that is coming up.
NC: Yes. I am in the process of filming a test pilot for a reality show based on an old school film acting school. The people are all real and the students all have a desire to be film actors. I have a film producer from L.A. who talks about what it takes and the students will be tracked showing their growth and even going on auditions as they follow their dreams.
PPLA: What is one thing every aspiring film actor needs to grasp in order to be successful?
NC: The main thing is the ability to demonstrate real emotion. You have to be able to re-experience a real emotion on camera by opening your heart and re-living moments in real time. What makes film acting different is that every audience member has a one to one relationship with the actor. If you don’t fully commit and experience the emotion there is no connection. It won’t be real.
PPLA: What do you think it takes to develop that? Or do you think you either have it or you don’t?
NC: Some have a natural ability to be “naked” in front of a camera and others have to really work and break down walls to be vulnerable. Acting is very personal. Some want to be an actor and others want to be famous. It takes work and you have to love it in order to like even being in this business.
Authenticity, passion, and a pure love for what he does have built the twenty plus year veteran into a respected and irreplaceable contributor to entertainment who’s connections in real life and Hollywood have allowed him to blaze his own trail.
Watch the trailer here.