Q&A with Gregg Bello

The gregarious Gregg Bello has plenty of stories to tell. The actor and frequent Darren Aronofsky-collaborator has had some incredible opportunities working on films like Noah and The Wrestler, and when we sat down to talk his favorite things, not only did we learn that Bello is quite the cinephile, we heard some great behind-the-scenes stories, including what its like to film during a rainstorm with 35 pounds of medieval gear on and how it was to hear Bruce Springsteen's Golden Globe winning song for The Wrestler backstage at Giants Stadium (spoilers: it was really awesome). When not filming, Bello's also on the pulse of New York life, a self-described "degenerate" up on the latest clubs the city has to offer. Read on to hear about the actor's favorite films, restaurants, bars, TV shows, and singers. You may want to keep a notepad handy. There are a lot.

GGM: You’re in Noah, which just came out. What was it like working on that?

GB: It was incredible. I’ve done mostly small-budget stuff, and this was definitely the biggest thing I’ve ever worked on. It was a colossal production. We took over Planting Field State Park in Oyster Bay Long Island. That’s where they built the ark. They built the ark to scale. It was ten stories high, and they built it so well that it survived Superstorm Sandy when it came through in 2012. It was an amazing experience. I’ve worked with Aronofsky before in two other films, and it’s always a better time on set with him because I know him. He uses the same crew and same people, so it’s an easy set. I know the cinematographer, producer, and I’ve known Darren since 2000 when we did Requiem for a Dream, so it’s simply a matter of “go here, let’s do this.” At the same time, you do want to do your best for him especially, because I respect him as one of the great filmmakers of our time. You really want to make sure you’re dialed into the character. It’s funny, last night someone asked me if it was hard getting in to character, and my character is in so many scenes where it’s raining. We’re in these period costumes, 35 pounds of gear on, a sword and an axe, and before they even yell action, I’m soaking wet. So it’s not difficult to get into character because I’m hating myself standing in puddles, getting totally drenched for twelve hours a day. It ended up being a great movie. I’ve seen it twice and it’s really well made.

GGM: Sounds very intense! They built the ark in Long Island. What were some spots when you had downtime that you frequented with the cast and crew?

GB: Mostly our beds because we were too damn tired to do anything but sleep! The funny thing is with that shoot we were outside. Everything, except for when they’re in the ark in the last act of the movie. It takes place during the day, except when it’s raining, but we shot at night, so they’d light up the set like it’s the middle of the day so we could keep the consistency of the lighting, because the sun rising and setting could cause shadows which would mean inconsistencies. We’d get to the set around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and leave around 5 or 6 in the morning. Our nights were out there in Long Island until the wrap party we had at Avenue, which was a lot of fun, we didn’t go out too much. Literally, five nights a week for fifty five days.

GGM: We have an inside scoop that you’re a big restaurant enthusiast and bar-hopper—

GB: A degenerate? (laughs)

GGM: What are some of your favorite spots?

GB: Right now I probably frequent Tao Lounge the most. It’s a good new lounge, always has great music, and a great crowd. We had a great after-after party for the premiere at Noah, and that was fun. As for restaurants? I like this place called BackBar, which is sort of attached to Toro, one of my favorite new restaurants. It’s a cool scene, one of the cooler scenes in New York. My newest favorite is La Bodega Negra, which is a great Mexican restaurant. I eat there multiple times a week. It’s upscale Mexican done really, really well. I can eat a corn salad there every night of the week.

GGM: Noah’s a huge epic. What are some of your favorite action-adventure movies?

GB: Other than ones I’m in? Because those are my favorites (laughs). Like most cinephiles, I love movies from the seventies, but my favorites are earlier than that. I’m a huge On the Waterfront fan. That’s one of my favorites of all time. They show it every few years in Bryant Park and I watch it on the big screen. Amazing cast, and probably one of the best things Brando’s ever done. The Third Man is another one of my favorites. It’s an old Orson Welles movie shot in black in white, but what’s cool about it is they shot it in Vienna right after World War II so you get to see the city pretty much bombed out. It’s amazing to see the city in ruins. I also love classics. I think 1939 is one of the great years for movies. Movies from then still hold up today. And like I said, the seventies. Mean Streets. Annie Hall. Taxi Driver. The Godfather. Last Picture Show. All those guys who came up then. Spielberg had Jaws and Star Wars! The last batch of great filmmakers came up during the 70s. I love movies.

GGM: I can tell! That was quite a list!

GB: Epics, though?

GGM: Yeah, anything in that big-budget style of Noah. You mentioned some in that list, but is there one in particular you really like?

