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Director Kevin Connolly Thanks Cincinnati For Helping Shoot 'John Gotti'

John Kiesewetter

Director Kevin Connolly thanked Cincinnati for help making "The Life and Death of John Gotti" with John Travolta Monday, as Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell started shooting the city's newest movie, ""The Killing Of A Sacred Deer."

"Everybody here has been incredibly co-operative, 100 percent, for sure," said Connolly, who has been here eight weeks working on"Gotti" starring Travolta, Kelly Preston, Spencer Lofranco, William DeMeo  and Leo Rossi.

Connolly, Rossi, DeMeo, producer Michael Froch and Film Cincinnati executive director Kristen Schlotman met with the media Monday afternoon hours before filming the wedding reception of John Gotti Jr. (Lofranco) at the Hilton Hotel Netherland Plaza downtown.

Credit John Kiesewetter
"John Gotti" movie poster

"Most importantly, we get to watch John Travolta dance," said Connolly about the star who danced on the big screen in "Saturday Night Fever," "Grease" and "Pulp Fiction."

"Gotti" wraps Wednesday. Cincinnati will have two productions shooting simultaneously again in mid-September, when Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page ("Juno") and Kate Mara start filming "Mercy" as "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" nears completion.

At Monday's media conference, Connolly said:

Cincinnati worked fine for the New York-based gangster story set in New York City in the 1970s and '80s.

The flamboyant crime boss was convicted of five murders, racketeering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit murder in 1992 with the help of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, played by DeMeo.

"There are parts of the Cincinnati that can pass for New York.  Even if we went to the real location in New York, it doesn't look the same. It was easier than I thought… We were lucky.

"Our Fourth of July scene was on 14th Street and Vine. We put a bunch of people there, and fireworks and barbeque, and you wouldn't know it wasn't in New York."

"Gotti" also filmed in Finneytown, Indian Hill, Northside, the Butler County Jail in Hamilton and other places in Greater Cincinnati.

Many extras and local crew worked on the film. "We used a lot of people from Cincinnati," he said. Restaurateur Jeff Ruby appears in the film. Connolly said he eats at Ruby's downtown restaurant "every night."

Connolly put his 25-year acting career on hold to direct "Gotti." His creditsinclude the "Entourage" movie and TV series (2004-2011), "The Notebook," CBS' "Friends with Better Lives" sitcom (2014),"Secretariat," "ER," "Wings," "Rocky V" and WB's "Unhappily Ever After"sitcom with Wilmington native Stephanie Hodge.

Connolly, 42, does not appear in the movie. He will spend the rest of the year editing "Gotti," and won't resume acting until next year, he said.

His directing credits include two episodes of HBO's "Entourage," five episodes of "Unhappily Ever After," and an ESPN "30 for 30" called "Big Shot" about the NHL New York Islanders.

Connolly supports  a Cincinnati premiere for "The Life and Death of John Gotti."

"We owe it, at least, to the people of Cincinnati, who have been so kind to us. I'm in!" Connolly said.

"Gotti" is being produced by Emmett/Furla Films/Oasis Films, which filmed Bruce Willis' "Marauders" here last fall.

At least three more major films will be shot and completed here before Christmas, making a total of 10 films, the biggest movie year in the city's history, Schlotman announced last week.

James Franco, and Hamilton native Jay Davis, shot two low-budget movies in Hamilton this summer, "Blood Heist" and "Blood on Wheels," according to the Hamilton Journal-News and Dayton Daily News.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.