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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Luca Guadagnino was at the Venice Film Festival this past weekend with a new documentary, Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams. In a video from Venice, posted at BadTaste.com, Guadagnino is asked about his upcoming Scarface film:
BadTaste: When you were here presenting A Bigger Splash, we talked about Suspiria. You told me about what you saw in Dario Argento's movie, and your movie actually mirrored that vision. So: what do you see in Brian De Palma's Scarface?

Luca: But why are you deciding that my reference is De Palma's movie?

BadTaste: Well, I'm curious about it.

Luca: Okay...

BadTaste: More than what you see in Hawks' movie.

Luca: Well. Brian De Palma's movie left a mark on me. So it's an important movie in my imagination. The truth is that I'm interested in the character of Tony Montana. He's a symptom of the American Dream. And I think that these movies are made for their ages. My own Scarface will arrive 40 years after the previous one. I think the important thing about these movies is not the fact that they are lush and fundamental like the Brian De Palma one. The important thing is knowing that Tony Montana is an archetypal character. We won't consider the problem of the existence of a great movie before this one. I'm talking about, for example, The King Of Kings and The Last Temptation Of Christ, if we were conceiving a movie about Jesus Christ. It's an archetypal human figure. We don't have inferiority complexes about great movies made by great filmmakers. I think that Tony Montana is an extraordinary symptom of the American Dream. I think that Tony Montana righteously took from Howard Hawks' age (and remember, when that movie opened, it was accompanied by titles that said, "The filmmakers do not endorse criminal behavior"). That movie was sensational, hugely popular, probably more than De Palma's movie, in proportion. It's almost 100 years that Tony Montana affects the imagination of the audience. And this happens in part because we are attracted by what is capable of producing evil. And in part because we want to make something bigger than ourselves. It's about the dream of fulfilling, of success. This is something way bigger than Brian De Palma's direction. It's something bigger than Brian De Palma, Howard Hawks, and myself. The important things are: A) It has to be well done, the script has to be great. And it is. B) Our Tony Montana has to be current-- I don't want to imitate anything. C) This movie has to be shocking. So: I told you about Suspiria, and I kept the promise I made to you. Then I think I will surprise you with this movie, too. Brian De Palma's movie was rated R, so I want a big R on my movie, too.


Guadagnino expects his Scarface to be "timely"

Luca Guadagnino is the latest director for Scarface

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, September 11, 2020 5:05 PM CDT
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Friday, August 28, 2020

Caesar Cordova died of natural causes Wednesday in Atlantic City, according to Variety's Pat Saperstein. He was 84.

Cordova, who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York, had a long association with Al Pacino, the two having worked on stage together in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? "The play marked the Broadway debut of the little-known Pacino," notes Deadline's Greg Evans.

A little more than a decade later, the pair appeared together on film in Brian De Palma's Scarface, in which Cordova played the cook at the El Paraiso, a Cuban sandwich stand directly across the street from the high-class Little Havana Restaurante. Another ten years later, Cordova appeared with Pacino once again as he played the barber in De Palma's Carlito's Way.

Cordova's first film role came at the age of 19, during time off from the U.S. Air Force. Having been stationed in Germany during the Korean War, Cordova was granted a 30-day leave of absence, during which he went back to New York and managed to get a small part in Richard Brooks' Blackboard Jungle. Cordova also had roles in Don Siegel's Crime In The Streets, Art Linson's Where The Buffalo Roam, Ivan Passer's Cutter's Way, and Bruce Malmuth's Nighthawks, among many others.

Posted by Geoff at 8:09 PM CDT
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Tuesday, July 21, 2020
http://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/chasingthelight.jpg"I saw [Scarface] for the first time in a packed theater on Broadway with a paying audience, mostly Latino and black, which gave the film street cred, and right there I knew it was a better movie than the film crowd thought — and that it would last." So says Oliver Stone in an exclusive excerpt today at MovieMaker "adapted" from Stone's new memoir, Chasing The Light, out today. "I knew it from riding the New York subways," Stone continues in the excerpt. "I knew it from hearing people talk on the street. I knew it from the people who shouted back at the film, who’d repeat the lines and laugh on the playgrounds and in the parks. These people knew it in their gut. The War on Drugs was bullshit from beginning to end, a fraud sending them to prison in massive numbers. These people knew that Tony Montana had a code of honor of his own, and as fucked up as he was, he was true to his nature till that end. He was a free man. I heard from his family years later that Pablo Escobar, the emerging king of cocaine at that time down in Colombia, adored it and screened it many times. And within a couple of years, the white folks who knew the drug world came to appreciate it. Michael Mann plunged right in with the TV series Miami Vice (1984). He saw the power of it, acknowledged it to me, and cashed in more than we ever did. By the time I made Wall Street in 1987, the young white guys down there were quoting it back to me at viewing parties.

