Rock Center | September 20, 2012
>>> on sunday night, steve buscemi is up for emmy for best in a lead role. and in his case, as the leading man in " boardwalk empire," on hbo. it was more whim than calling. but if he hadn't, we wouldn't have his performances in "fargo" or " reservoir dogs " or we wouldn't be as interested to meet the man who belongs to that famous face. he is an unmistakable presence. glaring down on his hometown from high above times square . and even before people talk about his acting most people mention that look, his looks. it's not usually good.
>> he is kind of funny looking.
>> what way?
>> just funny looking.
>> can you be any more spa sieve sick.
>> yeaw -- specific.
>> i read descriptions, snagle-toothed, bug eyed. they always have to say that. okay. every time.
>> after a while does it hurt your feelings? luckily your family loves you?
>> they do. i was never that conscious of my looks. i don't know why. until i started reading abut my looks. i was like, is that, do i look like that?
>> thus begins the list of things you need to know about steve buscemi , starting with his name. he pronounces it buscemi , although he learned later in life, the correct sicilian way is buscemi . and the big thing about steve buscemi is how often he dies.
>> it's a heart attack .
>> he has probably been killed more than any other big name actor of the modern era and he himself is at a loss as to why. why did you die so much?
>> i don't know. you know, i don't know how i fell into playing these types of roles. it happened the first one was " miami vice " the tv show . i was cast as like a drug go between, i was roughed around by don johnson and willie nelson . of course i died in that. that just started, i guess i died well.
>> does it haunt you?
>> no, i don't, i don't, i don't think about it too much.
>> part of the job ?
>> it is, yeah. a fun -- for a while a really fun part of the job . and after i was killed on "the soparons" by tony soprano . i vowed. okay. i will make this my last death. then michael bey offered me this role in "the island" i get killed halfway through the movie by an anonymous killer. and i'm like, okay, that will be the last one. and that was the last one.
>> he has the played the weasely guy, skefy guy, border lean and full-on psychopaths, and it left him with little skochoice to embrace it and celebrate it on "snl."
>> for a long time i played supporting characters, the creepy bellhop, the creepy homeless guy, or the creepy-creepy guy.
>> but life may never be the same for steve buscemi because now he is a leading man. this is season three of " boardwalk empire" on hbo. steve plays enoch thompson . official title atlantic county treasurer. unofficially he runs his own mob in atlantic city . he does that through a thriving import business, importing booze during prohibition. his character draws from an actual figure back in the day and other greats and near-greats from that era come and go as well. including a young hothead from chicago named al capone .
>> i'm making a statement.
>> he has a lovely i rsh wife he can't trust and can't kill and she is at the top of a list of characters without one redeeming quality among them.
>> i am not seeking forgiveness.
>> the show is as dark as the rum he smuggles. there is either a murder or an aggravated assault every few minutes. the attention to detail is meticulous down to the city itself. they have moved atlantic city to brooklyn. this is beyond hollywood smoke and mirrors . this city is made of tractor trailers. over here is a blue wall made up of containerized 18-wheeler.
>> yep. empty container. they built the wall so they can cgi the ocean.
>> on screen it plays big and vast and it is all fake, but looks so real. the real empire state building , visible while standing here, disappears on the tv version, where the hotel grows taller. the ocean comes to life. the boardwalk comes to life. down to the tiniest details in the stores and shops. including a strange little place, a curiosity back in the '20s designed to sell a skeptical public on in incubator for premature babies . explain the history again?
>> you think that would have been made up. but this guy who invented the incubator, could not sell it to hospitals. and so he decided to just have an attraction on the boardwalk in atlantic city .
>> it is all his " boardwalk empire" now. but the part of steve buscemi 's story that a lot of us find most interesting happened years ago just across the river in lower manhattan . steve buscemi was a new york city fire fighter , assigned to engine 55 in the heart of little italy . he was the son of a civil servant who got on the fire department waiting list , took the test, went through the academy, and fought fires for a living. we met him back in his old engine company where like so many new york city firehouses, the first thing you notice is a memorial to that day. they lost a whole shift from here on 9/11. five firefighters including one, faust apostle who served with buscemi .
>> such a surreal day for everybody. but when the numbers came in about the firefighters who were killed. the first number i heard was roughly 100. then it kept growing. that's what made it real for me.
>> the number grew to 343 fire fighters lost. after 9/11, buscemi went back to his old firehouse and volunteered to work on the pile at ground zero just another guy on that solemn bucket brigade . and he went home each night covered in ash. he still comes back. he used to hide the fact that he was an actor because razzing is such a big part of fire fighting life. and he loves telling the story of walking into the old bar around the corner, the night he got whacked on the sopranos.
>> the moment i was killed they start cheering. they start laughing. i've went, guys, i'm right here? what? no respect.
>> he gets respect now, at least when he is playing enoch thompson . he likes that.
>> he has class. people listen to him. he can give orders. and he can yell at people and not get hit.
>> i'm making a goodwill gesture. accept it or not.
>> as actors go, he is a scrappy, a fighter, an underdog, a city kd wid who then had to learn how to fight on camera.
>> what's hard is not to add the sound yourself, you don't have to go -- okay, i won't go --
>> off the boardwalk he is a happy man. married 25 years, the father of a son. and these are great days on the boardwalk as well. if steve buscemi sound happy, it's probably because he hasn't died.
>> nucky thompson ?
>> when we shoot all night and the sun comes up on the city.
>> i love what you have done with the place. out onto the fake boardwalk . everything is right with the world. not atlantic city but as close as they get.
>>> our thanks to steve buscemi and for big-time boardwalk fans there is more of our guided tour . it's on our website as of tonight. that