In the upcoming musical romantic comedy “That’s Amore!,” audiences will have their chance to see John Travolta doing what so many of his fans love to see him doing — singing and dancing with a smile on his face. The star’s enduring popularity certainly isn’t lost on writer-director Nick Vallelonga, who won two Oscars for writing and producing the 2018 hit “Green Book,” and is thrilled to be finally getting the film off the ground. “I’m constantly writing and developing scripts, and I’ve always had Travolta in mind for the role. I got to work with John on a George Gallo film [“The Poison Rose”] and I was his stand-in for a week on ‘Staying Alive,’ so I’ve always been a big fan of his work. He just makes you happy when you see him on screen, and I’ve always dreamed of making this movie with him. After the success of ‘Green Book,’ I got the script to him,” says Vallelonga.
“That’s Amore!” follows Nick Venere (Travolta), a modern-day “Marty” in that he’s never been married and his best dating years are well behind him. Along comes Patty Amore (Katherine Heigl), a woman who has her own share of problems, which include various tics and nervous habits. A secret from her past, combined with her over-protective father, have caused her to withdraw from the dating game.
But when Nick and Patty meet, they share an immediate connection.
“John and Katherine are fantastic together, and during rehearsals they had so much chemistry,” says Vallelonga, who is taking a more organic approach to incorporating the musical numbers into the narrative. “We’re not breaking into big production numbers, but I wanted to try something a little different. We’ve recorded about seven songs so far with a full orchestra, and he’s just a magical person. One of the numbers is a real throw back to Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and we’ve got the whole cast singing ‘That’s Amore’ at one point, and I think people are going to absolutely love it.”
Christopher Walken, Talia Shire, William Fichtner, D.B. Sweeney and Drea de Mateo co-star, while veteran DP Dante Spinotti (“Heat,” “L.A. Confidential”) will handle cinematography duties. “We’ve shot some tests with Dante, and while he’s lensed a lot of dark and hard-looking movies during his career, he loved the script, and responded to its themes right away. He’s an amazing guy and an ingenious cinematographer.”
“That’s Amore!” is being brought to AFM by Palisades Park Pictures, which was founded in 2023, and is a female-led independent entertainment company, focused on the distribution, production and financing of content. Led by CEO Tamara Birkemoe and backed by Ashland Hill Media Finance, the new company is establishing itself as a home for ambitious storytelling with global appeal. Recent Ashland Hill productions include Rupert Sanders’ reimagining of “The Crow” starring Bill Skarsgård and FKA Twigs; crime thriller “Fast Charlie,” directed by Phillip Noyce, featuring Pierce Brosnan and Morena Baccarin; and the Jesse V. Johnson-directed actioner “Chief of Station,” starring Aaron Eckhart.
And with “That’s Amore!,” Vallelonga just wants to entertain the crowd. “During rough times, folks need to laugh, and they need to get out and enjoy themselves. And that’s what this movie is all about. It’s an old-fashioned, old-school film for all audiences, ages 8 to 80. It’s a little risky to do a musical, but we’ve got Travolta, so I’m not too worried.”