Director James de Monaco remembers “Rocky 3” as it was yesterday. On Staten Island, New York, in 1982, it was a pretty cool event.
Waited four hours in line for tickets and saw them twice in the same day. The children at his school wore the poster as a souvenir. There were even fights in the movies and disagreements between “tough guys” and “nerds” over who could love the character. It’s these memories that inspired “This is the Night,” which follows the Staten Island family on the film’s opening day.
DeMonaco wrote and directed “This is the Night,” which is recently available on video-on-demand, and stars Naomi Watts and Frank Grillo as parents of two teens. Everyone has their own commuting crunch apart from getting movie tickets. The father’s restaurant suffers and may have to rely on a gangster (Bobby Cannavale) to save him. Younger brother Tony (Lucius Hoyos) tries to impress the girl and get to her party on time. The eldest, Christian (Jonah Hauer King), reveals his identity with the gentle encouragement of his mother.
It’s a big change for DeMonaco, better known as the creator of “The Purge” (“Night of Atonement”). Partly by chance, he was stuck in this world for about a decade after the first movie went from being something no one could finance (I’d hear “too anti-American”) to the initial success of a franchise series that raised over $90 million on a $3 million budget.
But “This is the Night” is something that’s been brewing for years, and with the support of his Blumhouse friends, he’s decided it’s finally time.
“It was my way of returning my love for the film that saved me,” said de Monaco. “I always say my religious ideals in life were movies…that was how we learned about the world outside of Staten Island.”
He strived to capture this superior feeling of “cinematic experience” in his film. That’s why he asked for four full days of filming in the cinema. I wanted it to be fantastic and operatic.
“It’s a compelling time to consider the cultural importance of going to the movies and remember why it’s so important to our community,” said producer Jason Bloom.
However, DeMonaco never featured “Rocky III,” something everyone, from the producers to Sylvester Stallone himself, discussed. The director tried his own way, but it did not work. Additionally, he said, “It’s not just about ‘Rocky III’.
“I hope it has more to do with which movie inspired someone,” he said. “It’s about cinema as a global topic.”
It was, however, especially a thrill for an Italian-American, who remembers making a scrapbook of Rocky with his sister, to show Stallone his movie.
“In a strange way, he wanted her to love him. I said, ‘I think we should show him the movie.’ It would be strange if he only found out. He wanted to see her alone, which I totally understand, because he could have hated her,” said de Monaco. “But I learned from someone who worked with him that he stood up at the show and started boxing with the movie.”
After that, Stallone invited DeMonaco to his house and they talked for several hours.
“He likes that character. He knows that character built his career and he likes to see other people who like him the same way Rocky does… In fact he said, ‘Yeah, I know Staten Islanders really like me,’” de Monaco said. That day with him was really cool, a dream came true. All my friends in Staten Island are jealous of it more than anything else I’ve ever done.”
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