I met Ric when I was looking for a screenwriter who could faithfully adapt my book about Jimmy Roselli into a great screenplay. My friend Mike Fiorito told me about him, and from the first moment I met him knew I had a miracle: he was the perfect fit, perhaps the only possible choice, to write it. And he did, completing it about a month before he died. We met once a week on Saturdays at the Quathra coffee shop on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn to talk about Roselli, about the screenplay. Ric had his reams of handwritten notes, notes spilling over the table. And because Ric was erudite and knowledgeable about just about everything that had ever been written or screened, I took notes or taped everything he said, about Nicholas Ray, Rossellini, Fellini, de Sica, Monicelli,Woody Allen, Chester Himes, Ralph Ellison, Robert Mitchum, Peter Lorre, Solzhenitzyn, Carveggio, Ignazio Silone.
But it was not merely knowledge; it was insight, love of literature and film, nothing nerdy or boastful; just a dispassionate love of the art. And he loved to share that knowledge. He was very kind. He was Italian to the core; he cherished that heritage of humanism, music, art, cinema, literature. He loved his family; he loved his uncle Patrick, his aunt Julia and his cousin Vincent and he loved deeply his departed mother and father. He knew the history of anti-fascism; he knew that communism and Nazism were cut from exactly the same cloth; he had no historical amnesia about the blood-soaked history of the twentieth century. He knew Roselli, the soul of the Italian community, in his bones, and he felt he was born to write the screenplay. He was a nurturer. There was no edge to him, no rivalry and not one false note.
You have to understand that he knew everything. He knew the obscurest, the forgotten masterpieces, like Monicelli’s The Organizer, he knew John Fante backwards and forwards. Whatever I touched upon, he knew; he knew the work, the biographies of the writers, every human detail about them. So I saw him a lot; we also met at Mike Fiorito’s home on Friday nights to watch Open City, Paisan, Mean Streets, Christ Came to Eboli. He loved to play with Mike Fiorito’s sons, Travis and Theo. On our last holiday, he sang beautifully “The Christmas Song” and his friend Mel Neuhaus caught it on video forever. He died just as his career was taking off, with Two Lovers, The Immigrant and the Roselli screenplay, Making the Wiseguys Weep.
I cannot imagine him in the plastic, glitzy, overblown, pretentious hysteria of Cannes, but he deserved every accolade and honor that would have come his way. He would not have changed; he would have just been himself. Now I come to the end of this paragraph and I hate having to stop, because I feel his presence so vividly when I write of him. He was the best, the sweetest, the kindest, the most talented. Salud, Ric.