Martin Scorsese has worked with a lot of actors you might not expect to see in a Martin Scorsese picture. Gwen Stefani was in The Avitator. Casey Kasem pops up (as a DJ) in New York, New York. Funny pianist Victor Borge semi0randomly appears in The King of Comedy. Perhaps you didn’t realize that Scorsese cast Ray Romano, one of modern TV’s favorite dads, not once but twice. Is that because the director of The Wolf of Wall Street is a big fan of Everybody Loves Raymond? Not at all. In fact, the first time he cast Romano he had no idea who he even was.
As caught by IndieWire, Romano told the story — which he’s told before, years ago — on this week’s episode of WTF with Marc Maron. Romano had a supporting role in Vinyl, the short-lived HBO series about the New York City music scene in the late 1970s, which Scorsese created alongside people like Mike Jagger.
“Scorsese did the pilot and I had to go on tape for him. The cool thing was, I went on tape and the response we got back was, ‘Yeah, Marty likes it. He’s in the running. And Marty wants to know who he is. He’s never seen him,’” Romano recalled. “And my agent was like, ‘So he’s never seen the show?’ And they go, ‘No, no, no, he doesn’t know who the guy is,’ which was a blessing because he didn’t have to erase the sitcom character from his mind.”
Romano wasn’t that surprised that he didn’t know an actor primarily known for his small screen work. “I can buy that, that Martin Scorsese doesn’t watch television,” he told Maron. “So when he hired me, he liked what he saw.”
Romano also spoke about how he thought it was a “stretch” for him to play a coked-up music promoter, especially one who has a dramatic scene where he contemplates suicide. Scorsese clearly liked his work as a few years later he gave him a fun supporting role in The Irishman as shady Teamsters lawyer Bill Bufalino.
“I had one pretty big scene with De Niro in that,” Romano remembered, saying that it took three hours to shoot one scene. Afterwards he “got nothing” from Scorsese or De Niro and assumed he’d done a poor job. That night he ran into De Niro at the hotel.
“He just walks over, grabs my head, kisses me on the cheek, and just walks away,” Romano explained. “Well, I think it’s good. It’s the mafia so you never know!”
Romano’s a lot of fun in both Vinyl and The Irishman. Scorsese should add him to his stock company. Alas, he’s not in Marty’s forthcoming epic Killers of the Flower Moon, which co-star Leonardo DiCaprio claims might be the legendary filmmaker’s “masterpiece,” which is saying something.