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‘Sopranos’ actor Lillo Brancato talks getting sober after a life in the prison, to return to acting

Lillo Brancato appears in the “Dead on Arrival.”

(Vision Films)

Lillo Brancato is looking forward to being back in the spotlight.

The actor, best known for the starring role in 1993’s “A Bronx Tale,” appears in a new film noir with the title “Dead on Arrival” written by director Stephen Sepher of “Heist” fame.

Brancato is aware that not everyone welcomes him to the big screen with open arms. The former “Sopranos” actor was released on parole in 2013 after serving eight years for his involvement in an attempted burglary that killed NYPD officer Daniel Enchautegui.

The 41-year-old told Fox News director Sefer), an old friend of him, thought he should take on the movie.

“He said,” I want you to shave your head,'” Brancato recalled. “I want you to be someone else than Lillo. And the fact that he knew me, I knew that he would write what I would want. So I was automatically drawn to this film and playing this character… It was one of those projects, one of those movies that I wish had come earlier.”

The new movie also includes Mary O’brien, daughter of Edmond O’brien, which appeared in 1949, and “D. O. A.”

“Dead on Arrival” explores how a pharmaceutical representative visiting a small town in Louisiana on the issues that are in a dark world of corruption and murder.

A jury found Brancato guilty on the attempted burglary charges in 2008, but acquitted of the murder in the death of the 28-year-old. The actor was sentenced to 10 years. His partner in crime, Steven armento broke, was convicted of murder and was sentenced to life without parole.

Brancato has since been keeping himself busy acting again.

“I always wonder, do people think that I lost?” he said. “Think of the people that I don’t have the chops anymore? I feel like I have to prove something when I’m in front of the camera. Especially for my good friend Steven… He believed in me and had the courage to hire me and cast me for this film, which, let’s face it, not everyone would have.

“I felt, really right by him and give this character and my performance, my everything, just to say thank you to Steve for believing in me.”

(Vision Films)

Brancato also stressed he’s changed a lot over the years.

When Brancato made his film debut at the age of 17, he was personally chosen and mentored by Robert De Niro for the icon’s directorial debut in “A Bronx Tale.”

He was soon considered one of Hollywood’s hottest actors. However, in the coming years, he got into hard drugs, including cocaine and heroin.

Even if Brancato filmed “The Sopranos” in 2000, the show ‘ s biggest star that there was something wrong.

“My addiction was spiraling out of control,” he recalled. “I think [James Gandolfini] took notice of that… He said, ‘We have a very good case here. We act and not to many people have opportunities like we have. Just be careful.’ And I knew exactly what he was talking about.”

James Gandolfini

(Reuters)

But the actor let the advice would not stop Brancato. His addiction escalated to the point that on December 10, 2005, he and armento broke into a house in the Bronx, new york, tries to steal prescription drugs. The break-in prompted Enchautegui, who are off-duty at the time, to investigate the burglary. He was shot point-blank in the chest by armento broke.

Brancato said was sober on November 18, 2006, a few days after an overdose in his prison. A visit from his loved ones was his wake-up call.

“They were fed up with me,” he said. “They said, ‘What were you thinking? We love you. We want to see you get better.’… And for some reason on that day, something just sunk. And I decided that day when they left, and I was escorted back to my cell, I just made that decision in my mind I can never, ever have another drink or another drug in my life.”

Brancato said he is sober for 11 years, but it is not always easy.

Brancato says he wants to help young people avoid making similar, drug-fueled mistakes.

A #fbf to #robertdeniro and I on the set of #abronxtale . #photo from my #privatecollection ? Thank you for the #experienceofalifetime , I love you Bob? #livinglegend #grateful #thankful #blessed #freedom #secondchances #Godisgreat

A post shared by Lillo Brancato (@lillo_brancato) on Dec 8, 2017 at 5:24am PST

“Sobriety is something that can be a challenge every day,” he said. “… It can be the smallest thing to trigger a relapse… And you know, if I openly about sobriety, others do reach out to me. And you know what? I try to help. Because it helps them. But at the same time, it helps me.

“As far as my sobriety programs, I have it under control, just for today. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and you can’t ever get too cocky or complacent when it comes to this, because that would be my downfall. But just for today, I feel strong, I feel great and I want to continue on this road, for forever.”

Brancato is aware that not everyone will support his appearance in “Dead on Arrival.”

In 2015, the head of the New York Police Department’s union had called for a boycott of his film, 2016’s “Back in the Day,” which starred Alec Baldwin, Michael Madsen and Danny Glover.

“… Let’s not kid ourselves, I have a few really bad choices,” he said. “There is not a day goes by that I not think of that heroic police officer who lost his life.

“And there is no day that I don’t think and wish how I could change that, and the result of that evening. But I can’t do that. What I can do is control myself and my own actions.”

I am proud to announce that @wastedtalentdoc was chosen to open the #nycinternationalfilmfestival on Monday, March 5. Limited tickets are still available. The documentary was #directed by @stevestanulis and #produced by both Steve and @noelashman . Thank you for this opportunity guys and thanks to everyone involved in this project. #mylife #movies #film #success #drugs #addiction #downwardspiral #murder #burglary #incarceration #jail #prison #sober #recovery #redemption #givingback #helpingothers #thankful #grateful #blessed #freedom #secondchances #Godisgreat #nyciff

A post shared by Lillo Brancato (@lillo_brancato) on Feb 27, 2018 at 6:14am PST

Despite resistance, he can spark for appearing in movies again, Brancato said he is determined to stay clean.

“I was a drug addict,” he said. “I was at the wrong place at the wrong time… And the fact that I am on the right road and willing to help others and love doing it, I think that deserves a second chance and that is worth it to the people to support it.”

“Dead on Arrival” premieres in theaters March 23.

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