Steve Buscemi has been involved in several amazing films over the years including Reservoir Dogs, The Big Lebowski, Fargo and many, many others. If there’s a famous movie the past 25 years involving any sort of violence, Buscemi probably got killed in it. The famed actor took part in the popular Reddit AMA series to help support a documentary film about LGBT teens growing up on the streets of Washington D.C. Buscemi was, predictably, somewhat awkward at times but offered some great insights into his career. Below are some of the highlights, and you can check out the rest of the AMA over on Reddit as well as the Indiegogo page for his documentary here.
I think its absolutely amazing you used to be a firefighter and I love reading about the support you’ve shown to fire services across America (the photo of you volunteering after 9/11 is one of the best things I’ve ever seen). What made you decide to be an actor?
I’d like to go back to the fire department question, because the person mentioned my connection to the fire department, and I do support this wonderful group in New York called “Friends of Fire Fighters.” And it was started by Nancy Carbone, in the aftermath of 9/11, she just went around to the firehouses in her community, to see if they needed anything, and it’s grown into this amazing organization, where they provide mental health services to firefighters and their families, as well as other services, and I can’t say enough good things about them. They were there for the firefighting community after 9/11, and after Hurricane Sandy, but they are there on a daily basis, for any firefighter or their family that needs support or help.
And getting back to the acting question, it’s something I thought about as a kid. I never really thought I’d do it for real, or certainly make a living at it, and it’s something that took years to be able to make a living at it, and I feel lucky that I’m able to.
What is your current favorite ongoing TV show?
Well, John Oliver’s show is really, really good. And I like The Daily Show. I’ll be very sorry to see Jon Stewart go. I think he’s just been amazing every year that he’s been on.
What do I like? Well, Breaking Bad. I guess that’s not current, but that’s something I really like. Game of Thrones, that’s a good show and I love watching Peter Dinklage. You know, I’ve worked with Peter a lot over the years. Our first movie that we did was called Living in Oblivion, that was written & directed by Tom DeCillo, and it was about the making of a low-budget movie, and Catherine Keener’s in it, and Dermott Mulroney, and he’s made some really wonderful films. I’ve worked with him a few times. In Living in Oblivion, Peter played a character in a dream sequence that I did.
When you started work on The Sopranos, were you aware from the start what would happen to your character in the end, or was the storyline an evolving thing?
Well, I signed up for 2 seasons, so I fully expected to come back for another season and towards the end of that season, I got a message on my phone from David Chase, and the joke on-set was, “You never want to get a phone call from David Chase.” I called him back, and he asked me if I wanted to have lunch the following day, I said sure, he picked a restaurant, and I got off the phone and thought, “Maybe this is a good thing, maybe there’s something else he has me in mind for, it doesn’t necessarily mean that my character was going to get wacked.”
So I didn’t sleep much, and I got to the lunch and the first thing he said was:
“I’m sorry. We’re going to have to kill you.”
Something like that. I don’t remember his exact words, but it was to the effect that there was just no way that my character could conceivably live doing what he did. And of course, I understood! But I was sad that i wasn’t coming back, because it was such a wonderful show to work on.
Were you happy with the way the Boardwalk Empire series wrapped up? Is that how you saw Nucky’s fate playing out all along?
I was happy with the way it ended. No, I didn’t necessarily see it coming, but I was glad that they wrapped it up between Nucky and Gretchen Mol’s character, because that was a story that always interested me, and when you look through the series, Nucky and Gillian didn’t really have a lot of scenes. I think I only had about five scenes with Gillian. And I always LOVED working with Gretchen, and I always wished we could do more together. But ever since that scene we did together at the fortune teller’s shop, I always wondered – what was their relationship?
So sometimes the show writers were forthcoming with the backstory — and then sometimes they were not. So there was only so much that they could tell me about the backstory of Nucky. Because I think - especially when you’re writing on a TV series — you don’t know the complete story of your characters, and you’re going to leave it open, so they can go in any direction that they want. So you don’t get tied into a concrete backstory — so it wasn’t until the final season, until those last few episodes, that I truly understood Nucky’s backstory.
Batman or Superman?
Superman. That was one of the shows I loved as a kid, too. Although I loved the Batman series as well. But Superman is definitely the one I remember first. There was NOTHING like the excitement of that show coming on TV, when I was a kid. And I did have a Superman costume that I got for my 5th birthday. And on the cape, of the costume, it was printed something like, “You cannot really fly while wearing this outfit.” But then it said, “Only the REAL Superman can fly.”
I swear to you. That’s what it said. “Only the REAL Superman can fly.”
I really did believe in Superman.
How many cups of coffee would I need to give you before you tip me?
I would tip you after one cup of coffee.
IF you’re nice.
Any memorable moments from filming Big Lebowski?
Anytime you’re on a Coen brothers set, it’s just the most fun and relaxed set. I just loved doing those long takes with John Goodman and Jeff Bridges. And I love sitting between them, you know. There’s that one scene where we’re at the counter in the bowling alley, and I’m seated between them, and they’re arguing — and I LOVED just being around those guys.
I was once in a hotel room, and through the wall, I could hear this loud voice on the phone. And at first I thought, “Oh my god, I have this really loud neighbor. Maybe I should switch rooms!” And then I recognized the voice, and it was John Goodman. So I actually heard him ordering room service, loudly! And so when the room service tray came up, I popped my head out the door, and he was very surprised to see me. And he said, “Forget room service! Let’s go down and have dinner!” And I just love being around him.
And of course, Jeff Bridges is one of the sweetest guys. He’s a really great photographer. He would take pictures of us on-set. And he’s been in like, all these great movies, and it was just fun to hear him tell us stories of what it was like to work with John Huston on the set of Fat City.
Jeff Bridges could bring about world peace.
If it was your last day on earth and you were making a sandwich, what would be in it?
You know, I have to be honest. It’s these questions that make me nervous. I don’t know why! I think it’s a very personal thing to ask!
You can say that: I’m kidding.
But yeah, I don’t know why these questions make me nervous. But they do!
What’s your favorite film you’ve done with Adam Sandler?
Well, I’m very partial to Billy Madison, because that was one of the first films that Adam did on his own, as part of his production company. And the film that we did before that was called Airheads, which was directed by Michael Lehman, and that was the film Adam and I met on, where we played brothers in the band, “The Lone Rangers,” and I always have a great time working with Adam. I loved the character I played in The Wedding Singer. I just worked with him again on the western that he’s shooting now called The Ridiculous Six. But yeah, I would say… I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I really do love the character in Billy Madison.
What would you say is your element?
Oh no! Um… hahaha… well, this is certainly not my element. I like being outside, sometimes? I don’t really have one element. I tend to adapt. I like to work. I’m not one of those actors who… you know, has to do a play every year. So I wouldn’t say the stage is necessarily my element.
Yeah, I like being outside!
Joseph Misulonas is an editorial assistant for Playboy.com. He once watched The Big Lebowski four times in one weekend. He can be found on Twitter at @jmisulonas.