"The film would live on strangely in my life, an inside-the-park home run, an entrée to a certain wild, transgressive sector of our society. For years, people would congratulate me and quote me lines from it. Gangsters and their ilk would buy me drinks, champagne, in such faraway places as Egypt, Russia, Cambodia. I could’ve made a great deal of money by accepting a sequel, but my 'gangster' thoughts were ready to explode into the new milieu of Wall Street.

"Scarface was not The Godfather. It lacked the family and the sense of a tragic arc. But it was a juicy, crude opera of a drug dealer’s life set across a slimeball American materialism flowering in South Florida, the madness of a dream that always wants “more … more … and even more.” Greed was indeed good. The ’80s had arrived."

The above is only the last part of the excerpt-- read the full excerpt at MovieMaker. Here's the MovieMaker intro:

Before Scarface launched a boatload of T-shirts, posters, memes, and dubious imitations of Al Pacino’s cocainized Tony Montana, the film, written by Oliver Stone, was just a movie in trouble.

In this excerpt from his new memoir Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador, and The Movie Game, Oliver Stone recalls how he found himself caught between Pacino, Scarface director Brian De Palma, and Scarface producer Marty Bregman after a rough-cut screening of the movie that would soon become beloved as a classic of ’80s excess. Everything would work out, of course—in just a few years, Oliver Stone won the Academy Award for Best Director for Platoon, which also won Best Picture. Pacino and Bregman continued their long professional collaboration with Sea of Love and another De Palma film, Carlito’s Way.

De Palma’s next film after Scarface was Body Double, another very ’80s, freakishly watchable film that wasn’t an immediate success but has earned a ravenous cult following. And soon after he made another Al Capone-indebted gangster epic (one that got more initial respect than Scarface), The Untouchables. Stone eventually reunited with Pacino, this time as a director, in the adrenalized but surprisingly affectionate Any Given Sunday, another Miami-set tale of machismo, greed, and desperation.


Oliver Stone memoir excerpt at EW.com - "De Palma, it seemed to me, was more interested in the 'big picture'"

Posted by Geoff at 7:22 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, July 22, 2020 8:01 AM CDT
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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Oliver Stone's memoir, Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing, and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador, and the Movie Game, will be published July 21, 2020 (a week from today). Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly posted an excerpt from the book's section on Scarface. Here's an excerpt from the excerpt:
Meanwhile, Bregman went painstakingly through the script with me, with Pacino separately making incisive suggestions. We never discussed the Born on the Fourth of July debacle, but as I grew to know Al better, I found him surprisingly humorous, coming up with one-liners to fit Tony Montana, whom he was evolving into with a broad Cuban accent and all. It surprised me that Al had never snorted cocaine or known anything about drugs. According to Marty, he’d had a serious problem with alcohol when younger but was now completely dry. Yet he had no problem behaving onscreen like the ultimate coke addict. Al definitely belonged to the “Method” school of acting, worshiping the aloof Lee Strasberg, who with his wife seemed to be making a rather good living teaching theater to a new generation. Al also kept a respected acting coach, Charlie Laughton, close to him, which greatly irritated Marty, who still wanted to“manage” Al in all ways, particularly his “warped” thinking. Al, to my mind, always had one goal — the play. Nothing else seemed to exist.

