I recently got the opportunity to talk to Robert Toretto about his role in ‘Weekender’. Here, Robert talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on the project, and about his stint on ITV’s ‘Take Me Out’…
Hey Robert. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘Weekender’ is currently in cinemas right now…
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
It’s about two solid friends who rise up into a dark sinister world which ultimately forces them to question their lives.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
‘Weekender’ was one of the first feature films I got to work on, I was cast as a police officer. I arrest some of the main characters in the film during a huge police raid. It was a lot of fun, my hat kept falling off during my arrest as it was quite physical and aggressive.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I saw the casting online and thought it sounded really interesting. At that point, I was looking to get some good quality experience on a film set.
The film stars Zawe Ashton, Jack O’Connell, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Emily Barclay and Stephen Wight – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
It was really cool being directed by Karl Golden. The set was really relaxed and they were very sure about what they wanted from us. Dean Andrews was really interesting to talk to. He talked to me about how looks affect your casting range and how to sustain an acting career.
Let’s talk a bit about you. What made you want to get into acting in the first place? I understand you were quite a big name on the DJ-ing scene before you turned…
I was a DJ in central London in my teens and had a music studio where I remixed for people like Ms. Dynamite and Wayne Williams from Another Level. My DJ/Producer name was Valiant, my friend named me Val Pacino due to being from an Italian family. I liked that name. How did I come to acting? Interesting question, something I’m still trying to fully understand. How I see it at this point in my life; I was a personal trainer for 8 years and I always had a set idea of when I got ‘XYZ’ in life, that I would be happy. I went about achieving those goals and won an award in 2009 for the Official Personal Trainer Of The Year. This led to having my own presenting show on Sky and being in all sorts of printed media such as Men’s Health. Truth is, finally reaching the top of my game, I was more depressed than ever because I realized that I didn’t have much internal fulfillment in my life, everything was material. I enjoyed being there for my clients and helping them to be positive and focused, but I completely forgot about me, the focus had always been on other people. I was lost for a while and didn’t know what to do with myself. That’s when acting came about. Even though I realized that my health and fitness career wasn’t the right path to follow anymore, the things I achieved whilst doing it gave me the confidence to go for what I want in life, so I took a huge risk. I left it all behind is pursuit of happiness, many people thought I was completely mad to give up what I had created, but it’s starting to pay off! Acting is no longer a fantasy, it’s a reality and where I want to be.
You’ve been in a number of TV series’ and films – who has been your favourite actor to work with so far and which has been your favourite project to be a part of?
I had a role on ‘Page Eight’ which was written by the amazing David Hare. I got to work with Ewen Bremner and Bill Nighy. I have to say, Bill is absolutely fantastic. We spent the day joking around on set and he told me some funny stories about the differences between theatre in the UK and in New York; how the English just rush off home after performances and don’t want to talk to anyone and how in the States, there is always someone in the dressing room waiting to see you. We even discovered that we had both received the David Beckham aftershave recently as gifts, so he pulled me around set asking all the girls to smell it and who they fancied more, me or him! Ha I have to say I can see that he is probably the same nice guy he was before his career success and the fact that he is still so humble gives me something to aspire to. Hope you get to read this Bill. My favourite project so far was one that was featured on The History Channel. I grew up watching it with my Dad and it was always so fascinating to me. I was cast as Narcissus, right hand man to the Emperor. The film was based on the true story behind Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ starring Russell Crowe. I remember auditioning for it – just before I went in, I recalled reading a piece on George Clooney and how he goes into an interview being positive, so I said to myself “I am not leaving without a job!” and it seemed to give me the boost I needed when doing an improvisation for the director. Every time I audition now, I call my Mum and she always say’s to me “What do we say?” and I have to repeat the George Clooney mantra. Actors, give it a go! If that doesn’t work I sometimes use “This is Sparta!”.
I’m going to have a bit of fun now – I’ve just seen an IMDB listing on your profile that makes me think…”Oh dear.” You were on ‘Take Me Out’ weren’t you? Tell us a bit about what happened, and what your ‘party number’ was…
Well I was actually approached by the show when I was on holiday. I called my Dad and told him about it, thinking I would never go on a dating show! But he noticed that it was being produced by Talkback Thames who work on great TV shows, so he thought it might be a good way for me to network, so I thought, why not for a laugh! Some of you may have seen me on it as ‘Stefano’ (my actual birth name). I did a routine with a Kettlebell. Looking back, I got really amazing feedback from the public and girls, but I was absolutely terrified as I did the show in December and started acting a month later, so didn’t really know how I would come across. The producer shook my hand as I was the first guy to keep all the ‘interested lights’ on in the first round, I thought that was really flattering. The show turned out to be insanely popular and even though my face is getting out there a bit more now with more proper acting work, I still get people recognising me from it! Paddy is a geezer, he’s done really well out of it and deserves it. Nice one mate! I have had a lot of reality TV offers since, but turned them away as it would take my career in a different direction.
Is it true after your appearance on the show you received 500 love letters and dating requests?
Yes, I was getting e-mails with photos, love letters, Facebook requests, date requests, it took me completely by surprise! I genuinely didn’t think that many women would be interested in me. Some of the people I know were thinking I would be ok for dates for a while, but the truth is when you get that much attention, it makes you want to run a mile, or maybe that’s just what I wanted to do. I would like to personally thank everyone who wrote to me, it took some courage to do that!
If you could have a dinner with three historical guests, living or dead – who would they be and why?
Wow you really know how to ask questions! First off, William Shakespeare would be one of them, one of the greatest playwrights of our time. Even though we have great plays by him, he is quite a mysterious character so I would like to get to know the ‘real’ him. Second would be Marlon Brando, he literally changed the face of acting as the world knew it, I would love to have an evening with him, speak to him about his life and his discoveries. Thirdly, I would have liked to meet Jesus, ask him about God and the meaning of life as he saw it. I wouldn’t say I was very religious, but I don’t rule it out.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month or so?
To be honest, the riots have really made me think about young people of today. I hear a lot of people talking about it, blame the parents, blame the government. I don’t ‘actually know’ how this has come about but I do think that the younger generation need more positive ways to contribute to society and it’s not necessarily their fault. This country doesn’t empower people to follow their dreams or be ambitious. Individuality is not encouraged in society and every person on this planet has their own path to follow.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
I have quite a few project’s lined up. I am currently in rehearsal for a film called ‘Gripped’ where I play the character ‘Fear’. It’s really great to explore something so universal and so far away from my own character, you know, those sort of roles that really teach you about acting. After this, I am looking forward to working on ‘The App Killer’ which is set for shooting in Spain this November. It’s quite a modern crime / horror film which is based on internet applications for dating. I also have another feature due to be filmed this year where I play the lead role ‘Johnny Decker’ in ‘Condemnation’, a new British gangster film which is confidential.
Set for 2012, I have just been cast in Goliath Productions new British feature film ‘Life Outside’. It’s got an A-list cast attached (to be announced shortly) and it’s going to be an amazing film. I play a homeless man called Aguirre, its going to be very interesting as it’s completely against my ‘obvious casting type’ which really is a big incentive for me. You can catch me on the big screen next year! Thanks to all the people who took the time and interest to read about my life, big love going out to all of you. Big shout also going out to Matt Horn for interviewing me. Best wishes, Robert Toretto
Thanks for the interview!