Film Independent’s Live Read of Goodfellas

Do you think you’re cool? You really aren’t until you’ve been to one of Film Independent’s Live Reads at LACMA

The lines to get into one of Film Independent’s Live Reads at the Bing Theatre at LACMA are elaborate. There are three of them. Some people have orange dots on their tickets. Some people don’t. And some are standing-by ticketless in case there is room. Even more jaw-dropping? People wait in these lines with minimal bitching—only excitement. Artist-in-residence Director Jason Reitman has held 26 of these staged live reads so far for Film Independent and LACMA. “We’ve staged a black Resevoir Dogs and an all-female Glengarry Glen Ross,” he said before introducing the cast to his latest run last week: Martin Scorsese’s classic gangster flick: Goodfellas. The event was so cool that even the film’s screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi had to step out of line. “I don’t have a ticket, let me see if Irwin can get me in,” he said to his pal, referring to the film’s producer, Irwin Winkler. Both gents made it through the door and said a few words before the reading began.

These readings aren’t taped. They ban phones. There are people along the wall patrolling the 600 or so people in the theatre. You get the boot if your iPhone goes airborne. Reitman begins Tweeting cast members names a day or two before the show. Fred Savage read the part of Henry Hill (originally played by Ray Liotta), Eric Andre played Tommy (originally Joe Pesci), Michaela Wakins read for Karen (original actor was Lorraine Bracca), Morrie Kessler (Chuck Low) by Dane Cook, Mae Whitman as Sandy (Debi Mazur) and Joe Manganiello as Paulie (Paul Sorvino). And who was the surprise cast member announced moments before he went onstage? Laurence Fishburne in the role of Jimmy (originated by Robert De Niro).

The actors play more than one part at the readings led by Reitman, and from what I could see, Manganiello is definitely being miscast in his career—one of his best roles of the evening was as one of the Italian ladies at a hostess party. Savage also makes a particularly endearing gangster and was terrific at the voiceover part. Every single character Cook played was murdered, and Andre just killed it during the famous “Do I amuse you?” scene. Cheers went up during particularly well-played parts. I feel infinitely cooler by having attended—it is so terrific to see actors step out of their usual roles and even more wonderful to put down your phone for any length of time. Next up this week for Film Independent at LACMA? A screening of Seven Samurai on January 29, and the next Live Read is of the film Sideways on February 19th.