Louis Lombardi Interview

Maybe you’ve seen him in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. Maybe you’ve seen him in the Usual Suspects with Kevin Spacey. Maybe you’ve seen him in HBO’s the Sopranos. Maybe you’ve seen him in Runner, Runner with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake. But chances are you’ve seen him.

His name is Louis Lombardi

And if acting isn’t enough Louis Lombardi is about to launch his gourmet food line called Lombardi’s consisting of pasta sauces olive oils and olives imported directly from Italy.

Q - Since you love cooking so much, why didn’t you go into the restaurant business as opposed to acting?
A - I don’t own a restaurant.

Q - I know you don’t. I’m asking why you don’t own a restaurant.
A - I was actually going to. When I was younger I was going to go to cooking school. Growing up, I started working as an actor, and started doing stuff and said I’m still going to do cooking. End up, I did this movie and it kind of brought me to L.A. and it kind of spiraled my career in an upward way. It was like wow! I was going to open up a restaurant. I still want to and probably still going to. My passion for cooking is about as much as my passion for acting. I am passionate about both, 50/50. I love to eat. I love to cook. I love to clean. I don’t mind preparing everything. I love it. To me it’s a passion, not a chore. I absolutely love it as much as my acting career.

Q - Did you study acting in college?
A - No. I’ve been acting since I was 13. I used to go to movies instead of school. That was my thing. O.K.? I didn’t want to go to acting school because I didn’t want to sit in a classroom. It wasn’t my thing. I wanted to learn how to make movies but I didn’t have the education or the $50,000 a year to go to NYU (New York University). So, what I would do is audition for NYU student films as an actor. I would get on set, get hired as an actor and I would learn how to make movies, for free!! I did like 20 of them. They would pass me around as an actor. Each kid has his own project. I ended up doing so many NYU films as an actor that I also got to learn how to make movies for a few years for free!! I got like a free top-notch education in filmmaking.

Q - All the while you were doing this, you were doing something else to make a living?
A - Yeah. Construction. Just hustling around New York. Trying to do odd jobs, whether it was delivering pizza, construction, whatever. Whatever you can do to make a buck in the big city. That’s basically what I did.

Q - I was talking to a woman who is having a major argument with her 18-year-old daughter. The daughter was stand out actress in high school, who wanted to pursue acting in a state University for four years. Tuition was $15,000 a year. The mother said I can afford it. How about going to a community college for the first year? The daughter wasn’t having any part of it. This led to all kinds of verbal arguments. So, I’m thinking, when you go on and audition, does the casting director ask you when you want to go to college?
A - No you can be the dumbest guy. You can be a drug dealer. Look at Tim Allen, the big Disney star. He was in jail for five years for selling Coke. (Laughs). Does it matter? No. If you can perform, you can perform. There is a lot of actors out there that don’t have any education. It’s kind of like it is what it is. Can you act? Can you be real? Can you scare people? Some of the Sopranos guys were in jail. If you can perform in you can do your job, I don’t think education has anything to do with the movie business.

Q - That’s what I thought. This mother was just in tears over the whole situation. I felt sorry for her. It seemed like such a silly argument.
A - You know why? People have this conception of I need to be in acting class. I know some of those actors who spend years and years in acting school. I’m like Bros. If you don’t have it by now, you’re never going to know how to be an actor. Acting is not knowing lines. Acting is being able to deal with distractions and being able to be focused because you’re on a set. You’re not in the middle of your bathroom. You’re on a set with 100 people, everybody pulling and everybody tugging at you, the makeup guy, the wardrobe, the camera guy, the director, the other actors. If you can’t focus that’s what acting is mostly about. Acting is not about acting, acting is about focusing on everything around you. If you can handle that and not crumble and not get nervous, have that kind of mentality you’ll be a good actor. Confidence. Sheer confidence. Believe in yourself. Don’t worry what you’re doing. Worry what you look like. Get out there and hit home runs. That’s the way I always thought of it. As an Italian-American actor I’ve broken the stereotype roles for everything. I really never played gangsters. Every role I played on the Sopranos - FBI agent. 24 CTV agent. And I am a big Italian guy. When you meet some of those fans, yeah, I know you. You’re in all those Mob movies. I say, name one. Sopranos. I was the FBI agent. You know you’re Italian. You’re a gangster. I say that’s what Hollywood kind of portrays people at this. They’re wrong I never played gangsters. I always played law enforcement. So, I kind of broke the stereotype by being real and by being me. My career has gone in such a fabulous direction. I couldn’t have asked for anything better in a career.

Q - So, you got your acting education for free. When you went to Hollywood you needed an agent didn’t you?
A - No. I did this movie in New York in 1990. It was a big hit. We all drove to Sundance in 1991 and it turned out to be a big hit and we all moved to Hollywood from there. An agent had seen the movie at Sundance and said we love you. We’d like to represent you. It wasn’t a big agency. It was Henry Gold. He’s like a legendary agent. He’s been around for 30 years in a smaller agency. His company has represented me for 17 years, from then till now. The agent’s job is to get you in a room. Your job is to book the job. You can’t go on and audition not get the job and say my agent sucks. You suck maybe. You definitely have to have the ability to book jobs and not blame your agent. That’s like a major problem actors do. If you’re not booking jobs, it’s your fault. You’re to blame. Actors don’t get that. I tell actors, how much does your agent get? 10% How much do you get? They go 90%. I go that’s how much you got to be putting in your career. Your career is 90% of dedication not 10%. The agent has a thousand clients. You have you. Basically the problem with actors is they think their agents are God. And just get them in movies. I get that from strangers now. Strangers go; hey can you put my kid in a movie? I go, how? Can you get me a job on your job? People have this perception that you just put people in there. You just put someone in the movie. It’s kind of delusional thought process I guess.