I continued to refine the script, and without much delay, Ned Tanen at Universal, Bregman’s friendly studio, agreed to make the movie for some $14 to $15 million, which was quite good for a violent gangster film that, even on paper, was gathering a reputation for being “over the top” — another Midnight Express type of extravaganza from Oliver Stone, now paired with the excessive and violent Brian De Palma, who’d made Dressed to Kill and Carrie. Bregman asked me to take DePalma down to see the locations and meet the figures I’d come to know while researching. Brian was a cold man, like Alan Parker — it comes with the territory — but he wasn’t threatened by me and seemed to want me around. So did Bregman, who stayed very much in control of the film, sitting with Brian through every casting call. At one session I attended, I fought hard for Glenn Close to play the role of Al’s mistress in Scarface, as she’d been great in the reading. I’d written the original Elvira role as an upper-class New York girl whom I knew, slumming in South Beach with a gangster boss when Tony meets her. Marty dismissed my idea as nuts — “She’s got a face like a horse!” He was married to a beautiful actress, Cornelia Sharpe, a blond, and generally had a big thing going for blonds. Marty and De Palma ultimately chose a twenty-four-year-old newcomer, Michelle Pfeiffer, who scored hugely in the film and went on to a distinguished career. But at the time, I had to grudgingly rewrite Elvira’s part down to make the role more of a materialistic South Beach bimbo.

Al asked Marty to keep me on the set to help him, presumably with a director he wasn’t quite sure of. At first I was glad to stay on, although I was being paid only in per diem to cover my expenses, but I regarded it as a learning experience. Al was still, at this time, quicksilver of nature, turning on a dime, very sensitive to his environment, eyes, ears, skin on fire. If he saw a new face on the set, he’d react. He was just that way. At all costs I’d avoid his line of sight when he was in acting motion lest my concentration disrupt his own — somewhat like particle waves. Billy Wilder described this sensitivity in recounting how Greta Garbo banned him from Ninotchka for appearing in her sightline. It wouldn’t be easy to direct Al, but De Palma seemed indifferent to that; he was never really an actor’s director like Lumet, whom Pacino had wanted. De Palma, it seemed to me, was more interested in the “big picture,” and in that vision actors were more or less an important part of the scenery.

Posted by Geoff at 12:49 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2020 12:52 AM CDT
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Friday, July 10, 2020

Today at Variety, Brent Lang interviews Luca Guadagnino, and asks him about his upcoming remake of Scarface:
You have about a half-dozen projects listed as in development on your IMDB. What’s behind that?

I am a relentless workaholic. I’m someone who has never tried any drugs, because I’m too scared for my own health. But I feel like when I was born, I fell on a “Scarface” mountain of cocaine, because I work 13 hours a day.

Are you working on a sequel to “Call Me By Your Name”?

I call it a second chapter, a new chapter, a part two or something like that. I love those characters. I love those actors. The legacy of the movie and its reception made me feel I should continue walking the path with everybody. I’ve come up with a story and hopefully we will be able to put it on the page soon.

You’re also attached to a remake of “Scarface.” What attracted you to that project?

People claim that I do only remakes [ed. note: Guadagnino previously remade “Suspiria” and his film “A Bigger Splash” was inspired by “La Piscine”] , but the truth of the matter is cinema has been remaking itself throughout its existence. It’s not because it’s a lazy way of not being able to find original stories. It’s alway about looking at what certain stories say about our times. The first “Scarface” from Howard Hawkes was all about the prohibition era. Fifty years later, Oliver Stone and Brian De Palma make their version, which is so different from the Hawkes film. Both can stand on the shelf as two wonderful pieces of sculpture. Hopefully ours, forty-plus years later, will be another worthy reflection on a character who is a paradigm for our own compulsions for excess and ambition. I think my version will be very timely.

What have you been watching during lockdown?

I watched again “Comizi d’amore” (Love Meetings) by Pasolini. I saw a great movie called “The Vast of Night,” and I watched for the second or third time “Doctor Sleep,” which is a movie I admire greatly.

Posted by Geoff at 5:49 PM CDT
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Monday, June 29, 2020

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, June 30, 2020 1:55 AM CDT
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Saturday, June 20, 2020

Posted today, GQ's best 1980s movies: from The Shining to Scarface is made up of picks from the magazine's staff. Associate Editor Paul Henderson chose Scarface:
First of all a disclaimer: despite being a teenager for much of the 1980s, I didn’t see my favourite film of the 1980s in the 1980s. Instead, I needed Quentin Tarantino to tip me the wink in the wake of the release of Reservoir Dogs in 1992, when he deliriously sang the praises of the film’s director and his gangster epic. “When Brian De Palma would come out with a new movie, the whole first two weeks before the movie opened, I would count down the days,” said QT. “That week before Scarface opened, that was Scarface Week.”

