Big Night


1h 47m 1996
Big Night

Brief Synopsis

A failing Italian restaurant run by two brothers gambles on one special night to try to save the business.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
grande nuit
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Period
Release Date
1996
Distribution Company
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Location
New York City, New York, USA; New Jersey, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m

Synopsis

A bittersweet story of two brothers in search of the American dream. Primo and Secondo Pilaggi are Italian immigrants who settle on the New Jersey shore and open a restaurant, the Paradise, hoping to strike it rich. Primo, the elder brother, is a master chef from the Old World who is concerned only with quality and authenticity in the kitchen. Secondo, the younger brother and business manager, is all too eager to compromise if it means more customers and more cash. Teetering on the brink of failure, the brothers learn that the famed Italian-American musician Louis Prima is performing in the area and they contrive to host a dinner in his honor. Hoping that a "big night" built around a celebrity like Prima will get them publicity, the brothers pool all their talent, energy and every cent they have to plan a sumptuous banquet of unsurpassed ambition. What follows is a culinary adventure that will teach them alot about themselves, each other, and their different definitions of life, love and success.

Crew

Marie Abma

Costumes

G. A. Aguilar

Stunt Coordinator

Elizabeth W. Alexander

Coproducer

Marc D Alpert

Production Assistant

William Armstrong

Other

David J Babcock

Driver

Larry Banks

Camera Operator

Eva Barnes

Dialect Coach

Michael Barry

Rerecording

Marcia Bebonis

Casting Associate

Diane Bishop

Art Assistant

Steve Borne

Music Editor

Carla Bowen

Assistant Director

Conrad F Brink

Special Effects

Theodore A. Brown

Transportation Captain

Joseph Buonocore Jr.

