A fixture on the New York filmmaking scene for over 35 years, John A. Gallagher is still going strong directing, writing and producing but this could have ended in 2013 when he almost died in a fire. Find out more in the below interview.
His last three feature films (The Networker, American Fango and Sam) have all received distribution from Sony companies.
John is probably best known for the popular cult comedy “The Deli”, which he directed and co-wrote. It went on to win the Spirit of Independents Award at the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival, and was cited for Excellence in Filmmaking by the National Board of Review. Great accolades to have!
At the 2012 Soho International Film Festival, John was honored with a 15th anniversary celebration and again at the 2017 Long Island International Film Expo with a 20th anniversary celebration of “The Deli”. The cast includes Mike Starr, Matt Keeslar, Gretchen Mol, Ice T, Heather Matarazzo, Brian Vincent, Judith Malina, Debi Mazar, Michael Imperioli, Iman, David Johansen, Burt Young, Chris Noth, Heavy D, Frank Vincent, Vincent Pastore and Tony Sirico. The film is available in a Special Edition DVD from Warner/Ryko, and airs frequently on national TV.
But read on please because there’s more to John Gallagher than filmmaking.
John Gallagher: The Mentor
John’s track record is especially strong in discovering and mentoring new talent, both in front of and behind the camera. Among the actors John has worked with in debut or significant early roles are John Leguizamo, Amanda Peet, Zach Braff, Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Mol, Matthew Lillard, Vincent Pastore, Steve Stanulis, Heather Matarazzo, and Denis Leary. Eight features and eighteen shorts have been produced under his 305 Media Group banner, all playing at international film festivals with many directed by his young protégés.
John Gallagher: The Author
John Gallagher’s book entitled “Film Directors on Directing” is a collection of his interviews with filmmakers Francois Truffaut, Dennis Hopper, Ted Kotcheff, Alan Parker, and Wim Wenders. He also co-authored the book Gregory LaCava, commissioned by the Filmoteca Espanol and the San Sebastian Film Festival for a retrospective on the veteran Hollywood filmmaker. The foreword to the book featured John’s interview with Katharine Hepburn.
John Gallagher: The Filmmaker
The list of his upcoming film projects is long, therefore I can only focus on a few important projects here, but check out his IMDb page for more details: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0302410/?ref_=nv_sr_3
Here’s the list of impressive projects in various stages along with John’s comments as to their current status.
This comedy/drama is in active pre-production, fully cast, crewed, locations, distribution and even several festival invitations before I shoot anything. I’m directing and producing from a script I’ve written with Joe Benedetto. Principal photography is scheduled to begin in the next 60-90 days in New York.
“Hi, Hitler” (Comedy)
This is the feature film version of Lucie Pohl’s internationally acclaimed solo show that enjoyed a successful run last month at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Lucie and I are working on the screenplay and producing together, I am directing. It will shoot in Berlin and NYC next year. It is an amazing story about identity. Lucie is Jewish-German. When she was 8 years old her family moved to NYC, where she found once again that she didn’t fit in. Her quest to find herself is by turns hilarious and poignant. Check out the trailer for the show here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUhFDgG7zpI
“The Medea” is a contemporary updating of the Euripides classic in active pre-production pending financing.
“All Mobbed Up” is a gangster comedy in development.
“Mafioso Undead” is a horror movie co-written with Paul Mammano.
More about this prolific filmmaker, his influences and his brush with death in 2013, which left him in a coma with a small chance of survival, in the below comprehensive interview.
When did you know that you wanted to be a filmmaker?
As a child growing up in NYC I was a ravenous student of cinema, addicted to vintage cinema on TV, the films of the ’30s and ’40s. I got straight A’s in school so my parents would let me set the alarm clock for the middle of the night to watch the Marx Brothers or Gary Cooper in those pre-VHS days. I would tape record the credits off the screen, write them on an index card, and put notes about interesting shots on the other side. By the time I was 11, I had given myself an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, and began making Super 8 movies starring my kid brother and the prettiest girls in school!
Is there any actor or director who influenced you in any way either personally or professionally, and if so, why?