My own Scarface week came soon after, when I eventually tracked down a secondhand VHS tape of the movie and I could finally say hello to my little Cuban friend. And I must have watched it nearly half a dozen times (I took Sunday off). Al Pacino’s hammy performance as Tony Montana – “You fuck with me, you fuckin’ with the best” – is a glorious over-the-top riot of violence, Hawaiian shirts, Giorgio Moroder synth sounds and piles and piles and piles of cocaine. Oliver Stone, who wrote the script that included 207 uses of the word “fuck”, admitted he had been a coke addict for two years before sitting down to write the story (“Scarface was me taking my revenge on that drug,” Stone said) of a Marielito who arrives in Miami from the gutters of Havana with the intention of going “right to the top”.

In its depiction of 1980s pop culture, inelegantly wasted lives and hardcore excess, it is untouchable (if De Palma fans can pardon the pun). Plus, it had one of the best movie posters ever. If I could order you to watch this film, I would… but as Tony Montana would say: “The only thing in this world that gives orders is balls.” Preach.

Posted by Geoff at 8:00 PM CDT
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Friday, June 19, 2020

Today sees the release of Bob Dylan's Rough And Rowdy Ways. The album's third track, "My Own Version Of You," sees the narrator creating a sort of Frankenstein creature out of parts and people that include the fictional title characters from Scarface (specifically, the Al Pacino version) and The Godfather:
Well, it must be the winter of my discontent
I wish you'd've taken me with you wherever you went
They talk all night and they talk all day
Not for a minute do I believe anything they say
I'm gon' bring someone to life, someone I've never seen
You know what I mean, you know exactly what I mean

I'll take the Scarface Pacino and The Godfather Brando
Mix it up in a tank and get a robot commando
If I do it upright and put the head on straight
I'll be saved by the creature that I create

I'll get blood from a cactus, gunpowder from ice
I don't gamble with cards and I don't shoot no dice
If you look at my face with your sightless eyes
Can you cross your heart and hope to die?
I'll bring someone to life, someone for real
Someone who feels the way that I feel

(Thanks to Carsten!)

Posted by Geoff at 8:16 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, June 19, 2020 8:16 AM CDT
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Saturday, June 13, 2020

"Brian De Palma’s Scarface is lightning in a bottle," states Sealgair MacUistain in this week's Thursday film review at Back-Country Populist. "It is a film that resonated immediately with the conscience and subconscious of the American audience and still accomplishes the same today. With a killer soundtrack that captures the merry and vapid decadence of the 1980’s, first rate camera work from De Palma and crew (seriously, De Palma is extremely good at visual story telling. He is technically sound.), and a tour de force of acting and story telling, Scarface is consistently ranked among the best of not only crime films, but films in general."

In his review, MacUistain states upfront that while Scarface "is a totally secular movie that has nothing ostensibly to do with Christianity," he will proceed to use the film to explore "the great modern American heresy" that being a good person will get you to heaven. "Bottom line up front: being likable, or 'a good person', or 'nice' is not what saves you," MacUistain explains. "You are still broken and in need of salvation outside of yourself. If you rely on yourself alone, you will perish."

Delving into the character of Tony Montana, MacUistain writes:

People are wont to admire Tony Montana’s rise to power and his “heroic” last stand. His hard work, can-do attitude, and confidence inspire a lot of people. Tony feels that he and other hard working people are getting played by the real crooks who are at the top of the pyramid. At first glance, Tony Montana is absolutely someone to admire.

That is, of course, until you realize that all of his decisions led him to being shot dozens of times and floating face down in a pool of his own blood. Additionally, he has killed or driven away anyone who ever cared about him.

Tony Montana has many admirable attributes. He is incredibly smart, hard working, enterprising, charismatic, loyal, and charming. However, he uses those talents improperly, to say the least. Speaking of talents, I do believe there is a passage of scripture related to this. Why don’t you go ahead and open up the Good Book to Luke 19:11-17 and read the Parable of the Talents? How did Tony use his talents? His mother disowns him. He kills his best friend because he fell in love with his sister. He gets his sister killed after ruining her life and Tony probably suffers from some sort of malformed sexual attraction to his sister. His wife leaves him. His allies all turn on him. Every friend and employee he has is brutally killed. Yes, you went mighty wrong there Tony!

