We caught up with Frank Lotito and George Kapiniaris, the stars of the Australian comedy Big Mamma’s Boy, which opens nationally today, July 28. With no-one’s mother in sight, the boys were free to speak their mind.
Cut Print Review: I have to start by asking: are you guys both mamma’s boys yourselves?
George Kapiniaris: I guess I was a mamma’s boy until about 26. I just couldn’t live at home anymore because… I couldn’t shag anyone, really! You know, without your dad or your mum still waiting up for you, or getting home smashed, or getting up at 4 o’clock when you’re with your girlfriend to come home.
Frank Lotito: It’s so easy to stay at home, because our mothers just do everything for us.
GK: I’d still take my washing to my mum’s house.
CPR: What – now?
GK: No, then. I’ve got a wife now.
CPR: It’s a much shorter trip, isn’t it.
GK: That’s right. And still, we might be married and have kids, but we rely on my mother-in-law. She comes down from Sydney and stays for three months. She does the gardening, fixes things, changes the oil, lubes the car… I don’t know if they’re hyperactive or they’ve got thyroid problems, but that generation of immigrants, they’ve got a lot of energy to burn.
FL: They love doing things for us.
GK: And they really hold onto their traditions and values.
FL: When they came here, the problem was they couldn’t speak the language, they didn’t know anyone, so they really kept to themselves and tried to protect their kids. They didn’t want to let us out. And they’re still very protective. It took me five years to make my mum stop calling me when I travelled, to make sure I was alright.
GK: “Mum, I’m in Shepparton. I’m alright.” And once you’re married, you call your wife and go, “Honey, I’m in Shepparton. I’m alright.” And hopefully she’ll ring your mum and pass on the message!
CPR: It sounds like the interrupted date scene in the film.
FL: Yes, that’s right. And it still happens today, even after you get married and have kids.
GK: Well, that’s the thing – we haven’t made any of this stuff up in the film. Some of it has actually been watered down!
CPR: And as crazy as the mother is, she’s very sympathetically portrayed.
GK: Right. Rocco’s mum doesn’t think she’s evil. She thinks she’s doing the right thing.
CPR: Frank, you’re the star, you’re the writer, you’re one of the producers…
FL: A bit Mel Gibson, isn’t it. Without the budget!
CPR: Or the controversy.
FL: Well, it is my baby. It’s been a very long process that’s taken up five years of my life. The biggest challenge for me was the acting. At first I didn’t think I could do it, especially having these other roles as writer and producer.
CPR: It was your first time on the big screen, wasn’t it?
FL: First time, and very scary!
CPR: The music in the film is very evocative – shades of Nino Rota at times.
FL: Yeah, that was a big influence for us. I’m a big fan of that era, and those types of films. And also the Doris Day and Rock Hudson films.
GK: That was the look that was decided for it too. I was excited about that, because I’ve always been a fan of those ’50s and ’60s movies. And that’s the feel that we got. Playing the boss in this movie, I felt like I was in Bewitched or I Love Lucy or something.
FL: Also it was also a real buzz getting everyone dressed up. We don’t have that enough in films – when a film has a certain style and look, and you create something a little different to the average film. And those old movies still stand up today.
CPR: Big Mamma’s Boy has that nostalgic feel, and it uses a very traditional style of storytelling. How are modern audiences going to react to that kind of movie now?
FL: I think it works. It’s a very simple story; it’s not brain surgery. Going with the reaction we had last night – it was amazing. People really respond to that nostalgic theme.
GK: It’s a real feel-good type of movie. You can forget your problems and your worries. Compare this movie to something like Snowtown. People stay watching this movie till the very end of the credits.
CPR: So how was the reaction at the Adelaide premiere?
GK: We got a standing ovation! It turned into a bit of a party.
CPR: That’s good to hear. Going back to the cast, what’s Osvaldo Maione (who plays Rocco’s grandfather) like offscreen? Does he wear pants?
FL: He does, actually! He was a real trooper; we got him to do so many things that he would normally never do in real life. He did a lot of Italian theatre in his day, but not a lot of film. So I think he was overwhelmed when he saw the film for the first time and saw his name in the credits!
CPR: So are Italian-Australian audiences going to get more out of this film than regular audiences?
GK: It’s just the flavour of the characters and the story.
