Hollywood.com has unleashed a handful of stills from “Rob The Mob” and gives the headline of the exclusive to Ray Romano, who appears in the film as a crime reporter who befriends Tommy and Rosie and writes their story.

It was odd to me how many people professed curiosity and bewilderment that Ray was appearing in a straight-up dramatic part in a crime drama when we cast him. What’s less amazing to me is the over-the-top enthusiasm his performance elicits from viewers once they see it. Again, though, it’s mixed with bewilderment as well–as if they can’t quite come to terms with his giving an honest, relaxed and moving performance– without his being “Raymond”. The truth is,  I too was a little bewildered at first–though I hasten to add it wasn’t because I didn’t think he was capable of delivering a straight performance. It’s just that–with a distressing lack of imagination–I didn’t even think of him for the role of the reporter. Instead, I sent him the script with the role of the sleazily humorous collection agency head in mind (which Griffin Dunne wound up doing brilliantly). Ray called me after reading it and said that, while he liked the script and wanted to work with me, it was the reporter–the so-called “straight” role–that interested him. It’s not that I doubted his ability–it simply hadn’t occurred to me that his interests lay far from what people knew him as. One thing I’ve learned over the years, though, is that if a talented actor wants a role–even though you may not have initially thought of them as appropriate--always listen to them and give them the part. They’ll give you something you didn’t expect and it will be fresher than whatever you had in mind. His character, Jerry Cardozo, is the moral conscience of the story–the guide for how the audience views Tommy and Rosie. His decision to try to help them at the end–when he knows their number is up–is a wonderfully acted scene, muted and real and sorrowful. It was also filmed in about ten minutes–we were losing the light fast and somehow the energy that we poured into getting it done before time ran out gave the scene an extra rawness, making it a true encounter moment. And his two scenes with Frank Whaley (pictured above) are virtuoso two-handers. Frank, an actor’s actor if ever there was one, came out of the gate hard, taking no prisoners. Ray kept up with him and the two had a wonderful chemistry and intensity that enlivened two scenes that might have been, in lesser hands, merely expository.

But there’s another Ray that years of knowing him from his sit-com may have dimmed your memory of. This is “stand-up Ray”–and it’s worth revisiting for a few minutes if only to remind yourself of how incredibly and naturally funny his stand-up work was–and how much of the humor translated directly into his TV show. I remember seeing him first on Letterman (he was actually on StarSearch at one point) and was therefore delighted to find the below clip, which pre-dates the invention of “Raymond” by a couple of years. Dig.


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