A Bensonhurst actor got a big break with legendary director Martin Scorsese’s latest film “The Irishman.”
Dominick LaRuffa Jr., who has loved to act since he was a child, landed his biggest role yet in the Netflix exclusive movie “The Irishman,” a film that reunites award-winning actors Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
Getting the role was a difficult process for the Brooklynite.
“This was something I fought pretty hard for,” LaRuffa Jr. explained. “It’s well known the project is cloaked in secrecy and the audition process wasn’t very different. I knew three things for sure. Ellen Lewis was casting, Scorsese was directing and it was based on Charles Brandt’s book ‘I Heard You Paint Houses.’”
Those three elements left him thinking he wouldn’t get the role.
“Conventional wisdom would say even actors who have been working steadily for years would not be a sure bet,” he said. “All of these actors are superstar talents who’ve been carrying their own projects for years and, in the case of the legends, decades. Why would they choose me? Or at least, that’s the thought I did my best to suppress. I called my manager, Rashad Chambers, who is a superstar in his own right, and said ‘We have to do this. We have to get in the room. What can we do?’ He said, ‘Let’s just do it.’”
LaRuffa Jr. got an appointment one month later and had just 24 hours to prepare for his audition. Three months later, he got the good news that he had landed a role.
“As far as my reaction goes, I won’t say there was an excessive amount of skipping going on, but everyone else who was with me when I got that call would very much say that there was,” he said.
LaRuffa Jr. said he was called in for a much larger role than the one he ended up playing.
“I didn’t let that throw me though,” he said. “That’s often a tool casting directors will use, giving pages of the script that are more substantive, to give you chance to really develop a full character. It’s an audition with a clear beginning, middle and end. What was throwing me however was that [the casting director] was Ellen Lewis. She’s about as prolific as it gets. And after my time with her, I understand why. She’s incredible. She’s the best casting director I’ve ever read with in terms of the performance she personally gives you to work off of.”
LaRuffa Jr. was in the room for 20 minutes, which is considered a long time. “People in her position, of her immense stature, don’t need to do that for an ‘unknown’ actor,” he said.
In “The Irishman,” LaRuffa Jr. plays Joe Colombo’s first born son. “My role, and the roles played by the actors who make up our family, are probably among the few that can be more openly discussed because the attempted assassination of Joe Colombo at the 1971 Italian-American Unity Day Parade is well documented public history,” he explained, adding that’s all he was able to reveal.
For the Brooklyn native, working with the legendary director was a dream. “Being directed by Martin Scorsese is and probably will remain the highlight of my career,” he said. “As he walked to his trailer at the end of our first day, which was my first day shooting and the very first day of the whole production, he pointed at me and said ‘Good work, kid.’ And then, I died.”
LaRuffa Jr. has been acting since he was 12, and started taking the craft seriously in college. He graduated with a BFA in acting at Pace University School of Performing Arts.
A student at Bay Academy in Sheepshead Bay during middle school, LaRuffa Jr. said that performing in a seventh grade production of “West Side Story” was a turning point for him. “From that day in seventh grade,” he admitted, “I’ve never wanted to do anything else.
Just before “The Irishman,” he wrapped a film shot in Los Angeles called “Blue Call.”
His early career was more Broadway-oriented, but he has started to get into film and television.
“I played opposite the lead, Katie LeClerc, who starred on ‘Switched at Birth’ for five seasons on ABCFamily/Freeform,” he said. “Next up, I’m doing a film called ‘Sarah Q,’ shot here in the city, directed by NY indie-filmmaking icon John Gallagher. It’s my first real co-leading role, so I’m very excited about it.”
LaRuffa Jr. discussed his Brooklyn roots. “My family and I are from Bensonhurst. My formative years, 1999 to 2005, were spent in Bergen Beach,” he said. “However, my dad’s businesses, my grandmother, my Friday night meetings for Boy Scouts, all of these things remained in Bensonhurst. Anyone who grew up there will tell you, you could leave, but it never leaves you.
“I’m not sure how history will write Bensonhurst’s story but I couldn’t wish for a better place to have been a kid,” he went on. “Its untraditional, but beautiful influence on me is present in my everyday ambitions, just as much as its stereotype helped inform my character in ‘The Irishman.’”