Driver

Helene Cardona

Stand-In

Susan Carrano

Assistant

Ben Cheah

Sound Effects

Peter Clark

Grip

John Clifford

Photography

Margot Core

Music Supervisor

Marko Costanzo

Foley Artist

Patrick Cousins

Electrician

Robert Covelman

Property Master

Peggy Craven

Assistant Director

Douglas Crosby

Stunts

Byron Crystal

Extras Agent/Coordinator

Lynn D'angona

Assistant Director

Justin Daly

Production Assistant

Michael Del Rio

Stand-In

Gary Demichele

Music

Dan Denitto

Dolly Grip

Jim Denny

Other

Bob Dillon

Carpenter

Deborah J Disabatino

Other

Andrea Dokman

Assistant

Joe Donohue

Grip

Andrea Dorman

Camera Trainee

Steven Drellich

Camera Operator

Midge Duffy

Assistant Property Master

Suzy Elmiger

Editor

Scott Farley

Hair Stylist

Elizabeth Feldbauer

Wardrobe Supervisor

Irene Feldbauer

Wardrobe Assistant

Armando Fente

Assistant Editor

Jonathan Filley

Producer

Stephen Finkin

Dresser

Jill Footlick

Production Coordinator

Samuel Friedman

Other

Jim Galvin

Other

Ed Gangloff

Foreman

Joseph Garzero

Other

Kenneth Gaskins

Transportation Co-Captain

James B Gilmartin

Other

David Gordon

Music

Mick Gormaley

Assistant Editor

Patricia Grand

Hair Assistant

Anthony Gueli

Hair Stylist

Donna Hamilton

Assistant Set Decorator

Pedro Hernandez

Dolly Grip

Lisa Horne

Assistant

Larry Horodner

Production Assistant

Mark Horstmann

Construction Coordinator

Marty Houston

Production Assistant

Sam Hutchins

Location Manager

Ross Huttick

Props

Akeo Ihara

Production Assistant

Andi Isaacs

Production Accountant

Andrew Jackness

Production Designer

Kenton Jakub

Adr Editor

Miguel Jiminez

Other

Jon Mark Johnson

Other

Kim Jones

Production Assistant

Harley Kaplan

Stand-In

Lisa Katcher

Script Supervisor

Nicole Katz

Art Department Coordinator

Dan Kaufman

Stand-In

Ken Kelsch

Director Of Photography

Philip Kennedy

Other

David Kirkpatrick

Executive Producer

Todd Kleitsch

Makeup

Barbara Krauthamer

Wardrobe Supervisor

Robert Kummert

Key Grip

Linda Lazar

Makeup

George Leong

Boom Operator

Ellen Lewis

Casting

Peter Liguori

Coproducer

Julie Lindner

Assistant Editor

Dennis Livesey

Assistant Camera Operator

Valerie Livingstone

Production Assistant

Paul Loret

Grip

Gerard Maggio

Driver

Neal Martz

Makeup Artist

Pamela Mathis

Titles

Mary Kate Mccormick

Assistant Production Coordinator

Andrew Mcdade

Production Assistant

Jeffrey D Mcdonald

Art Director

Liz Mcgregor

Assistant Director

Francis J Mckenna

Craft Service

Charle Mcnamara

Lighting Technician

Sylvia Menno

Dialogue Editor

Ron Mingalone

Props

Beth Moran

Production Assistant

Beth Moran

Art Assistant

Frances N Murdock

Assistant

Charlie Murphy

Driver

Rich Murphy

Other

Ed Newins

Key Grip

Chris Novick

Production Assistant

Liam E O'rourke

Grip

Eliza Paley

Sound Editor

Glenfield Payne

Sound Effects Editor

Oliver Platt

Coproducer

Juliet Polcsa

Costume Designer

Noah Prince

Generator Operator

Bruce Pross

Foley

Susan Raney

Set Decorator

Rick Raphael

Steadicam Operator

Lynn Reich

Production Assistant

Shea Rowan

Production Assistant

Elisabeth Rudolph

Casting Associate

Keith Samples

Executive Producer

Johnny Santiago

Grip

Tony Santos

Other

William Sarokin

Sound Mixer

Steve Scanlon

Dresser

Gianni Scappin

Consultant

Diana Schmidt

Production Manager

George Sheanshang Esq.

Production

Karen Sibrava

Stand-In

Charles Spillane

Driver

David Stein

Art Director

Albert Sterling

Security

Andrea Teicher

Art Assistant

Philip Testa

Lighting

Zeborah Tidwell

Associate Editor

Dale C Todd

Accounting Assistant

Steve Treadway

Assistant Camera Operator

Joseph Tropiano

Screenplay

Susan Trout

Stunts

Stanley Tucci

Screenplay

Eric Van Alstyne

Stand-In

Gary Van Der Meer

Location Assistant

Justin Vanson

Production Assistant

Michael Ventresco

Main Title Design

Rosie Viggiano

Production Assistant

Steve Visscher

Foley Editor

Andrew Vogliano

Production Assistant

John P Wolanczyk

Other

Christopher Wyllie

Other

Tom Yeager

Assistant Location Manager

Harriet S. Zucker

Assistant Set Decorator

Film Details

Also Known As
grande nuit
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Drama
Period
Release Date
1996
Distribution Company
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Location
New York City, New York, USA; New Jersey, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m

Articles

Big Night


"Possibly because we derive nourishment from [food] not only physically but also spiritually, the creation of a great meal is perhaps the ultimate artistic endeavor."

--Stanley Tucci

One of the great "food movies," Big Night (1996) was a surprise indie hit in 1996 and created something of a craze for its centerpiece culinary dish, Italian timpano. The whimsical, poignant comedy-drama is about two brothers (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub), Italian immigrants, who have opened a small restaurant called Paradise in 1950s New Jersey. They pride themselves on their authentic Italian cuisine and dining experience, but they can't bring in any customers because of nearby Pascal's, which is wildly popular with the locals despite its unsophisticated American take on Italian dining: spaghetti and meatballs, checkered tablecloths, candles in Chianti bottles, and singing waiters. One of the brothers comically scorns Pascal's as "a rape of cuisine. The man should be in prison for the food he serves!"

With Paradise about to go out of business, the brothers mount a last-ditch attempt to save their restaurant and keep from having to return to Italy. They've heard that jazz singer Louis Prima is coming to town, so they pour all their resources into preparing an extravagant party, in the hope that he will attend and draw attention. When he doesn't, the brothers instead invite over twenty friends to indulge in a spectacular, final dinner....

This is the surface storyline of Big Night, but the movie is really about deeper, more profound issues like assimilation and the immigrant experience in America, the clash of morality and culture between old-world Italy and 1950s America, art vs. commerce, integrity vs. selling out. Food is used as a way of exploring the differences between the cultures -- not just in the food itself, but in the ways it is consumed, with the Italians treating dining as a lingering social ritual in which friends and family, stories, and laughter are all vital ingredients.

