Years before The Sopranos and decades before The Irishman (2019), Kathrine Narducci made quite the screen debut opposite Robert De Niro in A Bronx Tale (1993). But Narducci didn’t get that part on a recommendation of her agent or acting coach. At the time, she had neither.
In fact, Narducci didn’t even go to the Bronx Tale open call looking for a role for herself. She went on the recommendation of a co-worker who said the film was looking for children for the film. So Narducci took her seven-year-old son to the audition.
While there, she learned the film also needed to cast the female lead — and that she fit the type (young, Italian-American mother from New York). Eventually, Narducci worked her way to an audition with De Niro (who directed). In that audition, De Niro asked Narducci to improvise, and that quickly led to some awkward moments.
Robert De Niro had Kathrine Narducci improvise with him at her ‘A Bronx Tale’ audition
On the Talking Sopranos podcast, Narducci explained how green she was when she made her Bronx Tale audition. At the time, she was working in the Hunts Point Terminal Market in the Bronx. So when she made her first audition tape and got called back, she’d already leaped ahead of most of the pack.
When she went in to see De Niro and writer-star Chazz Palminteri the first time, she had to work with a new scene. After doing the lines, De Niro suggested putting the script down. “Bob said, ‘We’re gonna improvise a little bit,’” Narducci recalled. “‘I’m gonna say something, you say something back. Just go along with the flow.’ So I said, ‘OK.’”
De Niro didn’t waste time diving into the improvisation with the characters, Lorenzo and Rosina. “As soon as I put the paper down he said, ‘Rosina, come her and sit on my lap,’” Narducci said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ [laughs]” But Narducci sat on De Niro’s lap and waited for the line.
Narducci said she ‘wanted to die’ when De Niro ran with the husband-wife improvisation
Though she’d probably been at the Hunt’s Point market the day before, Narducci suddenly found herself on Robert De Niro’s lap at an audition for the star’s directorial debut. And the improv got interesting. “He grabbed me and looked at me,” Narducci recalled. “And he said, ‘Do you know you’re just as beautiful as the day I married you?’”
Thinking back on the day, Narducci recalled turning away from De Niro, feeling shy. As he sat there waiting for her response in the scene, Narducci didn’t say anything. When De Niro asked why she wasn’t talking, Narducci said she’d naturally get shy when people tell her she’s pretty.
De Niro seemed to like that response, and he got up and started a scene in which Lorenzo is yelling at Rosina for not watching after their son. And Narducci recalled that part of the improv going well. Later, De Niro told her she got the part because she did a good job with these unrehearsed scenes.
That didn’t make it any less awkward for an actor just getting her start in the business. Narducci said she “wanted to die” when De Niro first asked her to sit on his lap. She braved it out and landed a part that over 2,000 women had tried to get. Her professional acting career had begun.