LI guy channels inner child in 'Sitter'
Alessandro Tanaka rarely had baby-sitters while growing up in Huntington, but that didn't stop him from writing a comedy about the worst baby-sitter in the world.
"The Sitter," directed by David Gordon Green and opening tomorrow, stars Jonah Hill as the titular caregiver. Over the course of one night, he drags his three young charges to a dive bar, a drug lab and other unsavory locales.
While the story may inspire allusions to the classic '80s movie "Adventures in Babysitting," Tanaka, 37, says he was more influenced by films like "Blind Date," "License to Drive" and Martin Scorsese's "After Hours." "In the '80s there were all these 'one crazy night' movies, so we watched all of them," explains Tanaka, who wrote the script with writing partner Brian Gatewood.
FIRST FILM "The Sitter" is Tanaka and Gatewood's first film to make it to the big screen. They wrote the script in one month and, within a couple of days, Fox Atomic studio snatched it up (when Fox Atomic folded, the script went to 20th Century Fox). The real coup arrived when Hill, whom they had envisioned for the lead role, agreed to star.
"We've had the plug pulled on other projects of ours," says Tanaka, who now lives in Manhattan. "So it was really only when we showed up on set and saw Jonah Hill dragging a kid across the floor in the middle of a scene that it hit us that the movie was getting made." With "The Sitter" under their belts, Tanaka and Gatewood are now working on "Animal Kingdom," a pilot for NBC, and "Meet the New Boss," a film about a robotic supervisor.
AN ACTOR FIRST Tanaka graduated from Huntington High School in 1992 and initially channeled his love for film into acting -- his first gig was a Macy's commercial. (His younger sister, Sara Tanaka, was also a one-time thespian, with memorable roles in "Rushmore" and "Old School.")
While studying English at Vassar College, however, Tanaka turned his sights on writing. In 2000, he enrolled in film school at Columbia University, where he met Gatewood. "He had a really sharp sense of humor," Gatewood recalls. "He was also someone who loved both highbrow and lowbrow."
Film degree aside, Tanaka credits his early film education to Huntington's Cinema Arts Centre. "I've been to that theater now and it's really nice, but back then it was literally foldout chairs," says Tanaka. "I remember going there and seeing 'My Own Private Idaho,' Cronenberg's 'Naked Lunch.' Having access to that was one of the greatest things about growing up in Huntington."