Stanley Tucci, who co-wrote, co-directed, and co-produced, also has pointed out the story's parallels to the filmmaking world, with Big Night a truly independent film struggling to succeed in a market saturated by often-bland studio titles. "The idea of assimilating and losing a certain amount of character or culture is something that is very much on my mind," Tucci said in 1996. "Being full-blooded Italian-American, it's sad to see the old ways die out. Don't get me wrong. I love contemporary stuff, but so many of the old ways are gone for good. Everything becomes very homogenized. The common expression you hear from people in the movie business is that they don't want the audience to have to work hard. Personally, I think the audience enjoys getting a little exercise."

Tucci wrote the script with his cousin, Joseph Tropiano, over the course of several years between acting jobs. "We set the film in the fifties," he said, "because that was a time when mass production was really shifting into high gear, things were becoming homogenized and, on the food side, fast food and TV dinners were coming in. We have these two characters who are trying to run a business where things are made by hand on a very intimate and human scale, while America is heading in the opposite direction."

Tucci brought on old friend and fellow actor Campbell Scott to co-direct, but in reality this was mainly for scenes in which Tucci appeared in front of the camera. By all accounts, the principal artistic vision for this film came from Tucci, who explained that he undertook the movie out of frustration with the weak roles he'd been getting: "I wanted to finally get a decent part for myself. I mean, if I'd been cast in enough good roles, I don't think I'd have gotten around to making this."

On a budget of $4 million, the independently-financed film shot for a total of 35 days on the Jersey shore, in parts of the Bronx and Westchester, and on an elaborate set which replicated a complete restaurant with a full working kitchen. There was a second working kitchen just off the set where the food stylist and her staff cooked all the food that was then "finished" by the actors on camera. Both Tucci and Shalhoub trained for many months with master chefs in New York and Los Angeles to hone their cooking knowledge and skills.

The finished film initially drew no interest from distributors. Then it got into the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered strong reviews and audience response, and won the screenwriting prize. Now the distributors were fighting over it; the Samuel Goldwyn Company prevailed, and released the film commercially that September. "It's funny," said Tucci at the time. "I made this little movie about the struggle between art and commerce and now I'm such a hot item."

Critics loved Big Night. Variety's Todd McCarthy deemed it "extremely well directed, a smartly made, delightfully acted period piece whose sensibility neatly straddles art films and the mainstream... There is a lightly poetic, bighearted, humanist approach throughout that reminds of early Fellini." Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the film "has the simple, graceful arc of a short story... What's most affecting here...is the film's absolute faith in artistry and independence in a world that may not necessarily respect either one."

Critics also warned viewers not to see it on an empty stomach -- or at least to have plans for an Italian dinner afterwards! Big Night became a hit, grossing $12 million for a healthy profit. A clever marketing campaign led restaurants in some cities to devise tie-ins, enticing filmgoers to indulge in an Italian dinner like the one on screen -- or something close to it.

The climactic meal in the movie is a multi-course affair featuring mouth-watering soup, roast chicken, baked fish, asparagus, garlic cloves, artichokes, roast pig and more. But the centerpiece -- and the one item that drew the most attention -- is the timpano, a drum-shaped Calabrian marvel in which a pastry-dough torte is filled with delicate layers of pasta, meats, hard-boiled eggs and cheese, and then baked. Tucci later wrote: "Structurally and creatively, [the timpano] gave us the strong focus for the meal and had repercussions we never anticipated. During the first screenings we were amazed by the audience's reaction to this dish. They were exactly those of the characters in the film -- audible gasps of awe and wonder."

The timpano on-screen was made from a then-secret recipe courtesy of Tucci's mother, who served as an unofficial food consultant. (In real life, the Tuccis have timpano every Christmas.) In 1999, Mrs. Tucci published the recipe in the book Cucina & Famiglia, in which she and another chef shared recipes and essays on Italian cooking.

As impressive as the dinner sequence, with its timpano, may be, Tucci serves up a beautiful, wordless coda to the film, in which a breakfast staple is cooked ever so casually -- yet stunningly. As critic Todd McCarthy wrote of this elegant sequence, "Generally the direction is supremely confident, never more so than in the final, masterful long take in the kitchen in which the drama's primal conflict is quietly resolved."

