Donnie Brasco (1997) Poster



Despite the fact that this was filmed in Super 35, "Filmed in Panavision" is listed in the end credits.
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In an interview, Joseph D. Pistone, said that he didn't see his family for at least two years while he was undercover.
To prepare for his role, Johnny Depp met with the actual Joseph D. Pistone several times, and took shooting lessons from the FBI.
Al Pacino was originally going to play Brasco. When he switched to Lefty, he recommended Johnny Depp.
Michael Madsen impulsively proposed to, and married, DeAnna Madsen during a two-day break in filming. According to Michael Madsen, Al Pacino was disgusted by his impulsiveness. The Madsens remain happily married.
Donnie bets his kids twenty dollars that they can't get through breakfast without saying three words, and his daughter replies "you lose." The scene is based on a famous incident involving writer Dorothy Parker and President Calvin Coolidge, known as "Silent Cal" for his quiet manner and hatred of small talk. Parker, seated next to Coolidge, turned to him and said "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." Coolidge allegedly replied "You lose."
Joseph D. Pistone said in an interview in the special features on the DVD, that he was suppose to be undercover for a few months. It ended up being six years. His family was moved across the country after nine months. He rarely saw them.
When Donnie and Nicky read the newspaper headline about the boss getting killed, the picture shows mob boss Carmine Galante, who was killed in back of a Brooklyn, New York restaurant in 1979.
Johnny Depp spent months with the real Joseph D. Pistone before shooting. Most of the time, they lifted weights together.
Al Pacino loved being able to use all of the rich Mafia slang throughout the film. Writer Paul Attanasio captured mob dialect so accurately, because he had Joseph D. Pistone's wire taps.
The family scenes were shot last. According to Mike Newell, "It was like making a different movie."
Joseph D. Pistone claimed that the movie is 85 percent accurate. "It portrayed the mob the way it is."
Joe Pesci was Mike Newell's first choice for Nicky.
This is the second film where Joe Pesci was considered for a role that eventually went to Bruno Kirby. The first was The Godfather: Part II (1974), the role in question being that of the young Clemenza.
Al Pacino doesn't smoke, so he smoked herbal cigarettes. Mike Newell said they smelled awful.
According to Paul Attanasio, Johnny Depp's 1994 arrest for destroying a hotel room helped him get cast. People thought he was "dark and dangerous."
Joe Pistone practicing on the FBI's firing range was inserted at the insistence of the studio, which wanted a shot of Johnny Depp firing a gun for the movie's trailer.
One of the reasons Johnny Depp was cast as Brasco, was because he looked Italian. In reality, he says he's "One part Cherokee and the rest mutt."
Cinematographer Peter Sova created separate color palettes for shooting in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Bright reds and blues for Manhattan, and dull browns for Brooklyn.
According to Mike Newell, Lefty's leisure suit always got a big laugh from audiences. Al Pacino's clothes show that he's a little "no account guy that thinks he's a big deal."
Lefty's real name is Benjamin, which means "son of the right hand" in Hebrew.
The film's version of "Lefty" Ruggiero is an amalgam of the real "Lefty" and the real "Sonny Black" Napolitano.
"Fuhgedaboudit" (or "forget about it") is used 28 times in the DVD version.
Al Pacino picked his sunglasses out himself. Mike Newell said that he has a great eye for costume.
When the project was in its first stages, Joe Pesci was the first and main choice for Nicky. But after the release of Goodfellas (1990), the idea gradually faded.
One of Michael Madsen's favorite films of his own.
Joseph D. Pistone said of the film, "If I had one thing to say, there should have been more Anne Heche in the actual script."
The f-word is used 185 times.
According to Mike Newell, it was difficult to find "Old Florida," but they finally did in Ft. Lauderdale.
Director Mike Newell recalled that the first scene Pacino and Depp had together was a scene in a car where they discuss 'Lefty' possibly getting out of the mob at 'Pistone's' suggestion. During several takes, Depp would fart very loudly, ruining the scene and causing Pacino to become increasingly angry with Depp. Eventually, Depp reached under his seat and pulled out a whoopee cushion that he had been using. Pacino broke up laughing and Newell realised it was Depp's intention to break the ice and tension between the actors and the two stars subsequently had a close relationship and friendship for the rest of the shoot.
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During the montage which accompanies the song "Happiness" there is a brief shot of a panel truck exiting a garage bay under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. The bay is part of Chambers Paper Fibers Corp which was the real-life site of NYPD Detective Rick Cowan's sting operation, which took down the Mafia garbage cartels in New York City (Operation Wasteland.) These exploits are detailed in his book "Takedown." The use of the location had to be intentional, the trials of the heads of the garbage cartels occurred in the same year as the film's release, 1997.
At various points Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Andy Garcia were attached to star, and Stephen Frears was attached to direct.
Mike Newell used Death Of A Salesman as inspiration throughout production.
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In this film, Al Pacino has a pet Lion. In Scarface (1983), he had a pet tiger.
Based on a true story.
Alec Baldwin, Nicolas Cage, and John Cusack were considered for the role of Donnie Brasco.
Michael Imperioli played as an extra mob guy working for Sonny Black. He is briefly seen during the robbing compilation when they are loading suits on a truck.
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Ruggiero's granddaughter is Ramona Rizzo, who appears on the reality television show Mob Wives (2011) on VH-1.
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Delayed from a Christmas 1996 release date to February, with hopes that Sony would give the film an Oscar campaign. However, their slate for the awards season was already abundant with films they felt had better chances: Jerry Maguire (1996), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), and The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) all successfully earning a slew of nominations.
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Mike Newell said that the point of the violence is to show that it's "A terrible mess."
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Mike Newell loved all the '70s music in the movie. He says "it's got a real swagger."
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Mike Newell was hired to direct, because of his previous hit, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The movie ends with the implication that Lefty was killed after being "sent for". In real-life, the FBI intercepted Lefty on the way to being killed, and arrested him. Sonny Black was "sent for" and murdered. His body was found on Staten Island a year later. Joe Massino, who orchestrated his murder, was convicted in 2005. Lefty was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, and running an illegal gambling operation. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison, but received early parole in 1992, after it he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He died in 1994.
In one of the final scenes, Lefty is seen taking off his jewellery after he has been sent for, knowing he would be killed. In real-life, Sonny Black was sent for and killed after he took off his jewellery and gave it to his favorite bartender, knowing he would be killed.
Because he was so convincing in his undercover persona, the Bonanno family was seriously considering "making" Joe Pistone (for example, fully initiating him into the mob) before they learned he was an FBI Agent.
The actual murder photo of Carmine Galante was used. He was shot while eating at a Brooklyn pizzeria in 1979.
Bruno Kirby portrays the character "Nicky", who is killed by Lefty after the three capos murder. In real life Nicholas Santora, the real-life counterpart of Nicky, was not killed and is thought to be the underboss of the Bonanno crime family.
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