In The Untouchables (1987), the character played by Sean Connery—Jim Malone, a tough Irish-American cop—turns to the police academy for young blood. He is trying to build a unit of uncorrupted (and therefore untouchable) cops who can take on the God of gangsters, Al Capone (Robert De Niro). Malone picks a smart sharpshooter named Giuseppe Petri. The new recruit's face is clean, his hair is slick, and his character is played by Andy Garcia. And the moment Malone selects Petri to be a member of the untouchables is the moment Garcia became a star. Even I (hetero down to the bone) could not help but fall in love with this handsome young sharpshooter—who, by the way, is not Italian but Cuban.
Many years later, the man I first saw on the big screen in Harare (where I first watched The Untouchables) was on a cell phone, talking to me about his new and entertaining comedy City Island. The film is about Little Miss Sunshine, about the The Squid and the Whale, about American Beauty—meaning it is about the dysfunctional American family (by the way, all families are dysfunctional—if a family appears to be functional, that in itself is also a type of dysfunction). "Everybody is sitting on a lot of issues in this family," explained Garcia. "And although people might think this is about an American family, it is actually a universal family. This is what drew me to the script. If you took the script and put it in a completely different culture, a completely different social class, it will still be funny. It does not have to be an Italian-American story to be funny or poignant."
The universal plot? A prison guard who secretly wants to be an actor learns his illegitimate and long-forgotten son, Tony (Steven Strait), is in his prison. Because guilt has got his goat, the prison guard assumes responsibility for the convict, takes him into his house, and moves him into the middle of a family that's on the verge of collapsing. There is a little incest, a little betrayal, a little sexual perversity, a lot of drinking, a lot of smoking, and a lot of fighting. The story may not be strictly universal, but no family in the world has ever completely escaped from a little incest, betrayal, and sexual perversity.
Something that is hard to miss in City Island is that the character Garcia plays, Vince Rizzo, wants to star in films that Garcia has actually starred in (The Godfather: Part III, Hoodlum, Ocean's Eleven). In short, Garcia is playing a man who wants to be him. "I value this character just as much as anything I have ever done," Garcia said over the phone. "But this had nothing to do with what you are pointing out. No. Not at all. The beautiful thing was the construction of the screenplay and what it is about. That's what mattered to me."