Turturro returns home to SE Queens for movie

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A musical comedy film may not seem to go hand-in-hand with Rosedale, but for an actor and director who grew up in southeast Queens, it was a perfect match.

John Turturro, who has roots in Rosedale, has set up shop at 136th Avenue and 245th Street to film “Romance and Cigarettes,” a musical comedy starring the James Gandolfini of the “Sopranos,” Susan Sarandon and pop singer Mandy Moore.

“We’ve been here for two weeks and we’ll be here on and off for another two weeks,” said a production assistant. “Everyone’s been great.”

The United Artists film, written and directed by Turturro, tells the story of a working-class husband who is forced to choose between his wife and his mistress, according to information posted on the movie reference Web site The movie will feature the stars lip-synching to several popular songs by artists such as Irving Berlin, Tom Jones, Connie Francis, Dusty Springfield, Bruce Springsteen and others, the site said.

Astoria native Christopher Walken, Mary-Louise Parker, Kate Winslet and Steve Buschemi round out the cast, along with Turturro’s cousin Aida, who plays Tony Soprano’s sister on the “Sopranos” and son Amedeo.

The film is set in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and Turturro chose the Rosedale location to recreate his own home growing up, the production assistant said.

“John grew up around here,” he said. “They made this house exactly so it is his old house.”

Many interior shots are being filmed inside 135-37 245th St., a house owned by Ricardo Heron and his sister Karen Heron.

“They were out here looking at houses and they saw our house and pulled backwards,” Ricardo Heron said. “I think the awning that my father put in was what caught their eye.”

The production team rented a house at the intersection of 136th Avenue and 245th Street for the Herons to stay in during the filming, Karen Heron said. Being just a half a block away lets her keep an eye on her house, she said.

“They rented this house for us in the meantime,” she said. “We went and checked it out and stuff.”

A handful of southeast Queens residents gathered around the corner of 245th Street and 136th Avenue Friday and gazed down the street in hopes of catching a glimpse of the cast members.

“It’s pretty exciting when you get a feature film come into your neighborhood,” said Michael D’Ambrosio, who runs a hardwood flooring business on nearby 242nd Street. “Here’s one of our own people coming back and putting money into our community.”

Turturro also chose a Queens location in 1992, when he was directing the independent film “Mac.” The story of two brothers growing up in Brooklyn featured a few scenes shot in a Jamaica hardware store.

Some residents in Rosedale complained about the large trailers and trucks lining 136th Avenue and 246th Street, saying it makes coming and going from their own homes difficult,

“Sometimes it’s bad when I have to back out and I can’t see if a car is coming,” said one man who lives down 136th Avenue and who works nights. “My wife has to park on the street just to make sure I can get a spot when I come home.”

The Heron family set up camp on the lawn of their temporary digs Friday, happy the holiday gave them a chance to watch the film’s cast and crew at work.

“Today’s a day off for most of us, from work and schools, so we can watch all day,” said Ricardo Heron. “The rest of the week we’ve been running home from work to see what’s going on.”

And now that D’Ambrosio has had his picture taken with James Gandolfini, he is waiting to see the finished product, which is likely to be released next year.

“I wonder what it’s going to be like, seeing it in progress like this,” D’Ambrosio said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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