Thanks, said Steve Buscemi collecting his SAG award Sunday for Boardwalk Empire, “just for letting me be me.” The show won for best TV drama ensemble. Here’s what the wins signify.
Buscemi, the most reflexive self-deprecator this side of Paul Giamatti, also razzed himself for blowing his 1987 audition for Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables with a line reading that sounded like his mouth was in a paint shaker crooning “Abba Dabba Honeymoon.” That may have been for the best. Young tremuluous Buscemi mightn’t have been sturdy and distinctive amid the epic collision of De Niro and Mamet. It was better he snuck into fame by the side door, on the sly, with a lot of help from the ultimate backdoor trapdoor slyboots, the Coens. By now you could say of Buscemi what Delroy Lindo says of heistmeister Gene Hackman in Mamet’s Heist: “My mother—— is so cool when he goes to sleep, sheep count him.”
In an overexposed genre, you’ve never seen anything like Buscemi — not even in his SAG ensemble-nom’d The Sopranos — and you’ve never seen this milieu before.
“This time in history hasn’t been explored at all. Not really on TV since The Untouchables in 1960,”
—Boardwalk Empire’s creator/exec producer Terence Winter.