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Sopranos actor Vincent Pastore wants Van Morrison to come to Belfast show

In an exclusive interview The Sopranos star tells David O'Dornan how he loves Van's music and hopes to meet his hero when he visits NI with former co-stars Michael Imperioli and Steven Schirripa

Actor Vincent Pastore
Actor Vincent Pastore
Van Morrison

By David O'Dornan

He's best known as playing a gangster in The Sopranos but now actor Vincent Pastore wants to make Van Morrison an offer he can't refuse.

New Yorker Vincent, who starred as Salvatore 'Big Pussy' Bonpensiero in the acclaimed Mafia drama series, is a regular at his "friend" Van's concerts in the States and now he hopes he'll be reunited with him in Belfast when In Conversation With The Sopranos comes to the SSE Arena next May.

He said: "My very, very dear friend is from Ireland, you know who he is? Van Morrison. I want to get him to come to the show. Van would come - he loves The Sopranos. You'd be surprised.

"There's a long story with Van but I finally got caught up to him. I'm not a stalker, but I tried to get backstage as much as possible in the early days and I managed to hop on stage and I was with him at Carnegie Hall during the whole show.

"I was right on stage, he didn't know I was there, but those were the days before the security was so tight, you know?"

Vincent (73) then got an invite through his Sirius Radio show to see Van play Madison Square Garden and finally got to meet his hero.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I went to the dressing room and Van was with a guy who used to run a rock 'n' roll club in New York. We talked and he was interested a lot in my career.

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Actor Vincent Pastore starring in The Sopranos
Actor Vincent Pastore starring in The Sopranos

"And I'm saying to myself: 'This guy is interested in me? This is Van the Man!' So I started going to a lot of his shows at The Beacon in New York.

"I was with Ron Delsener and I said: 'Come on, let's go and see Van'. And he said: 'No, he's coming down'. And I said: 'He's coming down to see me?'

"And I have this picture and Van kept asking me, he was interested in Christoper Moltisanti, Michael's (Imperioli) character. He kept asking me a lot about him, and I said to Van: 'You know I'm doing a play called Piece Of My Heart, I play wazoo'. He said: 'Wazoo? He used to be my manager'. I said: 'That's my character'.

"And then another time I saw Van I said: 'You know I wrote a play, I call it Wild Children'. He said: 'That's my song'. And when my band plays we do a lot of Van Morrison songs, so I do a skit like: 'Uh oh, I gotta send him another cheque'.

"Tupelo Honey, that was the song for me and my wife and now it's a song for me and my daughter. I mean, you know, everything he does is great. When people say who do you like better, Bruce (Springsteen) or Van, I say: 'I could listen to Van all day'. I got every CD he's ever made.

"And I said to Michael (Imperioli) the other night: 'I'm gonna get Van Morrison come see us in Belfast'. He said: 'You can't do that'. I said: 'If I pull that off you owe me.'"

Actor Vincent Pastore starring in The Sopranos
Actor Vincent Pastore starring in The Sopranos

Vincent will be appearing with Michael Imperioli (who played Christopher Moltisanti in the drama series) and Steven Schirripa (Bobby 'Bacala').

The Belfast event will be his first visit to our shores, but Vincent said he was such a Van fan that he considered coming here for his series of intimate shows at the Culloden Hotel.

He said: "I was gonna do the package, you go over, you stay a couple of nights and see the show.

Actor Vincent Pastore starring in The Sopranos
Actor Vincent Pastore starring in The Sopranos

"He's got a different attitude now. In the early days, if he wasn't happy... I saw him walk off the stage down at the Palladium in New York City, like in the third song, and he never came back.

"Now, if he doesn't like a venue, he won't go back. He told me he don't like playing New York City. He likes Caesar's in Vegas, though, that's where I'm going to see him again, he likes that."

Italian-American Vincent admitted he knew "wiseguys" growing up and has no qualms about being typecast as a gangster, having worked his way up from bit parts in big movies like Goodfellas and Carlito's Way to films like Guy Ritchie's Revolver after finding fame through the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series The Sopranos.

New York actor Vincent who starred as Salvatore Bonpensiero in the Mafia drama series
New York actor Vincent who starred as Salvatore Bonpensiero in the Mafia drama series

He said: "That was all stuff that I wound up getting upgraded from, that's the beginning. I don't care about that at all, I'm working on a movie now, I was in rehearsal yesterday. It's called The Birthday Cake with Lorraine Bracco, Val Kilmer and Ewan McGregor.

"We're all in this project together and I sat down with the writer and the producers yesterday and we went over my character and they were so happy because I know what I'm doing.

"I walked out of there yesterday with my wardrobe already picked out so now it's up to me to go home and learn the lines because they already helped me find who the character was.

New York actor Vincent on stage with co-stars Michael Imperioli and Steven Schirripa
New York actor Vincent on stage with co-stars Michael Imperioli and Steven Schirripa

"I mean, there's all different kinds of gangsters. There's all different levels, there's all different kinds of stories about these guys. I mean, look at John Wayne, he did all those Westerns, and look at the life of Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Cagney.

"I wish I could get other stuff but when my agent submits me for something here in the States, they just see me as a wiseguy so that's what they give me.

"It's threatening. It's drama. You talk about The Sopranos - Tony Soprano was the everyman, he was the modern Gary Cooper, so to speak, going through what he had to go through. They try to get out of it - but once a wiseguy, always a wiseguy."

Vincent speaks fondly about his late co-star James Gandolfini, who played protagonist Tony Soprano and died aged just 51 when he was on a trip to Rome in 2013.

He said: "Beautiful memories, we talk about him when we do the show, but the best memory was the fact that he was very generous on and off the screen. When you were working with him he really pushed hard to help your performance.

"You know, acting is reacting, unless you are up there doing a one-man show and Jimmy pushed us. He brought us to a level, especially when you're talking about a newcomer like Little Steven (Van Zandt, member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band).

"When Little Steven played Silvio, the first couple of episodes, I saw it, he was sweating bullets. He never did this before and I don't think he even studied acting.

"Steven was nervous but Jimmy was patient enough to guide Little Steven and if you could go and see his work in the second season on, he blew us away. Even Bruce used to say: 'I didn't know you could act Steven'.

"There was a moment that happened to me and it was the last day we were shooting in the studio - we were doing the Funhouse episode in which I got shot.

Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart

"When I got shot I was laying on the floor and they were setting up for a close-up and Jimmy came over and he put this black humidor on my belly. And I open up my eyes and I said: 'What's this?' And I sat up and he said: 'Open it you fat whatever'. And I opened it up and it was filled with Cuban cigars.

"And I have the humidor, I'm looking at it right now, and there's a little tag on the front - it says 'Rest In Peace' (laughs).

"And it was from the guys, they all chipped in. Those are the things you just remember for the rest of your life.

"And then one time I got a cheque in the mail, from Attaboy Films, which was Gandolfini's production company. He sent everybody a little gift from his account because he did so well. Who does that? You know? Who does that?

"I think one of the great things about guys like Jimmy is that they give back. A lot of people are selfish and they move on but Jimmy gave back all the time."

In Conversation With The Sopranos is at the SSE Arena, Belfast (theatre format) on Sunday, May 31 from 6.30pm and is 18+. Tickets are on sale via ticketmaster.ie and Ticketmaster outlets and a limited number of VIP meet and greet tickets are also on sale

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