Interview: Robert Davi sits down and discusses The Great Chameleon
“This is politically incorrect,” says actor Robert Davi in the back of a Toronto bar one weekday morning. He is talking about his new movie, The Great Chameleon, and he is sitting beside Canadian writer and actor Victor Altomare. The two old-school Italian men have teamed up for an absurdist comedy filmed in Toronto, and one that is a marked departure for the legendary Davi.
“Political correctness pisses me off,” he says, adding that “people can’t laugh at themselves and can’t laugh at the stereotypes.” This movie is certainly not for those people. Davi plays a detective (always well-dressed, just as he is in person), following the trail of an ex-con and master of disguise, Joe Murky (Altomare). Murky has been released from prison to help solve a cold case, as he tackles a personal problem of his own. And so ensures chaos and frivolity in this very off-colour and old-school comedic endeavor.
Davi admits he wasn’t actually sure what he was getting into, having not previous met Altomare. A Canadian producer, actor, and screenwriter, Altomare had sought out Davi. “I’ve always admired Robert,” he said, sitting across from Davi at the bar, equally well-dressed. “A lot of it was not only as an actor, but who he is as a human being: his Christian beliefs, his family, his look. I was watching him in interviews, I said, ‘yeah, this is my man.’
“I read [the script] and said ‘who the hell is Victor Altomare?!’” says Davi, half-jokingly. Having looked back on the work of Altomare, Davi had somewhat an idea of what lied ahead, but still not positive. “I saw some of his other stuff, and I knew it was going to be formless mayhem. They wanted more mayhem. I said, ‘what about story?’ They said, ‘more mayhem!’”
“[Altomare] got this mad f***ing Serbian director convinced (Goran Kalezic), and so he bought into this sh*t, and then he sold it to me.”
So what makes a veteran actor, known for more serious and darker roles such as an FBI agent on the series Profile and the movie Die Hard, and of course as legendary Bond villain Franz Sanchez in Licence to Kill, opt for a crude comedy?
“My kids watch films that I wouldn’t necessarily watch,” he explains. “It’s fun to do something that breaks you out of your wheel. I like being able to push the envelope.”
“I laughed a lot on set,” adds Davi, who is both an imposing figure and disarmingly nice and charming.
While The Great Chameleon has wrapped and is now out for public receivership, Davi continues to work hard, and continues to surprise. He has recently released an album: Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road to Romance. The actor not only has a stirring voice that evokes the famed singer, but is a showman too, touring the country, engaging with audiences, and dazzles with a sound that is powerfully familiar.
For his triumphs – past, present, and future – Davi has been honored in Toronto’s Little Italy with his very own star. As the Taste of Little Italy festival takes over College Street in downtown Toronto, Davi will be celebrated on Saturday, June 15th in the neighbourhood’s Italian Walk of Fame. As it happens, The Great Chameleon will be playing at the Royal Theatre on College Street.
As far as the success of the film goes, Davi remarks,”who knows? You never know.” What is certain is that Davi is dedicated and diverse, an honest and old-school gentleman who has his eyes always on the future. When asked about where he is currently in his career, Davi casually and confidently declares: “The best is yet to come…the best is yet to come.”