Why Steve Martin’s “Vinny” in My Blue Heaven was the Best Role of His Career

Actors don’t always manage to step out of the roles they love to play. They hit their comfort zone and that’s where they tend to stay for years on end. Action heroes continue on in action films as the big tough guy or the calm and collected guy that kicks the hell out of the bad guys. Comedians go onto become little more than typecast figures that tell the same jokes in various ways. That’s why in My Blue Heaven the character of Vinne is beyond anything that you might ever think of when it comes to Steve Martin. He’s in it, there’s doubt about that. It’s simply that the character is so unlike anything else he’s played that it’s not the essential Steve Martin you’re seeing on screen.

You can easily recognize Rick Moranis and Joan Cusack largely because they play the same type of characters they’re always playing. But Steve Martin went so far past his comfort zone that he essentially became another person.  So why is this his best role ever? I’ll give you a few reasons.

There was almost no drama to this role.

He got to be loose, relaxed, and was always ready with a look, a quip, or some type of way to make you laugh in this film. There was no feelgood moment aside from the occasional break in the comedy, and this was why the film played so well to this new persona. He didn’t have to split his time between being serious and being funny.

He was a sleaze and it was okay.

You put a guy that’s used to a place like New York in a town that knows little to nothing about organized crime and what happens? There’s no such thing as a conformist attitude with Vinnie. If he has a problem with you he’s going to say it. If he can get away with something he’s going to do it, and if you feel the need to speak to him make sure you’re saying something worth his time or he might go and tell you to f–k off. Yeah, that’s right.

It wasn’t Steve Martin.

It was for all intents and purposes the actor Steve Martin. But it wasn’t him in that he wasn’t a wild and crazy guy, he wasn’t the bitingly sarcastic businessman that had to act calm and collected most times, and he certainly wasn’t the guy that would crack a joke and then go completely deadpan in the next instant. This was a new Steve Martin entirely and it was great. He was the mobster that knew he had to lay low to survive and yet couldn’t curb his more illegal tendencies no matter what. In fact the only thing that really got him to finally wind down and start acting like a part of the community was when he finally realized that he WAS a part of the community. From that point on he became a new person, despite the efforts of Joan Cusack to prove otherwise.

This film caused a transformation in Steve Martin that people hadn’t seen before in his entire career. He became a character that was not only funny, but completely different than anything he’d ever done before. That’s a rare thing to happen in Hollywood even today.


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