Danny A. (“Danny A.”) Abeckaser is an Israeli-born, Brooklyn-raised actor, director, and producer. Abeckaser is set to appear in Martin Scorsese’s highly anticipated mob drama The Irishman, which recently had its world premiere in Los Angeles on October 24th, which features alongside Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Anna Paquin. Abeckaser will next direct his third film Blackjack, which chronicles the life and career of legendary New York City street basketball player Jackie Ryan in the 1990s. The film is currently kicking off production in Brooklyn, New York.
The Good Men Project recently talked with Danny A. about his career and recent projects.
The Good Men Project: You have an 18-year history in film, both in New York and Hollywood. What can you tell us about the cultural differences between the two? What about each do you like and dislike, and why?
Danny A: I am from New York and live in LA but I am a new York filmmaker attracted to New York stories. I love the weather in LA and the lifestyle, but I like to plan my projects in New York. They both are great and I enjoy the best of both.
IMDb credits you with projects dating back to 2001 as an actor, writer, director, and producer. I’ve also read that you have been rather selective in choosing projects. That says to me that you envisioned a particular career path for yourself, and that you would not compromise your creativity for someone else’s idea of what or who you should become. Did you know early on that you wanted to direct and produce, or did that come later? How did you know what kinds of projects to decline and where, instead, to focus in order to move closer to your career goals?
I have wanted to work in filmmaking and acting since I could walk. As a kid, I was always watching movies and exploring film and finding acting projects. I love to entertain and love to create stories. I was offered movies along the way that I turned down either because I felt the part was truly not a fit for me, that the movie would go nowhere, or it just was not in my game plan. I have always had a set vision of my career and where I wanted to end up, it was just a matter of carving the path.
The works you write have social justice and ethics connections. “First We Take Brooklyn,” for example, addresses socio-political issues of Israeli prison and the re-acclimation of a person who had been incarcerated. Woven into the glitz and glam of Club Life, it touched on the subject of health care without insurance. Talk to us about your creative process in bringing light to these important social issues while also presenting the final project as something that is entertaining.
Social issues are the backbone of everything. I feel that films need to teach something and I make sure in all my movies there is a message we are teaching. There needs to be a social message in all films, something people take away.
What are the charitable organizations you’re involved with, and what are your roles in them? Why are they important to you? How do they influence your creative work?
I am on the board of Rhonda’s Kiss, a charity that helps cancer patients in need with their non-medical expenses. My dear friend Kyle Stefanski, who also acts in many of my movies, founded this organization, and they do incredible work. Cancer affects so many people. It’s a cause dear to my heart as it has affected people close to me. I help organize their big funraising events, help get the right people in the room to support the cause, donate to the cause and just want to help people. I am also involved in Together1Heart, an organization led by my dear friend and actress AnnaLynne McCord. They do great work helping girls and women escape the forced labor of sex trafficking. Human trafficking is a huge issue worldwide.
Most of us make friends with our coworkers throughout our working life. The Good Men Project is especially interested in male-male platonic friendships and dismantling stereotypes and gender norms. In the male-dominated, hyper-masculinized industry, what can you tell us about the non-stereotypical relationships you have developed with professionals in the movie industry?
I have incredible friendships. Many of my friends are people I look up to in the industry for their incredible work across acting, directing, and producing as well as nightlife and hospitality, where I started. I value all my male friendships and appreciate how we can help each other and support each other.
Who were your mentors and other influencers in your early career, and who are they now?
I am fortunate to be working with mentors of mine, which include Scorsese, De Niro, and Pacino, among others. They definitely influenced me growing up and throughout my career. I can say I certainly worked hard to get where I am and manifested this path.
You were Brooklyn raised. Martin Scorsese is known as “The” New York filmmaker. You fulfilled what IMDb says was your “lifelong dream” to work with Scorsese on “The Wolf of Wallstreet”. Talk to us about how you got involved in that project and your role. How did it related to the career path you had planned for yourself?
Any opportunity you take to work with a great like Scorsese you take. I auditioned for that movie and got the part. I went into the audition and killed it. I knew so many people in finance living in New York and working in nightlife that it was easy for me to portray a character in this film. It was exciting and truly was a dream come true. I knew when I got that part I was on the right track and in the right place.
Martin Scorsese’ 2019 “The Irishman” is scheduled for a general release right after Thanksgiving 2019. Was it just as thrilling for you to work with Scorsese this time, compared to the first?
I pinched myself when I got the part, it was an unreal feeling. This time, unlike in Wolf of Wall Street, I had a bigger role with more to do. I had an assigned character name, and was paired with incredible actors like De Niro and Bobby Cannavale. Scorsese really gave me a huge opportunity and to be directed by him personally was incredible. It was a dream come true to work so closely with him.
Tell us about your role and what can moviegoers expect from The Irishman that is not presented in the trailers for the movie? No spoilers!
I just think the film is incredible, and people have been loving it. It is a great story, with so many great actors. My character adds some humor to his scenes, which was so great for me, especially seeing the reaction in the theatre. I feel like I am a part of history with this film.
What else are you working on? What can your fans expect from you in 2020 and beyond?
My next film, which was the second film I directed, “Mob Town”, which hits theatres on December 13th. It was bought and is being released by Saban Films, and then will be on digital. It was a movie I wanted to make for a long time. I also produced it and co-star as Joe The Barber Barbara, the famous mobster.
It stars David Arquette, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, PJ Byrne, Robert Davi, and Jennifer Esposito, among many other amazing actors. It was the famous story of the mafia meeting in Apalachin, NY. I think people are going to really love this film. Being able to act and direct in a project I created really is just so incredible. I knew how I wanted to tell this story, and that is what we did. My crew and producing team worked so hard and we are proud of this film.
Feature photo and inset #1: Filming shots from “The Irishman” – Pap Shots – Credit Jose Perez. Left to right: Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Danny A. Abeckaser
Inset #2 & #3 from Mob Town: left to right: Antj Utgaard, Danny A. Abeckaser, Diana Madison, Jaime-Lynn Sigler; photos courtesy of 2BFilms.