Feirstein Welcomes Distinguished Actor And BK Native John Turturro For Master

John Turturro during his master class with Feirstein./Craig Stokle for Brooklyn Daily Eagle

By Samia Afsar 


   Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema brought in distinguished stage and screen actor John Turturro for an end-of-year master class seminar held on May 25.

   In a screening room at the Steiner Studios film lot packed with eager Feirstein participants, Turturro spoke with the school’s executive director and two-time Oscar-nominated film producer, Richard Gladstein, to detail his five decades in film. The conversation also marked the beginning of Turturro’s partnership with the school as he is set to serve as an advisor to Gladstein and a mentor to the students at Feirstein beginning this fall.

   During the seminar, Turturro recalled being passionate about cinema from a young age, accrediting acclaimed actors like Barbara Stanwyck, Sidney Poitier, and Ossie Davis as his influences growing up. However, it wasn’t until Turturro saw a clip of Dustin Hoffman in the 1969 drama “Midnight Cowboy” during the Academy Awards did he feel seen and encouraged to pursue acting. 

   “That’s when the door opened for a lot of ethnic actors at that time,” he said. 

   Following him earning a  BA in Theater Arts at SUNY New Paltz, Turturro went on to pursue his MFA at the prestigious Yale School of Drama where he studied alongside Angela Bassett, Charles Dutton, and Sabrina Le Beauf. Despite his impressive school record, Turturro counseled the students that the most effective acting methodology is to do “whatever helps you.” 

   “The Sandy Meisner approach, the Uta Hagen approach, the Commedia dell’arte approach. A life around you, and of course your imagination,” he said.  

   Shortly preceding his graduation from Yale, Turturro earned an Obie Award for his performance in John Patrick Shanley’s play “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea,” which kick started his career ahead. Turturro went on to work with Spike Lee in “Do The Right Thing” (1989) and another nine films. He also went on to launch a well-established collaboration with the Coen Brothers, being featured in films such as “The Big Lebowski,” “Miller’s Crossing,” and the lead role in the 1991 film, “Barton Fink.” 

   Throughout the span of his career so far, Turturro has been nominated for 56 awards and won 19, including a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in the early 2000’s TV show, “Monk. And in the words of Gladstein, “many directors who work with John, often do it again and again.”

   At the seminar, Turturro also went on to detail his experiences with being “grouped” based on his physical appearance, inexorably resulting in him having to play the “bad guy” in multiple productions despite his general disinterest in doing so.

   “The whole idea of doing something creative is to empathize with other people and to have different experiences,” he advised the patrons in attendance. “Put yourself in other people’s shoes.” 

   More recently, the “Do The Right Thing” actor has starred in the recent blockbuster film “The Batman,” where he plays mob boss Carmine Falcone, and in Apple TV+’s hit series “Severance” where he can be seen playing Irving, one of four core Lumon employees whom the story revolves around. 

   As for the foreseeable future, Turturro claims to have three projects that he is keen on launching: a screenplay, mini-series, and play. Although he did not mention what these projects will consist of, it is safe to assume that in respect of the legendary reputation he has earned throughout these past fifty years, Turturro will most certainly not disappoint. 

   Turturro is one of many eminent cinema personnel and creative forces to be welcomed at Feirstein. The graduate school has already worked with the likes of Ethan Hawke, Gus Van Sant, as well as with the writers, directors, producers, editors, and composers of the Netflix smash hit “The Queen’s Gambit.” More recently, Academy Award-nominated cinematographer, Stuart Dryburgh, was appointed as the school’s spring 2022 filmmaker-in-residence, where he offered collaboration seminars, lighting workshops, and one-on-one mentorships to the students.

   All this has been a part of Gladstein’s efforts to “bring the industry to Feirstein,” a plan which has proven to provide students with valuable connections to well-respected actors, directors, producers and cinematographers straight from the industry.

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