WINTER 2001

 

Hollywood Actor Remembers His PSU Roots

Michael Rispoli reflects on what got him to where he is.

By Rick Rodgers, contributing writer.

 


Michael Rispoli has shown a wide range of talents that include singing in Two Family House.

 

 

Keeping strong ties with people is a rare thing nowadays, but Michael Rispolli remembers all the individuals and places that helped him get where he is today. These days, Rispoli, a family man, is still working hard in Hollywood and on Broadway perfecting his craft.

Rispoli, a resident of Queens, New York, has worked with some prominent and well-known celebrities, such as Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping, and Matt Damon in Rounders. Rispoli has been directed by Hollywood greats like Spike Lee in Summer of Sam, and Brian DePalma in Snake Eyes.

Hollywood was not the only forum in which Rispoli ventured. He has acted in New York plays like Macbeth, performing the role of Banquo, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, as Demetrius.

His success could not have been possible if not for his education and guidance from Plattsburgh State University. Rispoli attributes many of his talents to the influencing and guiding theater department at PSU.

Rispoli feels the professors "were very intelligent and encouraging to all students, making for a pleasant environment, in which to better your theater skills."

According to Rispoli, PSU has such a tremendous theater that in five years time, a student at PSU today could be hiring him for work tomorrow. "PSU is a great school, and a great town, I had a wonderful time and gained a load of experience."


Michael graduated from Plattsburgh State in 1982 and today still visits as often as his busy schedule allows him, which varies because his next job can spring about spontaneously. Rispoli has a very genteel nature about him, and he shows this toward the many students in the theater department who get to meet with Rispoli. Rispoli visits as often as he can, but with the business and unknown schedule of an actor, it doesn't happen very frequently. However, Rispoli always manages to find time to sit and talk with the students who have questions about acting, such as how to grow as an actor, how to break into the business, and how to handle rejection.

"I was very apprehensive as to whether I could cut it in this profession or not because it was so cutthroat."


"Students must remember to keep trying because the business is very up and down. One moment you have a starring role, and the next, you are the forgotten man."

Rejection is a part of life, but also a big part of show business. Rispoli mentioned that he has profited from rejection because it has forced him to do certain things better. "You have to sustain and perceive, and things will hopefully develop for you later on." Students, according to Rispoli, need to always remember to keep their heads up and show their integrity.

"Students and all actors need to remember that rejection is a big part of the business, but it allows you to learn more about your craft and will make you better for your next audition."

Rispoli believes the body is the most important part of acting. It is a tool or musical instrument, he says. "In order to be the best actor possible, you have to understand to always take care of your tool." Rispoli has certainly done that, and the rewards have been plenty.

Rispoli has enjoyed all the work he has done. But one in particular stands out: his role of Jackie Aprile on The Sopranos."Working on the Soprano's was a wonderful experience; it was a great way to express my range as an actor," he says.

In terms of his own success, Rispoli has worked hard to get where he is today. "Nothing ever comes easy in this profession, and if you really love this art, working hard is not a punishment but an enjoyment," he says.

A big part of this learning experience came early on in Rispoli's career as a student at Plattsburgh. He was involved in many shows, arrived early to rehearsals, and didn't leave until he got the role just right; he was open to the criticisms of the professors. All this allowed Rispoli to further expand his talents when he left PSU.

Rispoli has managed to not only cut it in the world of show business but also be successful because of his hard work and above all his experience at PSU. "I have a lot to thank PSU for; I am very thankful and proud to have been a graduate from such a wonderful university."

Where have you seen Michael? Have you checked the big screen, the tube, or the stage?

Film:

Death to Smoochy……………Spinner
Two Family House………….Buddy Visalo
Summer of Sam……………..Joey T.
Rounders…………………….Sam Bendusky
Snake Eyes…………………..Jimmy George
Volcano……………………...Gator
The Juror……………………..Joe Boffano
Homeward Bound II…………Jack
Feeling Minnesota………… Motel Manager
While You Were Sleeping… .Joe Jr.
To Die For……………………Ben DeLuca
Above the Rim……………… Richie

New York Theater:

Macbeth…………………………Banquo
Love Diatribe………………........Mike
A Midsummer Night's Dream….Demetrius/Flute
Little Blood Brothers……………Rocco/Nero
Judgement Day……………….....Hudetz

Television:

Third Watch……………………..Jerry Mankowitz
The Sopranos……………………Jackie Aprile
ER……………………………….Victor Nable
Law and Order…………………...Johnny Di Majo
Russo…………………………….Jerry Mankowitz

 


Plattsburgh State Professor Fondly Remembers Michael Rispoli, the Student

John Shout, a professor of theater at PSU remembers Michael Rispoli well: "A great student, who always expressed a great interest in theater, he was an A student, always working hard, as usual."

Rispoli was, of course, a theater major, and Shout had the pleasure of coaching him. "Michael had a strong acting range; he was immensely dedicated, and so I wasn't that surprised when I saw him in While You Were Sleeping.

Even as a student, Rispoli had the ability as an actor to easily change gears, often difficult for students who have not experienced a wide range of roles yet. However, Michael was always working hard, and his hard work got him far. Yet, Shout notes that Michael tends to get typecast in Italian roles. When being a typecast, someone usually remembers their work.

Rispoli keeps a strong tie with PSU, which Shout appreciates greatly. "I feel good to see that Mike enjoyed his years here to the point that he comes back as often as possible." During Rispoli's visits, he interacts with the students a lot because he has a "common ground with them," according to Shout. He just wishes that Rispoli would visit on a semi-regular basis so more students can hear from him and learn more from some of his hands-on experience. Rispoli listens to their questions and ideas and offers advice and insight about film and theater.

"He has a great rapport with the students, and he knows what it takes to be successful," said Shout.

-R.R.

 

 

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