Mob Wives of Hollywood
Lindsay Lohan in Gotti: Three Generations
Now that she’s been sentenced for shoplifting a $2,500 necklace, Lindsay Lohan has time to study her lines for her upcoming triumphant return to the big screen. The actress has signed with Fiore Films for the role of Kim Gotti, daughter-in-law of the legendary American mobster John Gotti and wife of his Mafioso son, “Junior” Gotti, in Gotti: Three Generations. Lohan will join a cast of Hollywood A-Listers including John Travolta as Gotti Sr. and Joe Pesci as one of his henchmen. “I’m really excited to be back on set and clear up all the misinterpretations about me and show this is what I love to do,” the actress said of her attempted comeback. Gotti: Three Generations is scheduled to begin filming in the fall and with an expected release in 2012. Let’s hope her jail time doesn’t affect the shooting schedule.
Edie Falco in The Sopranos
For eight years, Brooklyn-born Edie Falco starred as New Jersey gangster Tony Soprano’s wife Carmela on HBO’s hit series The Sopranos—a role that earned her three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes. “It would be very easy for Carmela to be written [and played] as a predictably two-dimensional Noo Joisy stereotype wife, all jangling nerves and jewelry,” The Guardian reviewed. “But Falco is more than this… Carmela is that rare beast—the modern, multi-faceted Mafioso's consort.” The role that made Falco famous still holds a special place in her heart, even though she’s moved on to playing the Emmy-winning title character on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. “I was out with my kids the other day at a carnival and someone yelled at me, ‘Hey, Nurse Jackie!’” she recalled to The Daily Beast. “I have to admit it made me feel kind of sad not hearing ‘Carmela!’”
Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface
Michelle Pfeiffer officially rose to stardom in the ‘80s and ‘90s, with noteworthy roles in films like Dangerous Liaisons (1988), The Russia House (1990) and The Age of Innocence (1993). But her breakout performance was in the 1983 Mafia movie Scarface as Elvira Hancock, a cocaine addict and trophy wife of the iconic mob boss Tony Montana (Al Pacino). It wasn’t an easy role to play, nor was it an easy role to get. Neither the director nor Pacino wanted her for the part. In 2009, Pfeiffer told David Letterman on Late Night that she won them over by “slicing and dicing Al Pacino.” The audition process was long and during one screen test, they shot an argument scene in which Elvira clears a table of dishes at a restaurant in a fit of rage. When she finished the take, Pfeiffer saw that there was “blood everywhere” and that a glass shard had cut Pacino. It was at that point, she said, that Pacino “began to like me,” and she was cast in the film.
Sharon Stone in Casino
In Martin Scorsese’s 1995 film Casino, sexy siren Sharon Stone played Ginger McKenna, a hustler-turned-mob wife. But it wasn’t a glamorous role for Stone—in one scene, she ties her daughter to a bed, in order to spend an evening with her lover. Initially, even the actress herself did not think the part was right for her and her advisers suggested she turn it down, despite the opportunity to play opposite Robert De Niro, who played her husband Sam “Ace” Rothstein. "This woman is so unsympathetic,” Stone recalled being told of the role. “She ties her kid to the bed, gets loaded, and does coke... Sharon, we don't think you should go there.” But the gritty performance paid off in the end—Stone won a Golden Globe and received an Oscar nod for her performance.
Anne Heche in Donnie Brasco
Before she gained notoriety for an alleged alien encounter and breaking up with Ellen DeGeneres, Anne Heche starred as Maggie, the wife of New Jersey FBI Agent Joseph Pistone (Johnny Depp) in 1997’s Donnie Brasco. The fact-based film follows Pistone (who goes by Donnie Brasco undercover) as he infiltrates the mob and befriends Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero (Al Pacino). As he secretly delves deeper and deeper into the Mafia world, he leaves Maggie and their three daughters behind. Though her role is chock-full of abandoned wife clichés (i.e. one of lines is: “I pretend I’m a widow”) the then barely known Heche managed to earn high marks from critics. “Heche's scenes with Depp have a rending poignancy,” Rolling Stone reviewed. The New York Times noted, “Anne Heche does well with what could have been the thankless role of Joe Pistone's wife.”
Diane Keaton in the Godfather Franchise
Before she won an Academy Award as the quirky Annie Hall in Woody Allen’s classic romantic comedy, Diane Keaton showed off her acting chops in the 1972 mob classic, The Godfather. She played Kay Adams, the longtime girlfriend and eventual wife of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), the future godfather and son of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). Keaton starred in all three Godfather films, but Francis Ford Coppola’s first installment was her breakout role—the actress has since referred to it as a “lucky break.” In a 2004 interview on NPR she admitted that the mob world was very unfamiliar to her and that she didn’t know why Coppola picked her to star in the trilogy: “At that point of my life people viewed me as being kind of kooky—I was like the kooky actress—and he cast me in that role, [which was] so serious! That role was a mystery to me. [Kay] was a mystery to me.”
Annette Bening in Bugsy
Her husband Warren Beatty earned his stardom playing a gangster in the 1967 classic Bonnie and Clyde, a genre he returned to alongside wife Annette Bening in 1991’s Bugsy, the true story of legendary gangster Bugsy Siegel. In the film, Bugsy (Beatty) falls for Bening’s character Virginia Hill, a leggy screen siren dating one of his henchmen, and the two plan to construct a hotel called the Flamingo (in honor of her killer stems). Though her husband earned an Academy Award nod for his performance, Bening was left out of the loop. "She did a very difficult job so smoothly and elegantly," the Bugsy screenwriter told The New York Times of Bening. "She handled multisyllabic dialogue—literary dialogue laced with obscenity—in a completely natural way. She handled it all so gracefully." Perhaps graceful mob wife isn’t the way to go.
Penelope Ann Miller in Carlito’s Way
When casting the 1993 mob movie Carlito’s Way, star Al Pacino and director Brian de Palma needed both a dancer and actor to play Pacino’s character’s longtime girlfriend, Gail, who dreams of ending her stripping career and becoming a dancer. They settled on the relatively unknown Penelope Ann Miller, who was 29 years old at the time. The doomed romance between Carlito and Gail was a central subplot to the film, but the actor’s chemistry proved palpable off-screen as well: Miller confirmed that she and Pacino had an affair while filming the movie. “Al is a very passionate person, and he brought out a certain womanliness, a sexuality, a passion in me,” Miller said of their romance and its effect on her performance. “I think I always knew I had it, but he brought out the real fire.”
Lorraine Bracco in Goodfellas
Though younger generations know Lorraine Bracco for her role as Tony Soprano’s therapist on The Sopranos, the Mafia runs deep in her résumé. Bracco appeared in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film Goodfellas as Karen Hill, a Jewish girl who overlooks Henry Hill’s (Ray Liotta) crime activity when she’s seduced by his glamorous lifestyle. Eventually, the two marry, but don’t exactly live happily ever after in what becomes a web of guns, drug smuggling, and adultery. Bracco has said that doing research for her role as Karen Hill was difficult. “It's not like you're playing a banker so Warner Brothers can call a bank for you, and you can go watch what they do,” the actress told The New York Times. “Who are they gonna call for this? John Gotti? [And say] 'Maybe we could arrange to meet your wife. Is that possible?' It was a joke. I really tried, but I couldn't get near anyone.” Seemingly though, Bracco got it right without any help—she was nominated as Best Supporting Actress for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.