Q - You’re entering a very crowded field with your line of food products. Do you feel your celebrity status will help sell the product?
A - I think that first would maybe get in the door. Also I think the product alone is going to sell itself. The products are top quality, all from Italy at average prices. They are not paying $13 for Rao’s sauce. Were more comparable to any other sauce on the market and the product is top notch quality product. Everybody who’s had it has said it. My job is to be able to use my celebrity status to hopefully bring awareness to the product. If they try it, they’re going to buy it on the merit of it being a great quality product.

Q - What will you sell a jar of your pasta sauce for?
A - $6.99 to $8.99, somewhere in that area. I’m not sure. But, if you’re looking at a Rao’s sauce or a Mario Batali’s it’s $7.00 or $8.00. Rao’s sauce is $13.99. Not to take anything away from Rao’s but, I think my sauce is just as good if not better.

Q - Here’s the problem you’re going to run into. You take a big grocery chain like Wegman’s have you heard of them?
A - No.

Q - There a big chain on the East Coast. What they’ve done is create their own pasta sauce, put it in front of their stores and sell it for $.99 a jar.
A - Right. But, you know what? You know what you’re getting for $.99 a jar? You’re getting what you’re getting. A lot of markets do it. A lot of markets have their own product. It’s a matter of do you want a $.99 sauce? If you do, good for you. That’s how come Ragu and Prego survived over the years. But, how do you think Rao’s flourishes? Because it’s a quality product. People know it. They know the name. They know the brand. They also know the product is quality. Look on the back of a jar in what’s in those cheap sauces and look on the back of a jar in what’s in a good quality sauce. You tell me if you want to feed that to your family. You tell me would you want to buy a $12 burger or would you want to buy $.99 burger from McDonald’s. That’s the problem with our country today, there’s so much preservatives and chemicals in our food.

Q - With the economy the way it is, it’s very tempting to pick up that $.99 jar of pasta sauce.
A - Like I said, you can eat a good meal or you can eat at McDonald’s. McDonald’s makes $60 billion a year. So, their dominating the world market of food aren’t they? But, Burger King’s surviving Wendy’s is surviving Poppa John is surviving. The competitive food market is phenomenal. It’s like anything. Not everyone is going to go into a market and take $.99 sauce. I wouldn’t do it. I know a lot of people who would laugh at you if you did that. You’re talking about people who are really not well-versed on food. They don’t really care what they eat. Same people that are buying McDonald’s. They’re the same people that are supporting the $60 billion fast food industry. It is what it is. People pick what they like. How did Rao’s at $13.99 survive? They don’t just survive their flourishing. They’re one of the top sauces. So, somebody’s spending $13.99 a jar. Would you? I wouldn’t. I think that’s ludicrous. I think it’s crazy. But, people are doing it.

Q - Rao’s isn’t the most expensive sauce on the market. Williams Sonoma has a jar of pasta sauce sells for $25 a jar.
A - What was in it. Truffles?

Q - I don’t know. I didn’t buy it.
A - You’d be crazy if you did.

Q - How are you promoting your food line?
A - I do in-store appearances. I’ve done 20, 30 interviews already. I’m out there doing it. I’m out there with the publicist promoting my product to every food magazine in the country (United States). I’m fortunate that I do have a celebrity status, but, the second part is I am passionate about what I’m doing. This is not a money thing. Hey, look how competitive acting is? Right? How many people make it as an actor?

Q - Not many.
A - Did I flourish in that? Am I successful with no education in that?

Q - You seem to be successful in that.
A - So, can you believe things are hard, you’ll never succeed? I believe I can conquer anything. It’s just my mentality. It’s not my ego or a crazy kind of thing. It’s something that I believe that if you put enough hard work, and enough love and enough passion and effort into something that you really love, the words you speak will be genuine. They will be true. It’s not just lip service. To me it’s about passion and love for it. Enjoyment of what you’re doing. It kind of transpires to my acting and I have a feeling it’s going to go right through to my food passion. My goal with this company is to bring families back to the dinner table. There is no more of that. Everybody sat around the table not just on Sunday or on the holidays, it was every day. There’s no more parenting. There’s nothing. If I had to pick a thing for my company to do most would bring families back to the dinner table. Let’s sit down. Let’s talk about school today. Let’s eat a bag of pasta. It’s cheaper. It’s healthier. Then going to a fast food restaurant and spend some time with your kids. I can show you how to make 10 meals for the price you pay going through a drive through in the time you’re going to spend going there. You think it’s easier? It’s not. You’re poisoning your family. Sit down. Open a bag of pasta. It takes 12 minutes to boil it. Jar of sauce in the pan. 10 minutes you have a good healthy dinner. And you don’t need to make pasta every night either. There’s 10,000 things you can make with my product, the oils and the Olives. Be creative. Try to save your kids, because our kids are lost. There’s no more parenting in our country. In our society our kids are lost. Get back to sitting down with your kids. Ask em about his day. Ask him about how they feel. Cook. Bring a family bond back to it. Don’t just tell him you’re tired. Parents today don’t want to be bothered. They’re selfish people. They want to do what they think they want to do. It’s about them. It’s not. If you have a kid, it’s about your family and your kid. Parents don’t care no more and I find that upsetting.

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