Sebastian Maniscalco had jitters before his big-screen mobster portrayal.
On Sunday, the comedian, 46, walked the red carpet ahead of the 2020 Academy Awards in Los Angeles, where he stopped to tell PEOPLE all about his nerves leading up to his performance in The Irishman, which is nominated for 10 awards, including Best Picture.
In the crime drama, which is directed by Martin Scorsese and available to stream on Netflix, Maniscalco plays “Crazy Joe” Gallo, sharing the screen with Hollywood heavyweights like Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.
“For me being a comedian, working with these guys was something that I never thought was gonna happen,” he said. “I grew up in Chicago watching these guys as a kid, and next thing you know I’m doing a scene with De Niro and Pesci the first day.
Mansicalco — who’s marking his second straight Oscars attendance after celebrating with his Green Book cast and crew last year — called working on Irishman “a little intimidating and a little anxiety-driven.”
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“I was extremely nervous the first day,” he said. “Once we did that first scene, after that it was kinda off to the races. I really had no time to even think of being nervous and whatnot, but I would [not] be lying to you if I said I wasn’t sleeping the two nights prior to doing this.”
He jokingly added, “I can perform in front of 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden, but you put me in a scene with those two and it gets a little hairy.”
Maniscalco joked that he’s quitting while he’s ahead, having lived out his on-screen dream of working with De Niro, 76, and Pesci, 77: “I’m retiring after this; I don’t see myself ever working again.”
He added: “Just even going to these parties with these guys and getting to know them on a personal level has been really, really special.”
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