Real Talk with Former Mobster Ronnie Lorenzo on ‘The Family’

– by Gig Patta

thefamily Here’s an early Christmas treat.

Latino-Review was invited to a special dining event with a few other entertainment bloggers with former alleged mob associate Ronnie Lorenzo. Lorenzo made headlines back in the 1990s for his possible connections with the Bonanno crime family. At the time, the federal and city authorities were investigating Lorenzo for kidnappings, cocaine distribution, robberies and extortions against gamblers and movie executives.

Lorenzo was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for helping an FBI informant purchasing nearly six kilograms of cocaine in 1993. To this date, Lorenzo still deny any wrongdoing. He is a retired restaurateur and advises mob-related television programs.

The sit down dinner conversation was for the promotion of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Blu-Ray/DVD release of mob comedy “The Family.” The movie stars Robert Deniro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Dianna Agron as a mob family under the witness protection program in France.

The hilarious “The Family” was released earlier this week at local retailers.

Check out some of the highlights from our dinner conversation with Lorenzo on “The Family” below. (Nothing incriminating here Feds…..we’re just talking about the movie.)

Question: Since you’re an expert in this, how realistic is the movie to what they’re depicting in the film?

Ronnie Lorenzo: Not at all. It shouldn’t be since it’s not a documentary. I pick out a lot of things that other people don’t look at it. They sent six guys to kill one guy. I mean they came with six guys with rocket launchers. [Laughter] God knows how many guns and rifles. How did they even get all that into France?

There’s a lot of violence, but it is entertaining. The reality don’t exist here.

Question: The movie is produced by Martin Scorsese and it had Robert DeNiro, Michele Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones. In the movie, DeNiro’s character actually watches “The Goodfellas.” So is “The Goodfellas” the high mark for mobster movies?

Ronnie Lorenzo: Pretty much. “Goodfellas” is probably the most realistic mob movie in that way. The people I’ve known and the characters they’ve portrayed were pretty good. Robert DeNiro played a character named Jimmy Conway, but in real life it was Jimmy Burke. DeNiro really had him spot on too. He was a great guy and an Irish guy. Because of that, he held the respect of every made man.

Question: What were some of your favorite movies of the genre?

Ronnie Lorenzo: Probably my favorite mob movie will be “Once Upon A Time in America.” You watch those kids grow up for the first hour of the movie, you really know the characters and you know them well. That’s really sweet. Of course, “The Godfather” is a good movie. For reality, “Goodfellas” is real. It’s as real as it gets.

Question: DeNiro plays a lot of these characters. What is he doing right?

Ronnie Lorenzo: He grew up in our neighborhoods.

I knew Marty (Scorsese) when he was a kid. I didn’t know him well. DeNiro hung out with us when I was a kid and he was a little older than I was. He was from Fourteenth Street. He was known as “Bobby Fourtheeth Street or Bobby Irish.” [Laughter] He’s still friends with a couple of my friends back then.

Bobby’s been around us. He’s from New York and Downtown. He would know it. Mean streets is pretty much how we grew up. That’s my neighborhood. Marty knows it well.

When they shot the movie, I was supposed to be in the movie. Many of my friends had small parts in the movie. I chose not be on camera since I’m not an actor.

DeNiro really has it down. But, Marty is the ones who get the actors to perform well. If you see DeNiro perform as a gangster in this picture, “The Family,” as compared to the one directed by Marty—there’s a world of difference.

Question: “The Family” actually depicted this family as emotionally and physically strong in violence as the dad. Is that fictional?

Ronnie Lorenzo: No, no, no. That’s fictional. Look, you can’t paint everybody with the same brush. From I know, any respectful [father] will completely separate his family members from the business. You don’t want them get involved with the FBI and all that stuff. The [FBI] will use that as a hammer. If you get your wife involved in something, they will use that as a hammer against you.

Question: I’m curious in these movies that they play mob men in a certain way. Are there any stereotypes you find in these movies quite accurate? Or any stereotypes they tend to be wrong?

Ronnie Lorenzo: They’re Italian. They’re indiscreet. And they’re breaking the law. [Laughter] I guess that’ll be their stereotype.

Question: One of the questions we asked DeNiro was whether the Feds would ever send a witness overseas. And he said he didn’t think so. Would you think it would be possible?

Ronnie Lorenzo: You know something, it really depends on what you’ve given them. If you give the all they want—it’s possible. As far as I know, I don’t know of anyone or heard of anybody sent overseas. I’m sure that they do. It could be less of a hassle for them and less costly for them not to do it. But, I’m sure they could.

Question: I’m curious is how accurate they portray the witness protection program? I also want to know about Tommy Lee Jone’s FBI character relationship with Robert DeNiro’s character. They get really friendly over the years. Is that accurate?

Ronnie Lorenzo: Yeah, you have a handler. They call it a handler. He’s your contact. I would think you’ll develop some kind of relationship with him. I wouldn’t really know.

They try to hook me up in my case. They wanted make me an informant. They put a drug case on me in which I’ve never messed with drugs in my life. I had a successful restaurant. I had one up in Malibu and moved to California to change my whole life. They came after me just to make me an informant. When they finally arrested me after five years—they wanted to give me a house in New York and an apartment in Los Angeles or vice versa. And even a salary. All this if I just introduce the agents to my friends.

I wouldn’t do it. I was a first-time defendant. They pounded me. The most they could give me was ten years so they’ve given me twelve years. I was left with a drug case with no drugs.

They want you to be an informant and if you don’t play—then you suffer throughout your whole bid in jail. Every time you go into a new prison, it’s on your card that you didn’t cooperate. They always look down on you that you didn’t cooperate. My answer to an FBI agent was “You’re people rat on you guys. You call them whistleblowers. But, you don’t like that. An now you’re telling me how good it is to be an informant.”

Question: Following up on the stereotype question, there’s a lot of dialogue that says, “Fuck this,” and “Fuck that.” Is that how people talk?

Ronnie Lorenzo: Pretty much. Obviously, it’s not with your family. But, through my life, it’s pretty much like this. [Laughter] A lot of the street guys I’ve been around don’t like those guys who curse. But, when men get together—they curse. I’m sure when women get together and with us not around—they curse. [Laughter] A lot of these movies are spot on.

"The Family" is currently out on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Interviews, Film Ronnie Lorenzo, The Family