My influences remain Ford, Wellman, Walsh, Hawks, Capra, Lubitsch, Sternberg, Garnett, Vidor, McCarey, LaCava, Fleming, Van Dyke, Wyler, Welles, Kazan, Wilder, Cassavetes, Fuller, Penn, Peckinpah, Fellini, Rossellini, DeSica, Visconti, Germi, Wertmuller, Truffaut, Leone, Kubrick, Coppola, Fassbinder, Scorsese, Bogdanovich, Sayles, Milius, Spielberg, Tarantino, my old roommate Sam Raimi. I am enamored with vintage Italian cinema (I am half Sicilian and one-quarter Neapolitan). I was especially influenced by Wellman, the subject of my upcoming 900-page limited edition coffee table book Nothing Sacred: The Cinema of William Wellman (with Frank Thompson), and Tay Garnett, who I interviewed shortly before his death in 1977. He gave me great advice and told many stories about directing Gable, Harlow, Dietrich, Wayne, Mitchum, and Marilyn Monroe (he cast her in one of her first films). I’ve just completed the book Hollywood’s Forgotten Master: The Life and Times of Tay Garnett.
If you had the opportunity to collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
Working with the late great Ben Gazzara was my first choice for years, and I was proud to direct him in “Blue Moon”, which he considered one of his favorite films, quite a compliment considering his genius work with John Cassavetes, David Mamet, the Coen Brothers, Vinny Gallo, Todd Solondz, etc. I learned so much from Ben and became close friends over the five years it took for us to get funding, and the 12 years before his death in 2012. It’s also been a lifelong dream to work with Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, all major influences during my teens and ’20s; of the younger generation it would be Jennifer Lawrence, Brie Larsen, Jason Schwartzman. And I want to continue collaborating with talented young artists I met in my acting classes – Emmy James, Samantha Scaffidi, Josette Dwyer, Tamara Skylar Jones, Makaela Shealy – and my “stock company” of regular collaborators – Lucie Pohl, Joey D’Onofrio, Brian Kelly, Steve Stanulis, Kelsey O’Brien, Vic Colicchio, Garry Pastore, Natalie Wetta, Lo Freidenstine, and Eden Wright.
What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?
I’m lucky to say I’ve never made a film I don’t love. “Street Hunter” and “The Deli” have become cult movies – some writers have even called “The Deli” an indie comedy classic, and it’s been honored with 15th and 20th anniversary celebrations. But I’m proudest of the fact that I have helped literally hundreds of filmmakers and actors follow their dreams and enhance their careers. Whether as an acting teacher, or a filmmaker championing other filmmakers, I feel that giving back is the most important thing an experienced artist can do. There are many producers and actors working today who got their first break in the business from me and continue to thrive.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
Still watching movies, still making movies – especially my long-in-the-works American Revolution epic!
What is on your bucket list?
Staying alive. I was inches away from death from an apartment fire on November 30, 2013, which I consider my second birthday. I was in a coma for six weeks, in the hospital for six months, and only given a small chance of survival. It’s a miracle that I survived and I’d like to stick around for a lot longer!
Your favorite quote and why?
“I’m re-energized by being around people who mean a lot to me” – Martin Scorsese. I relate strongly to his quote because in this business, such an emotional rollercoaster, it’s crucial to have a support group of fellow artists. It’s one reason I work again with many of the same people and strive for a warm, familial creative environment, on and off the set.
Your favorite movie and why?
This changes every day but today my desert island movie is Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”, a perfect film. The narrative just propels itself through the decades, uncompromising, unrelenting, by turns violent and funny. I also love it because I’ve directed so many of the actors – Frank Vincent, Tony Sirico, Mike Starr, Michael Imperioli, Debi Mazar, Joey D’Onofrio, Vic Colicchio, Vinny Pastore, Tony Darrow, Dan Conte, Garry Pastore, Ron Maccone, Marie Michaels, Paulie Herman, Lou Eppolito, Tony Powers, Frank “Butchie the Hat” Acquilino, and two wonderful people I miss very much – Marty’s mom Catherine Scorsese and Johnny “Cha Cha” Ciarcia.
Follow John Gallagher on social media here:
Trailers of John Gallagher films
The Networker Trailer http://thenetworkermovie.com/teaser.html
We Remember Trailer https://vimeo.com/166473506
Karynne Summars is an author, screenwriter, film producer and freelance journalist. She is a contributing writer for several international magazines. Her feature articles cover entertainment and culture as well as international travel and personal development. Born and raised in Berlin, Germany, Karynne currently resides mainly in New York with additional residences in Berlin and Marbella, Spain. Website: www.karynnesummars.com