For the longest time, Alex Corrado thought he was destined for a life in medicine. The 40-year-old Hoboken native even went as far as to study in Italy, attending medical school at Scoala di Italia. After studying for almost two decades, Corrado returned to his native New Jersey as a practicing physician.
"It was 1998 and I was doing company insurance physicals in Newark and pushing paperwork," Corrado explained. "I was also doing some research, but I really got fed up with the paperwork and became disillusioned with medicine. I was really sick of it."
At the same time, Corrado attended a Broadway show and was tapped on the shoulder by a gentleman standing near the door.
"He asked me if I wanted to audition for a movie," Corrado said. "And the movie was 'Analyze This.' I didn't know anything about movies or acting, but, of course, I was interested. So I went to the audition. But I didn't get the part, because Robert DeNiro said I was too big."
Corrado is a brute, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing close to 300 pounds. DeNiro, whose Tribeca Productions made the movie, basically told Corrado thanks, but no thanks.
However, former Hoboken Mayor Anthony Russo wasn't too big - and he was cast as an extra in the comedy that starred DeNiro and Billy Crystal.
The audition was all Corrado needed. He had the acting bug.
"It was exciting," Corrado said. "I knew it was what I wanted to do."
Soon after, Corrado's friend, fellow Hoboken native George Palermo, a veteran of ABC-TV soap operas "Loving," and "The City," told Corrado of a play that he had come across, written by Hoboken resident Nathan Gottlieb, a former sportswriter with the Newark Star-Ledger.
The play was entitled, "Larger Than Life." Palermo and Corrado won the parts of gangsters who were getting into the acting business. Corrado helped produce the play, which had a limited run off-Broadway in December of 1998.
"And I've been acting ever since," Corrado said.
The part in "Larger than Life" opened many doors for Corrado. He received his Screen Actors Guild card. He was cast in a commercial for Vitaminshoppe.com, playing a gangster. He filmed two episodes in the second season of the HBO megahit, "The Sopranos," playing - what else - a gangster.
"Everyone told me that I should audition for 'The Sopranos,' because I wouldn't be acting," Corrado said. "I would be playing myself."
However, Corrado's work on The Sopranos ended up on the cutting room floor. But it led to other work - namely Corrado's big break.
"I was having a slice of pizza on Washington Street in Hoboken, when a guy walked up to me and said, 'Are you an actor? Because if you're an actor, I have the perfect part for you,'" Corrado said. "This was in February of 2000. And the guy was Bob Giraldi."
Giraldi is the famous director who has made some of the greatest videos of the MTV generation, including Michael Jackson's hits, "Beat It," "Billie Jean," and "Say, Say, Say" with Paul McCartney. He was working with a casting director who was another big Hollywood figure: Lou DiGiaimo, who was the casting head for such blockbusters as "Rain Man," "The Godfather, Part III," and "Donnie Brasco."
Before that, Corrado said, "I must have sent 100 headshots and resumes to DiGiaimo and I got nothing. And it took a slice of pizza at Benny Tudino's. I ran to my house and got another resume and headshot and the next day, I had a script."
Giraldi and DiGiaimo were looking for an Italian mobster/bookie for their new movie, Dinner Rush, which was set to star Danny Aiello, Sandra Bernhardt, Polly Draper of "thirtysomething" fame, and John Beckett, who currently plays Sarah Jessica Parker's love on "Sex and the City."
The movie was filmed in New York's SoHo district last year and features the story of a restaurant owner (Aiello) who is looking to pass on his business and his bookmaking business to his son. Corrado plays one of a pair of mobster brothers from Queens, along with actor Mike McLone of Brothers McMullen.
It is a fast-paced movie featuring a host of characters, set in the restaurant during the dinner rush hour. The movie was filmed last year, but was never released to theaters. But it definitely was the start of bigger and better things for Corrado.
"While we were filming 'Dinner Rush', I got a call that someone was looking for an Italian killer," Corrado said. "I flew out to California to audition for Ridley Scott."
Who was, of course, auditioning actors for the blockbuster "Hannibal," the sequel to the Academy Award-winning "Silence of the Lambs," starring Sir Anthony Hopkins.
"I flew out to Los Angeles and they made a $100,000 robot of me that was used in the movie," Corrado said. "It was done by the special effects lab and they made a mold of my head and body."
Because we all know the fate that the Italian mobster faces when he meets the diabolic Hannibal Lechter. Needless to say, Corrado's character, Pierro Falcione, made for a nice lunch.
"I read the book and knew the part," Corrado said. "I knew what I was getting into."
He also knew he was getting a part in a movie that would go on to gross hundreds of millions of dollars.
Corrado said that he had a lot of fun working on "Hannibal," which filmed in Washington, D.C., North Carolina and Virginia for a month. He became friendly with Hopkins - a man whom Corrado affectionately know calls "Tony."
"Tony's a great guy," Corrado said, in his typical Hoboken flair. "We had dinner together a few times. We got along great. He tells me I have a tremendous amount of natural ability."
Not a bad compliment coming from an acting legend, not to mention a two-time Oscar winner.
Ready for release
Now, "Dinner Rush" is ready for limited release, as it will hit 42 theaters locally, beginning this week (Friday, Sept. 28). It has gained good reviews from New York Magazine and critics who viewed the film at the Venice Film Festival two weeks ago, where Corrado went for the viewing. If the response continues, the film could be featured in more theaters.
"We're really hopeful that this can take off," Corrado said. "I just got back from Venice, where I was treated like Liz Taylor. I was treated like a big celebrity."
For Corrado, the whole journey has been a whirlwind.
"I know that there are guys who have worked for 20 years, looking for the break I've received," Corrado said. "I never really acted and had no formal training, but I knew I could do it. I do feel I'm lucky, because I wanted to make something of my life and didn't want to sit around, pushing papers in a doctor's office. I wouldn't have had the furthest notion this could happen. It was all out of my league. But hey, anything is possible. It's happened, and now I have to make the most of it. No one is knocking the door down to get me."
But Corrado already has some other acting gigs lined up. He will play a bouncer in the latest Ricky Martin video. He is currently featured on television commercials for the New York Mets, "although I'm a Yankee fan," Corrado admits.
And he has completed two movies set for release in 2002 - a remake of the cult classic "Rollerball," this one starring Chris Klein of "American Pie" fame, along with LL Cool J and Rebecca Romjin-Stamos, and "Unfaithful," starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane.
Corrado is also working on a movie with Aiello and "Sopranos" star Vincent "Big Pussy" Pastore, called "Russian Job."
He also plans to reprise his role in "Larger Than Life" with Palermo at the Producers' Club in New York from Oct. 29-Nov. 11.
"I just have to keep moving," Corrado said.
And away from the medical books. q
For further information about Alex Corrado, visit his website at www.alexcorrado.com.