Former mafia boss, Michael Franzese had aspirations of becoming a doctor before following in his father John “Sonny” Franzese’s footsteps by joining the mafia. Michael was named as one of Fortune magazine’s “Fifty Most Wealthy and Powerful Mafia Bosses” in the mid 1980s, and eventually spent eight years in prison. It was his love for his wife, family and new found faith in God that brought him back from the brink of despair.
When Michael decided to leave the mafia, a contract was put on his life and his father disowned him. He is now bringing his story to theaters across the country, and his film “God The Father” which is based on his past life will open in theaters on Halloween night, the 39th anniversary of the night he “was formally inducted into the Colombo family in New York.”. Michael Franzese was kind enough to join me for an interview yesterday to discuss his new film “God The Father”, his family, faith, and what he hopes audiences will take away from the film.
Candace Rose: Can you tell us about your new film “God The Father”?
Michael Franzese: “God The Father’ is a documentary feature about my life. It opens up in select theaters nationwide tomorrow, Halloween night. There’s a little significance to that because it was Halloween night 1975 that I was formally inducted into the Colombo family in New York. Coincidentally we’re opening up on the same night; very excited about it. I think people are going to be moved in a special way when they see this movie. It is a true life drama, we didn’t have to take any dramatic liberty. What they see is the real story. Hopefully people are going to enjoy it.”
Candace Rose: What inspired you to create it and to finally share your story?
Michael Franzese: “I’ve been asked over the years to have a movie made about my life, but it was never going to be done the way I wanted it to. When this opportunity came around to really tell the story as it is and to tell it in a very unique way, it was difficult for me to pass up. I think it’s the right time.
I’ve been sharing my story with live audiences now for the past 15 years, and that’s been growing every year. Now I’m doing it outside our borders. I just came back from Southeast Asia, so there is a real interest in this kind of comeback story that I’ve gotten. We thought the time was right.”
Candace Rose: Did you grow up wanting to follow into your father’s (John “Sonny” Franzese) footsteps or was it something that you kind of fell into?
Michael Franzese: “I didn’t. My father didn’t originally want this life for me, and I was on my way to becoming a doctor. I was pre-med student at Hofstra University in New York when dad got in some serious trouble, and eventually went away for 50 years on a federal bank robbery sentence. It was at that point and time that my life dramatically changed and I made the decision to follow him to try to help him get out of prison, basically and that’s how it started for me back in the early 70s.”
Candace Rose: At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to leave the mafia and ultimately start a new life?
Michael Franzese: “Well, again, I had spent almost 20 years in that life and I rose to the level of caporegime or captain. I had a good measure of success in that life, but then in 1984 I met a young woman who is now my wife of 29 years, and she was a young girl of faith, a young Christian woman. It was eventually through my love for her and her influence on my life that caused me to walk away from what is a pretty difficult life. It’s obviously the best decision that I’ve made.”
Candace Rose: You were given a bible when you were in prison. Was this something that changed your life immediately or was it more of a gradual process?
Michael Franzese: “No, it was nothing immediate for me. It was a long process. You don’t come from that street mentality that I was so much a part of and just automatically snap out of it. It was a long and arduous process, and a long struggle for me to finally come to the Lord, come to God. I think it’s like that with many people. You don’t just get hypnotized overnight. We had many struggles and challenges. Walking away from that life brought a lot of heartache and a lot of challenging times for me – contract on my life, my dad disowned me, eight years in prison and a lot of stuff that went on. God was in my life, he got me through it and got me where I am today.”
Candace Rose: How has your faith shaped your life?
Michael Franzese: “My faith has been everything to me now because I firmly believe it. It’s become crystal clear to me that God has had a different purpose in my life, he’s shown me that. To me now, it’s all about God and all about family and all about sharing the story of what he’s done in my life with anybody that’s willing to listen.
This movie, we do it in a very entertaining way, a very dramatic way and the audiences that have seen it so far have been entertained and moved by it. The reaction has been very positive and very encouraging, so that’s the plan and hopefully people here in this country will see it. Now we’re getting calls from around the world, so hopefully it will have the impact that we anticipated.”
Candace Rose: Speaking of your family, your daughter was also in the film. What was that like?
Michael Franzese: “Actually, three of my daughters are in the film. My wife and daughters are all dancers, and it was amazing just having my family involved. My youngest daughter, she’s Broadway-bound. They’re all good dancers, but she’s really gifted…and she plays my wife (Cammy Franzese) at a younger age and does the dancing. It was exciting and it was a little eye opening for them because they didn’t really know the extent of my former life and now they’re seeing it in this movie. It was like ‘Woah, this was really you, dad.’ We had to get over some of that, but they realized that things are different now and hopefully I’m different. It’s been a great experience.”
Candace Rose: What do you hope that moviegoers will take away from the film?
Michael Franzese: “I hope they see that anybody can come out of a bad situation, you can succeed in life, and with God in your life anything is possible. I tell people, ‘Look, at one time I was the worst person in the room, and look what God has done in my life and look where he’s brought me and blessed me in so many ways’. That’s basically what my story’s been, it’s been an encouragement to people and now to see it played out on the screen, that says it a lot better than I do when I’m speaking about it.
I think people are going to walk out being encouraged, they’re going to find hope because I’ve learned that hopelessness is one of the worst emotions you could ever feel in life. It gives them hope and it gives them an eye opening view of what organized crime is really like and what it is to come out of that and be a follower of Jesus Christ.”
Candace Rose: Where can viewers go for more information and to see your new film “God The Father”?
Michael Franzese: “They can come to our website: GodTheFatherMovie.com. We’re all over the social networks – Facebook, Twitter; my own website MichaelFranzese.com. You can Google me and probably too much stuff will come up. It will be in select theaters nationwide starting tomorrow night, Halloween, October 31st in New York, New Jersey and all over the country. Eventually, we think it’ll be in theaters in every major city in America, so that’s the hope.”