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‘Hidden Figures’ director: ‘My dad was in the mob and my mom was a nun’


Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 02/08/17

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Now for something completely different, from the pages of the Hollywood Reporter: 

Theodore Melfi leaped onto Hollywood’s A-list with the triumph of Hidden Figures, the story of three African-American women who each played a key role in NASA’s space program (a film he chose to helm over “Spider-Man: Homecoming”), which has topped $119 million at the domestic box office. This success is the least surprising thing about the 46-year-old writer-director who, as he celebrates his film’s nomination for best picture (and his own for adapted screenplay), reveals to THR his stranger-than-fiction backstory: He grew up with a mobster father and a mother who was a former nun who became his father’s fifth wife. After his dad, Joseph, turned his back on the Mafia, the family lost their 26-room home in Schenectady, N.Y., and moved to a tiny apartment in Brooklyn, where Melfi senior lurched from affection to violence, from the principled to the peculiar. This was normal life as far as his three sons were concerned, just as it was normal for their dad to mix the fearsome with the philosophical.

From his account of his life:

My mother was an angel, kind and loving and gentle, but also shy and insecure. She was a beautiful brunette. But she was barely holding it together emotionally. She was very fragile. My aunts said she was the weakest one; they thought they had to take care of her. She grew up in a very Catholic and affluent household in Tarrytown, N.Y. Her father was a well-respected doctor, and her mother was his nurse. There were four girls and two boys — and all the girls went into the convent. Joanie passed away of cancer, tragically. Agnes became a nun, but didn’t take her final vows. Patty became a nun. And Ann, my mom, became a nun around the age of 20. Then my mom’s mother dies of a heart attack at a very young age. My mom’s father can’t handle it and starts abusing alcohol and dies six months later. My mom kind of loses her mind and flees the convent, just leaves without permission, and has a little mental breakdown and ends up in a mental institution. She spends several months in a facility. They said she had a nervous breakdown. Anyway, she gets back into the nunship in New York and meets my father.

Read more. It’s an amazing, heartbreaking tale that someone should turn into a movie.

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