By Jeremy Arnold

SOURCES:

Margaret Coyle, "Il Timpano," in Reel Food, edited by Anne L. Bower

Steve Zimmerman and Ken Weiss, Food in the Movies
Big Night

Big Night

"Possibly because we derive nourishment from [food] not only physically but also spiritually, the creation of a great meal is perhaps the ultimate artistic endeavor." --Stanley Tucci One of the great "food movies," Big Night (1996) was a surprise indie hit in 1996 and created something of a craze for its centerpiece culinary dish, Italian timpano. The whimsical, poignant comedy-drama is about two brothers (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub), Italian immigrants, who have opened a small restaurant called Paradise in 1950s New Jersey. They pride themselves on their authentic Italian cuisine and dining experience, but they can't bring in any customers because of nearby Pascal's, which is wildly popular with the locals despite its unsophisticated American take on Italian dining: spaghetti and meatballs, checkered tablecloths, candles in Chianti bottles, and singing waiters. One of the brothers comically scorns Pascal's as "a rape of cuisine. The man should be in prison for the food he serves!" With Paradise about to go out of business, the brothers mount a last-ditch attempt to save their restaurant and keep from having to return to Italy. They've heard that jazz singer Louis Prima is coming to town, so they pour all their resources into preparing an extravagant party, in the hope that he will attend and draw attention. When he doesn't, the brothers instead invite over twenty friends to indulge in a spectacular, final dinner.... This is the surface storyline of Big Night, but the movie is really about deeper, more profound issues like assimilation and the immigrant experience in America, the clash of morality and culture between old-world Italy and 1950s America, art vs. commerce, integrity vs. selling out. Food is used as a way of exploring the differences between the cultures -- not just in the food itself, but in the ways it is consumed, with the Italians treating dining as a lingering social ritual in which friends and family, stories, and laughter are all vital ingredients. Stanley Tucci, who co-wrote, co-directed, and co-produced, also has pointed out the story's parallels to the filmmaking world, with Big Night a truly independent film struggling to succeed in a market saturated by often-bland studio titles. "The idea of assimilating and losing a certain amount of character or culture is something that is very much on my mind," Tucci said in 1996. "Being full-blooded Italian-American, it's sad to see the old ways die out. Don't get me wrong. I love contemporary stuff, but so many of the old ways are gone for good. Everything becomes very homogenized. The common expression you hear from people in the movie business is that they don't want the audience to have to work hard. Personally, I think the audience enjoys getting a little exercise." Tucci wrote the script with his cousin, Joseph Tropiano, over the course of several years between acting jobs. "We set the film in the fifties," he said, "because that was a time when mass production was really shifting into high gear, things were becoming homogenized and, on the food side, fast food and TV dinners were coming in. We have these two characters who are trying to run a business where things are made by hand on a very intimate and human scale, while America is heading in the opposite direction." Tucci brought on old friend and fellow actor Campbell Scott to co-direct, but in reality this was mainly for scenes in which Tucci appeared in front of the camera. By all accounts, the principal artistic vision for this film came from Tucci, who explained that he undertook the movie out of frustration with the weak roles he'd been getting: "I wanted to finally get a decent part for myself. I mean, if I'd been cast in enough good roles, I don't think I'd have gotten around to making this." On a budget of $4 million, the independently-financed film shot for a total of 35 days on the Jersey shore, in parts of the Bronx and Westchester, and on an elaborate set which replicated a complete restaurant with a full working kitchen. There was a second working kitchen just off the set where the food stylist and her staff cooked all the food that was then "finished" by the actors on camera. Both Tucci and Shalhoub trained for many months with master chefs in New York and Los Angeles to hone their cooking knowledge and skills. The finished film initially drew no interest from distributors. Then it got into the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered strong reviews and audience response, and won the screenwriting prize. Now the distributors were fighting over it; the Samuel Goldwyn Company prevailed, and released the film commercially that September. "It's funny," said Tucci at the time. "I made this little movie about the struggle between art and commerce and now I'm such a hot item." Critics loved Big Night. Variety's Todd McCarthy deemed it "extremely well directed, a smartly made, delightfully acted period piece whose sensibility neatly straddles art films and the mainstream... There is a lightly poetic, bighearted, humanist approach throughout that reminds of early Fellini." Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the film "has the simple, graceful arc of a short story... What's most affecting here...is the film's absolute faith in artistry and independence in a world that may not necessarily respect either one." Critics also warned viewers not to see it on an empty stomach -- or at least to have plans for an Italian dinner afterwards! Big Night became a hit, grossing $12 million for a healthy profit. A clever marketing campaign led restaurants in some cities to devise tie-ins, enticing filmgoers to indulge in an Italian dinner like the one on screen -- or something close to it. The climactic meal in the movie is a multi-course affair featuring mouth-watering soup, roast chicken, baked fish, asparagus, garlic cloves, artichokes, roast pig and more. But the centerpiece -- and the one item that drew the most attention -- is the timpano, a drum-shaped Calabrian marvel in which a pastry-dough torte is filled with delicate layers of pasta, meats, hard-boiled eggs and cheese, and then baked. Tucci later wrote: "Structurally and creatively, [the timpano] gave us the strong focus for the meal and had repercussions we never anticipated. During the first screenings we were amazed by the audience's reaction to this dish. They were exactly those of the characters in the film -- audible gasps of awe and wonder." The timpano on-screen was made from a then-secret recipe courtesy of Tucci's mother, who served as an unofficial food consultant. (In real life, the Tuccis have timpano every Christmas.) In 1999, Mrs. Tucci published the recipe in the book Cucina & Famiglia, in which she and another chef shared recipes and essays on Italian cooking. As impressive as the dinner sequence, with its timpano, may be, Tucci serves up a beautiful, wordless coda to the film, in which a breakfast staple is cooked ever so casually -- yet stunningly. As critic Todd McCarthy wrote of this elegant sequence, "Generally the direction is supremely confident, never more so than in the final, masterful long take in the kitchen in which the drama's primal conflict is quietly resolved." By Jeremy Arnold SOURCES: Margaret Coyle, "Il Timpano," in Reel Food, edited by Anne L. Bower Steve Zimmerman and Ken Weiss, Food in the Movies

