Writer, actor and Bensonhurst native William DeMeo hopes to bring Brooklynites back in time with his production of “Back in the Day,” the gritty tale of a half Italian-half Puerto Rican teen with a passion for boxing growing up on the streets of Bensonhurst, due in theaters early 2016, and in which he plays the lead.
“I started writing the script about a year and a half to two years ago,” said the Bishop Ford graduate who got his big break in the 1993 film, “A Bronx Tale” and went on to accept roles in television triumphs like “The Sopranos” and “Blue Bloods.”
“I’ve always wanted to play a boxer in a movie and growing up in my neighborhood of Bensonhurst, I just remembered how old school and hardcore the neighborhood was,” DeMeo went on.
Fear not, DeMeo said, “Back in the Day” won’t be just another spin on “Rocky.”
“I wanted to find a different way of doing it where it’s not like a ‘Rocky’ or your typical boxing movie where the fighters fight and in the end, the underdog wins and holds up the belt,” he said. “I tried to be as creative as I possibly could in this script.”
The film – set in both the late ‘80s and present-day – squares in on DeMeo’s character, Anthony Rodriguez, who, after losing his mother at a young age and battling an abusive, alcoholic father, is taken under the wing of a local mob boss (played by Michael Madsen) who supports him as he rises to boxing fame.
Madsen and DeMeo were seen filming scenes in Sheepshead Bay mid-April alongside co-stars Alec Baldwin.
“[Anthony] goes through everything he can possibly think of and just when you think it’s all good, it really isn’t,” DeMeo explains, noting that the film will touch on everything from the racial protests of 1989 to when Al Sharpton came to town. “We touch on a period of the late ‘80s that really changed Brooklyn. It was a completely different neighborhood than it is today.”
DeMeo’s script made headlines earlier this year for its plans to re-create the Al Sharpton-led protest march in Bensonhurst after the 1989 murder of teen Yusef Hawkins, a notably controversial chapter in New York history.
The film will hit close to home for those who grew up during that tough time in Bensonhurst, DeMeo said, in a way he hopes will bring older and younger generations together.
“I think that if you’re from the neighborhood, this film is going to rock your world,” DeMeo said, humble but confident that “Back in the Day” will be a blockbuster hit. “This movie is going to blow people’s mind. I am one million percent confident. How can you not like a movie about an underdog coming back to his old neighborhood?”
No matter where you watch the film, the all-in-one actor, writer and producer promised, you’ll feel as though you’re sitting on the stoop.
“You’re gonna feel like you’re in Brooklyn,” DeMeo said, praising his West Street roots. “So many people come from Brooklyn and almost everyone started in Brooklyn. I gotta tell ya, growing up there was just the greatest thing in the world.”
The film, directed by Paul Borghese, will also co-star Danny Glover, Roy Jones Jr., Shannen Doherty, Mike Tyson and Vincent Pastore.
“It’s a great cast,” lauded DeMeo. “Everything about this movie is spot on.”