"City Island" began life as a spec screenplay called "Make Someone Happy". I began writing it on Labor Day Weekend, 2001 and was on page fifty on September 11th, when the World Trade Center was attacked. I will always be able to root the creation of this script in precisely that astonishing moment in history as it was one of those days in which you never forget where you were and what you were doing.
I was writing about a middle-class New York family, filled with their own problems, frustrations and neuroses. And just as I was picking up steam with these people--and the script really did "write itself", the voices of the characters were coming at me fast and furious--the very world that they embodied was shaken to the core. For those reading this who are not New Yorkers, the local reaction to the tragedy was really quite astonishing. Many people hanging "missing" signs for their certainly dead relatives and friends; a denial and anger so fierce and conflicting that fights began to break out in Union Square; and through it all the sudden and blinding appearence of the American Flag just about everywhere you looked. People swung into action. Cleaning up the mess--Ground Zero as the disaster site came to be known-became the priority.
The general reaction of most people I knew in the arts was: why bother going on? Do we really need "Legally Blonde 2"? It seems strange now--after all, many cities have been attacked, pillaged, destroyed and still the creation of art has gone on unceasingly. But at the time there was a feeling of being left winded . Some hearty souls braver than I decided to get their ass down to GZ and help with the clean-up. I, alas, am the sort of person who if given a broom to help sweep up will probably wind up breaking the glasses stacked on the table. So I stayed home.
And my characters, the Rizzo's, sat there. Immobile. Without animation. Not knowing why they'd been created or where they were headed.
I think about ten days later I picked them up and dusted them off. After all I wasn't helping New York City in any concrete way by NOT WRITING. And they were, one way or another, emblematic of the kind of New Yorkers I've always most admired--indeed the kind that I come from: the outer-borough, working class familiies who are the true support--the true infrastructure of the greatest city in the world. What better for me to do in the wake of the attack on our city then let them have their lives and see who they were, what they wanted, what prevented them from getting it and how they would solve the dilemma of living?
Tomorrow I'll continue the saga of the eight years it took to get from script to finished film. Meanwhile here's a deleted scene from "City Island" featuring Andy Garcia, walking the streets of the Bronx.
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 8:17 AM