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Tony Shalhoub was co-winner, along with Martin Donovan, of the 1996 award for Best Supporting Actor from the National Society of Film Critics. Donovan was cited for his performance in "The Portrait of a Lady" (New Zealand/United Kingdom/USA).

Winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival.

Expanded Release in United States October 4, 1996

Limited Release in United States September 20, 1996

Released in United States 1996

Released in United States 1997

Released in United States Fall September 20, 1996

Released in United States February 2007

Released in United States January 1996

Released in United States on Video April 22, 1997

Released in United States September 1996

Shown at American Film Market (AFM) in Los Angeles February 29 - March 8, 1996.

Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Eat, Drink, See Movies) February 8-18, 2007.

Shown at Boston Film Festival September 6-16, 1996.

Shown at New Directors/New Films in New York City March 22 - April 7, 1996.

Shown at Rotterdam International Film Festival January 29 - February 9, 1997.

Shown at Sundance Film Festival (in competition) in Park City, Utah January 18-28, 1996.

Feature directorial debuts for actors Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci.

Co-directors Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci received the 1996 award for Best First Film from the New York Film Critics Circle.

Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott received the 1996 award for Best Newcomer from the Boston Society of Film Critics. In addition, Tucci and Joseph Tropiano received the award for Best Screenplay.

Released in United States 1996 (Shown at American Film Market (AFM) in Los Angeles February 29 - March 8, 1996.)

Released in United States 1996 (Shown at New Directors/New Films in New York City March 22 - April 7, 1996.)

Released in United States 1997 (Shown at Rotterdam International Film Festival January 29 - February 9, 1997.)

Released in United States January 1996 (Shown at Sundance Film Festival (in competition) in Park City, Utah January 18-28, 1996.)

Released in United States February 2007 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Eat, Drink, See Movies) February 8-18, 2007.)

Began shooting May 30, 1995.

Completed shooting July 19, 1995.

Released in United States on Video April 22, 1997

Released in United States September 1996 (Shown at Boston Film Festival September 6-16, 1996.)

Limited Release in United States September 20, 1996

Released in United States Fall September 20, 1996

Expanded Release in United States October 4, 1996