11th May2017

Interview: The real Frank Serpico on the film ‘Frank Serpico’

by Catherina Gioino

We all know the story, thanks to Al Pacino’s 1973 Oscar-nominated film, Serpico. And we all know the man behind the story, at least now, with a new documentary premiering at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, Frank Serpico.

Take a deep inside look at the NYPD cop who told the world – and his department – he wouldn’t stand for corruption. Directed by Antonio D’Ambrosio, Frank Serpico is a collection of interviews with Serpico and others in his life, as well as reenactments of key events.

What makes this such an extraordinary doc is the fact that’s been trying to get made for years. People have reached out to Serpico about appearing in their films and making his own documentary, but time and time again, he’s turned them down. The ever reclusive Serpico moved to the Netherlands after he was shot for exposing police corruption and moved back to New York (albeit, upstate) where he has continued to live away from the spotlight. Finally, he tells his tale in this Tribeca Film Festival-premiering documentary.

The film stars countless people who have one thing or another to do with Serpico, including an interview session between Serpico and John Turturro. D’Ambrosio interweaves archival footage of Serpico, from his interviews back in the day to him on the job, and includes scenes from the Pacino/Sidney Lumet-directed film.

So just how did D’Ambrosio get the ever hidden Serpico? It all started when D’Ambrosio sent Serpico a book he had written, A Heartbeat and a Guitar, a book that chronicled Johnny Cash’s life. Seeing how he did Cash justice, Serpico called him and the two spoke about their lives in New York. Eventually, D’Ambrosio had gained Serpico’s trust and convinced him to do the doc.

The rest is history. However, at the Tribeca Film Festival, we caught up with Serpico and D’Ambrosio and asked the two about the making of the film, as well as Serpico’s disdain for the phrase “whistle blower” that is used all too often to describe him and others who shed a light on corruption. Check out their interviews below and find out why Serpico would rather say “lighting the lamp.”

Frank Serpico:

Antonio D’Ambrosio:

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