GB: The Godfather is up there. Cecil B. Demille films like Ten Commandments. But it’s funny, as much as Godfather is considered an epic, I don’t think it was ever considered a huge budget film. Warren Beatty directed a great film called Reds about the Russian Revolution, which came out in ’84, ’85. Now that’s a great epic. Lawrence of Arabia is another one. Those are movies you should really see on the big screen. The cinematography, the shots, the span of what they’re doing, it’s unbelievable.

GGM: Do you have any favorite TV shows?

GB: I’m not saying anything new here, but the best show I’ve seen on television is Breaking Bad. Comedy-wise, I’m a big Veep fan. I think Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is hilarious. I think the writing is really funny. The newest show I’m into is The Following. It’s network, and I know everyone says cable is where it’s at, you need to be watching Walking Dead or Homeland or whatever, but The Following is intense and it is twisted. Watch the pilot episode up to this season. It’s amazing that’s on network TV because it’s graphic and if you’re watching alone in the dark, it’s definitely scary. Kevin Bacon plays a man on the trail of a serial killer and this guy’s got a following where people go and kill for him, and it’s wild. Something definitely to binge watch.

GGM: How about music? Do you have any bands you like?

GB: I am a lifelong Springsteen fan. I had one of the greatest Springsteen experiences of all time. I was in a film called “The Wrestler” and at the time, Mickey Rourke wrote Bruce a letter asking if he could think about writing a song, so in August, me, Darren, and Mickey go to Giants Stadium to see him play. He said he had a song but he hadn’t recorded it yet. I got to meet him before the show and after the show, and two great things happened. First, Darren asked Bruce “How do they like your music in Europe? Do they know all the words to the songs?” and Bruce said they do know every word, and Mickey goes “Hey Bruce, Bello knows every word. He sang them all night.” But the best part of the night was undoubtedly after the three hour concert, and though he said he’d write a song for the movie, we didn’t know if he’d done it, and after the concert, the four of us were sitting in the New York Giants locker room. He pulls out an acoustic guitar and he starts singing the song he wrote for the movie he hadn’t recorded yet, and Mickey almost tore off my arm. That song won the Golden Globe and Mickey won the Golden Globe, and at that awards show, we went up to him like “Bruce, I don’t know if you remember us,” and he goes “Ah, yeah, wasn’t that a great night, man? Do you wanna do a shot with me?” So I got to do a shot with Springsteen. One of the best Springsteen experiences.

GGM: Wow. That’s a really good story.

GB: For me, being a huge Springsteen fan, being at the Golden Globes, everything with that movie started to snowball and it was a great, great ride. I will say that right now, I am also thoroughly, thoroughly into Idina Menzel. She’s one of the most unbelievable talents I’ve ever seen or heard. She blows me away. I don’t have any Idina Menzel stories like I have Springsteen stories, but check back with me in a couple months, and hopefully I’ll have a good one.

GGM: Well, hopefully if you meet her you’ll be able to say her name right, unlike Travolta.

GB: Oh, first thing’s first, I’ll never call her Adele Dazeem!

GGM: Last question, you obviously travel a lot. Where are some of your favorite vacation spots?

GB: My favorite spot in the world is New York City. Print that. I love this town.

GGM: What about it?

GB: There is electricity here I can’t find no matter how far I travel. There’s something that happens in the city day and night where it’s always happening. It has drawbacks, of course. You don’t want to be on 5th Avenue during the holidays, or Times Square, but at the same time, you can just turn around if you get in a bad spot. But the architecture, the arts, the finance. I don’t know any other city that has everything, and I mean everything, to offer. And in a very tight space! It’s not a huge city area wise, so to me this is the one and only place. Vacation spots? Hmm… I was in Scottsdale, Arizona for work recently and it wasn’t huge, but that town was a lot of fun. A lot of fun. They have good art there. I was shooting a film called Car Dogs which is probably going to come out later this year that takes place all in one day about a car salesman trying to save a used-car lot. It’s very Glengarry Glen Ross-type of movie, but funny. George Lopez and Octavia Spencer are in it. A great ensemble. One of those films where the script was so well written, and it was so fun. The Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale was a great hotel. AZ 88 was one of my favorite restaurants out there. Some of the greatest chicken wings you’ll ever have in your life and phenomenal burgers

GGM: So you prefer more activity in your vacation spots than relaxation?

GB: Yeah. I’ve been to St. Bart’s and it is a chill vacation. You just hang out at the beach, and you eat, and you walk on the beach, and you drink, and it’s great. I like more activity because I’m an active person. I play tennis, golf, snorkel, scuba dive, whatever. If you’re in a tropical place, you’re outside, go enjoy it! Go mountain biking or something. I always find that to be a lot of fun.

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