Home playdates website trailer archives
       
             
     
             
     

Inspired by his mid-'80s youth in Astoria, Queens, debut writer/director Dito Montiel’s coming-of-age drama exudes rawness and authenticity as it tells the story of a pivotal summer. Torn between his ill father (Chazz Palminteri), his domineering friend and protector (Channing Tatum), the neighborhood war and the lustful temptations of youth, Dito (Shia LaBeouf) struggles against his desire to escape, running away from everything he knows. Fifteen years later, Dito (Robert Downey, Jr.) returns to Queens in search of redemption. Co-starring Dianne Wiest and Rosario Dawson. Winner of the Dramatic Directing Award and Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble Performance at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
 

 A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Making this film was the strangest thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve done a lot of strange things. I realize now that getting a movie made requires a combination of relentless madness and basically complete and utter delusion—a sort of autopilot type of delusion. Think Sweet Pea in a Popeye cartoon, sleepwalking while construction planks position themselves just in time!

See, I wrote a book and that in itself was a bit of a ridiculous venture—a bunch of ramblings on paper that before my eyes, to me at least, began to take form, shape. One day I looked at it and said, man, this kinda looks like a book. Of course the movie was a bit more planned but not all that different.

With all this James Frey stuff going on I get asked a lot about the whole “memoir” thing. If I had actually read Frey’s book I’m sure I’d have an opinion, but my case was, well, my case. My book was about people I knew. People I loved. Maybe not then as much as I’ve come to love them now, understand them and understand myself more. Writing about anyone can be tricky. With my movie I desperately tried not to “cartoon-ize” anyone. I’ve learned that writing about anyone, with even the noblest intentions, is a bit of a contradiction in itself. As I mentioned, my book was my memory of a time and people—certainly not theirs or my autobiography. Scorsese, one of the greatest directors in the world, did a film on a guy who flew airplanes and that was a tough sell for me, so a film on me was not an option!

The way I approached the book and the film was with a scattered, rose-colored and convenient memory. I set out to simply tell a story, using my book as a landscape—an emotional bank of sorts. Whenever I needed something I’d dip back in and remember the way my childhood friend Antonio looked at me the day he got out of prison. All those years of friendship taken away from us, looking like someone who knew exactly what he wanted to say but there was no way he was ever gonna say it.

The memory of that look from Antonio haunted me during the entire movie. Channing Tatum, who plays the role of Antonio, had it down. We never even discussed it but he did. Special things can happen in moviemaking. Unexplainable things. Here’s one: On our first day of filming everyone was a bit nervous. We had no rehearsal time and the majority of the people were meeting on set. One of the first scenes we were doing was where Monty (Chazz Palminteri) has a seizure. His son Dito (Shia LaBeouf), best friend Antonio (Tatum), girlfriend Laurie (Melonie Diaz) and mother (Dianne Wiest) are all there.

Before filming Channing asked me what he could do. What are the limitations? I was like, listen man, we don’t put marks on the ground and all I know is if I was as nervous about losing a person like Monty to a seizure, well, I’d flip out and I don’t know…probably kill someone in the room, not knowing what to do with myself. Channing was like, “Okay, but I might really flip out!” I was like, not as much as I would. So we do the scene with no words for fun. I read out the lines and was curious if that might force the aggression issue a little more. Because we didn’t have to care about sound, all the actors were free to ask questions and talk out loud while filming the scene.

Next thing you know Channing is yelling to me, Dito (the director) not Shia (Dito the actor), “Dito I’m gonna fucking bug out! I’m gonna really bug out!”

I scream back, “Do what you gotta do!”

Melonie is appropriately nervous, Shia is confused and when Chazz hit the ground Channing flipped out for real! He grabbed a table and threw it through the glass door! Glass shattered all around on a barefoot Dianne Wiest, who never broke character for a second. Her blood is on the ground, everyone is screaming...crying...man, I was in heaven!

We rolled until the film ran out.

The second we cut everyone ran in, screaming at me and Channing. “What, are you people freaking nuts?!” Before I could even think to take Channing’s back, Chazz stepped right up and did it. I sat back and watched Chazz tell everyone to leave Channing alone. He’s just a kid acting out a scene. Shia looked concerned about why he wasn’t involved, Dianne was not entirely sure if this guy was dangerous or not and Melonie was shaking. I get the chills thinking about it because what I witnessed was Monty, Antonio, myself, Laurie and Flori all mixing fiction, reality, film and real life. I sat back, looked and was like, man, this is kinda startin’ to look like a good movie.