The New York City Film Festival will open with a documentary about actor Lillo Brancato, who spent nearly a decade in prison for his role in a crime that led to the killing of a NYPD detective. In a real life plot twist, that film was directed by a former city police officer.
Steve Stanulis, a seven-year veteran with New York’s Finest, said choosing to direct “Wasted Talent” cost him friends on the force, who he hopes will come around once they see the documentary. He now calls the “A Bronx Tale” star “a friend” as well.
“I got a huge, huge blowback,” he told us about the flick, which will premiere at the Dolby Theater on March 5. “People said, ‘How can you do this? It’s sacrilegious.’”
According to Stanulis, who has also worked as a bodyguard for Leonardo DiCaprio and Kanye West, a producer who knew he was an aspiring filmmaker introduced him to Brancato.
After meeting with the 41-year-old actor, Stanulis signed on to tell his story.
“Right away I was conflicted and when I started doing it, I kept it quiet,” Stanulis admitted.
Brancato was released from Oneida Correctional Facility in Rome, N.Y., on New Year’s Eve 2013 after serving time for a 2005 attempted burglary, where his partner, who is in prison for life, shot and killed off-duty police officer Daniel Enchautegui.
Stanulis decided to do the movie as he “got to know Lillo and knew that he wasn’t a cop killer — that he didn’t pull the trigger.” He admitted: “I lost a lot of friends while making this. I think if they watch it, they’ll owe me an apology.”
When Brancato was first in the news for his crimes, Stanulis dismissed the disgraced actor as a “cop killer” and wouldn’t watch his films. But after hearing the actor’s tale of drug addiction and bad decisions, he came around.
“(Brancato) is definitely someone I would call a friend now,” according to Stanulis. Stanulis also said that as a former officer who attended three funerals and five wakes in uniform between 1994 and 2001, he understand the gravity of Brancato’s actions.
“There’s nothing more gut-wrenching than when you hear those bagpipes and they shoot into the air and put the flag over the coffin,” Stanulis said. “If that doesn’t move you, looking over at the widow and the kids, nothing will.”
With Brian Niemietz