“The first note to anyone who wants to start writing is write what you know.It doesn’t have to be what you love, if you know it and you want to write about it there’s love and hate in it. Whatever it is, it’s real to you. That’s writing what you know, that’s all I did when I sat down to write. " — Tony Spiridakis
Welcome back to Nothing Shines Like Dirt: Empowering Actors to Create episode 22. Today’s topic is writing with writer/director/producer Tony Spiridakis. We have a seaside conversation about knowing film history, finding the story no matter your title, and all the writing advice...Ever.
Tony Spiridakis graduated from Albany University and immediately began teaching English at his old high school in Queens. At night, he pursued acting. He joined Circle in the Square’s Professional Workshop, which led to roles at the Williamstown Theater Festival, then his acceptance to the prestigious Yale School of Drama. From Yale, he was cast in the television series, BAY CITY BLUES, created by legendary producer Stephen Bochco, alongside Sharon Stone. Acting took him to Europe, where he starred in HAREM with Omar Sharif, THE AMERICAN WAY with Dennis Hopper, DEATHWISH III with Charles Bronson, and in director Stanley Kubrick’s FULL METAL JACKET. Mr. Kubrick inspired him to try his hand at writing.
In his first screenplay, QUEENS LOGIC, Tony co-starred with Kevin Bacon, John Malkovich, Joe Mantegna and Jamie Lee Curtis. Suddenly, he was writing scripts for powerhouse producers Scott Rudin, Laura Ziskin, John Davis and Harvey Weinstein. Known for creating great roles for actors, he wrote for Academy Award winners Dustin Hoffman, Diane Keaton and Richard Dreyfuss, as well as Eddie Murphy, Chazz Palminteri and Giancarlo Giannini. He co-wrote the romantic comedy IF LUCY FELL, with Ben Stiller and Sarah Jessica Parker. His first film as writer-director, THE LAST WORD, starred Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton. He directed the indie-winning film NOISE, with Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad”); TINSELTOWN, with Ron Perlman and Emmy winner Joe Pantoliano; BEYOND THE ASHES, with Tony Goldwyn and Janeane Garofalo; his documentary, DRIVING TO GROUND ZERO, captured a road trip from Los Angeles to lower Manhattan during the terrifying week of 9-11.
In television, he co-created the series THE HEIGHTS with Eric Roth, Academy Award for “Forrest Gump” and Aaron Spelling, which ran on FOX network. The Heights earned a gold record and a number one single on Billboard, “How Do You Talk To An Angel.” He had the honor of writing with FBI Agent Joe Pistone, the real-life “Donnie Brasco”, for the CBS series, FALCONE. On stage, his plays were produced at the Mark Taper Forum, the Odyssey and Open Fist theaters in Los Angeles. He also produced and acted in Academy and Tony Award winner Doug Wright’s first play, CALLBACKS, with his dear friend, three-time Emmy winner Michael E. Knight.
Tony attributes his accomplishments to the quality of teachers, and friends: Uta Hagen, Nikos Psacharopoulos, Geraldine Page, Michael Kahn, Larry Moss and the incomparable Bob Krakower. He’s been a screenwriting mentor at the Hamptons Film Festival, taught film production at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film, and co-founded the Manhattan Film Institute, a boutique conservatory, alongside his life partner Lisa Gillooly.
Currently, he is writing a new series, OLIVER’S ARMY, for TNT network, and a screenplay, INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR, under option to Weintraub Films.
Tony is the proud father of two – Nikos and Dimitri – and with Lisa and her four – Richard, Lauren, Lianne and Elizabeth – they divide their time between Orient, New York and Sherman Oaks, California.