Sebastian Maniscalco’s dad got a kick out of Robert De Niro portraying him on the big screen in the stand-up comedian’s upcoming comedy About My Father. PEOPLE has an exclusive first look at the film’s trailer.
“I think it really slapped him in the face when I called him and told him that De Niro wanted to spend some time with him,” Maniscalco, 49, tells PEOPLE. “We spent three days with De Niro out in Oklahoma [where he was filming Killers of the Flower Moon]. Of course, my dad’s still working and his main concern was how he was going to tell his clients at the salon that he couldn’t do their dye job.”
Maniscalco co-wrote About My Fatherwhich he also stars alongside Leslie Bibb, Kim Cattrall, Anders Holm, Brett Dier, David Rasche and De Niro, 79, who the comedian says pulled off a spot-on version of his real-life dad Salvatore, 73.
“He definitely has the nuance of my father, the attitude of my father as my father,” he says of the two-time Oscar winner’s portrayal. “He definitely embodied the character. He really did a great job. I mean, my father has an accent and he doesn’t sound like my dad, but he definitely has the attitude and the relationship, I felt.”
Adds Maniscalco, “Even doing the movie, I felt like I was hanging out with a second father figure.”
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Directed by Laura Terruso, the film is about Sebastian (Maniscalco) bringing his immigrant, hairdresser father Salvo (De Niro) to a weekend-long trip to meet his fiancée’s (Bibb) wealthy and eccentric family (Cattrall, Holm, Dier and Rasche) , leading to cultural clashes.
Maniscalco says the plot was inspired by his own experience meeting his now-wife Lana Gomez’s family, but most of the hijinks are heightened and fictionalized for the laughs — keeping the heart of the story intact, of course
“The truth really lies in the relationship between my father and myself. It’s more relationship driven as far as the immigrant father and his old-school, old-world values and me growing up in a different generation, so those two worlds collided,” says Maniscalco.
“I just wanted to take the two different worlds and clash them together. Basically, what you’re seeing in the movie is the world through my eyes. He’s never been to the country club but I was there, and I just mirrored my experience and gave the thoughts to my father.”
He explains that, just like in his stand-up material, he likes to “focus on family” and wanted to make a movie relatable to the masses.
“Everybody’s got a father or a mother they might butt heads with, but at the end of the day, it’s all about family — it’s all about loving one another,” says Maniscalco. “Yeah, you’re going to have your speed bumps throughout life, but in the end it generally seems to work out.”
And through the process of making the film, the star gained more lasting memories and bonding time with his real-life father and their shared idol, De Niro.
“It was a surreal experience, not only for myself but for my father,” he says. “I had posters on my bedroom wall Casino swear Godfather. These are experiences I shared with my dad over and over again. Next thing you know, he’s sitting across from De Niro in a living room in Oklahoma and giving him pointers on how to wear his hat or how to smoke a cigar.”
Maniscalco continues, “My dad came to set because De Niro wanted him close by during the salon scenes because De Niro wanted to know how to properly wrap hair to do a dye job. My dad was there every step of the way for him during that scene. I was looking at that moment going, ‘I can’t believe Robert De Niro’s playing my dad.’ It was pretty surreal for me.”
About My Father is in theaters May 26.