FL: We’ve had screenings with a lot of Indian and Asian people in the audience, but they really loved it too. When I came out of the theatre, the Asian girls just went wild. I felt like Tom Cruise! Whatever culture it is, people are going to relate to it.
GK: We’re all in the same boat, really!
CPR: It’s probably safe to say that anyone in Australia is going to relate to it. What about overseas?
FL: There was actually a segment on mamma’s boys on 60 Minutes in the US recently, where they interviewed all these people in Italy who still lived at home with their parents. There were incidences where the parents were trying to get rid of them, because they wouldn’t leave home. It happens a lot in Canada and the U.K. as well. It’s a universal story. Especially because of the economic climate of the world at the moment.
CPR: So it’s kind of timely in a way.
FL: Yeah, I think so. It’s also important that people get behind it and support Australian film, if we’re gonna survive – and stick it to the big U.S. films.
GK: We want Big Mamma’s Boy to make Harry Potter disappear.
FL: That’s the headline: Big Mamma’s Boy Makes Harry Potter Disappear!
CPR: Big Mamma’s Boy Slays Harry Potter!
FL: That’s even better! It’s funny you should say that, because the owner of a cinema in Sydney took out a Harry Potter session for a special screening of Big Mamma’s Boy. He said, “Now Frank, it’s very important that you come. Just to put it in perspective, I made $30,000 out of one session when it first came out.” I thought, “Oh my God – this guy’s giving up a session of Harry Potter for our film, so I better go!”
CPR: You didn’t have any angry Potter fans in wizards’ hats waiting for you outside?
GK: Imagine that! “Where was Harry Potter?!”
CPR: George, I heard something about you being in a disco band called The Flares…
GK: And speaking of big mamma’s boys, my mum made my outfits for The Flares. She made me a red velour waistcoat and pants set, a crimson satin version of the same thing, a green velour version, and a John Travolta white suit.
CPR: Velour – that’s very classy!
GK: That’s where big mammas come in handy, you see. You can check it out on YouTube. And I’m doing the “Il Dago” show here at the Arkaba at the end of August. It’s a stand-up show, but at the end we always include a musical parody or medley or something.
CPR: Awesome. Frank, your character in the film treats this wonderful girl like crap. He lies, he covers things up, he’s a bit of a prick – but she still keeps coming back to him. Is that the way to get the girls these days?
FL: You know, I’ve always found it hard to get the girls. Before I got married I really struggled, because I was always Mr Nice Guy. It was always the bad boys that would get the girls. And no matter what they did, they’d still come running back. And I was always intrigued by that. Because I was really nice to girls, I didn’t want to have sex with them on the first night…
GK: You wanted to have sex with them, but you didn’t want to make out that you wanted to.
FL: So there’s a touch of that in the film, but obviously there is that journey, and he does come good in the end. But yeah, I wanted to play the bad boy, without making him a total prick.
CPR: What about Theo? When do you stop being a womaniser, and start living vicariously through a younger guy?
GK: Theo probably went straight from living at home with his mum to an arranged marriage or something, so he’s never really had a sex life, apart from with his wife. And because he’s a pretty traditional sort of guy, he doesn’t want to do the wrong thing. So he’s living his fantasy life through Rocco.
CPR: Is there a general age when –
FL: No, it never stops.
GK: When you stop thinking about sex?
FL: When you stop thinking about other girls!
CPR: When you stop being involved yourself, and you start looking at a younger guy who’s getting it, and live your life through them.
GK: Well, I’m married with kids, but I’m touring with “Il Dago”, and one of the boys is very single. So we kind of live through his experiences. He comes back, shares the stories with us, and we go “Oh, that’s great!” But the thing is, we know we’ll still get sex at home.
FL: Once a month.
GK: If you behave.
CPR: One last question. Have you got any advice for young guys in similar situations, trying to break free?
GK: Just do it. You’ll feel much better. Get out there, experience life, iron a shirt, cook yourself a meal. It’s hard work, but you’ll be fulfilled. You gotta eat, you gotta wash your clothes. You can try not to for a while – I remember when I first moved out of home, that fridge just stunk. There was food in there for who knows how long. But to survive, you’ve gotta learn how to look after yourself. I know a guy who moved out of home, and all he ate was steak, cream cheese on toast, and bourbon. And nothing else. That was his whole diet.
CPR: Is he still with us today?
GK: Well, he cut the fat off his steak!
CPR: Thanks for the advice.
Big Mamma’s Boy is in cinemas now.