Despite all of his talents, he is not moral. He is not virtuous. “What? Sealgair you hack! You don’t think the attributes of hard work, loyalty, charisma, and devotion are moral? You’re a fraud! I’m going to write about you in the comments about how wrong and stupid you are!”

Comment away, my hypothetical friend! Let me also point out to you that those traits, admirable though they may be, do not equate to morality nor virtue. Hitler was hard working and devoted. Ted Bundy was charismatic. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino had a damn sixteen pack, admirable as that is. None of that makes those fellows virtuous or moral. None of those traits mean anything if they are not used for an objective good. You are either on the wide path to destruction, floating around caring only about yourself, or you are on the narrow path oriented to Christ. Tony, obviously, is a selfish and loathsome irredeemable person on the wide path toward destruction.

Scarface is a morality tale. It is a cautionary tale. It is very plain and simple. Do not be like Tony.

After looking at the selfish ways Tony Montana relates to his wife, his mother, his sister, and his best friend, MacUistain continues:
But wait! Tony has a code! He refuses to kill children! And that is what really triggers his demise! Well, you are on the right track, but that is not really the whole story. Yes, it is true that Tony (correctly, and indeed morally) refuses to kill children. He was about to willingly assassinate a dude dedicating his life to stopping the plague of drugs, but he refused to go through with the assassination because children would have been caught in the cross hairs. Look, if the standard we use for “good dude” is comprised solely of “he does not kill children” then we have a lot of work to do as a society.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, June 14, 2020 7:07 PM CDT
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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Geno Silva, the actor who played a key role as The Skull in Brian De Palma's Scarface, has died at 72. Mike Barnes at The Hollywood Reporter reports that, according to Silva's family, "Silva died May 9 at his home in Los Angeles of complications from frontotemporal degeneration, a form of dementia."

Barnes later adds that in Scarface, Silva's "foreboding character never speaks a word while he guns down Montana with a shotgun from behind at the end of the Brian De Palma-directed classic. One poll placed The Skull No. 7 on a list of the best henchmen in movie history."

Silva also appeared in three of Steven Spielberg's films: 1941 (1979), Amistad (1997), and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). In another significant film role, Silva was cast by David Lynch as the MC of Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive (2001). In 2002, Silva talked to the magazine Wrapped In Plastic about how that came about:

So I go there, and Johanna Ray is a wonderful, lovely woman. I'm talking to her, and she brings up this thing about being an ethnic actor in Hollywood, and she asked me about Spanish. So I threw some Spanish into the videotape mix - we're talking, and I spoke Spanish. I talked about doing Zoot Suit on Broadway. And that was it.

Nine months go by, and my agent calls me: "Geno, remember that David Lynch film?" "Yeah?" (I had assumed it had moved on.) "Well, he wants you to do it." I said, "Do what!? (Laughter) I couldn't believe it! He said, "Listen, I had some clients work on Fire Walk With Me, and this is the way he does it. He works on the fly." I said, "But is there a script?" He said, "Geno, do you want to work with David? And I said, "Well it's kinda of hard to say 'yes' when you don't know what you're going to do. Let me get a look at something." It was Friday and I said, "When does this go?" And he said, "It goes Monday." (Laughter) So he sends me over what, I guess, was supposed to be sides. All it said was, "Mexican emcee introduces Rebekah Del Rio." No dialogue. Nothing. I was really mad, and I threw it across the room! I said, "I'm not going to do this. this is s---!" You get really angry at stuff like that. You think you're being exploited, and you think that somehow you're Tom Cruise or something!

So I go to wardrobe, and they present that incredible, beautiful red suit. It fit like it was made for me. Then I found those old black-and-white shoes, and I thought, "Well this could be some fun."


"I had finished the day about four in the afternoon. We were shooting downtown, and my wife owns a dance studio in Hollywood. So I drive over there on my way home and call my answering machine to check my messages. There are these three frantic messages: 'Geno! Oh my God! Call us back as soon as you can! This is Frank -- the AD on Mulholland Drive -- you've got to come back! You've got to come back!' They were, like, nuts! I called back and they said, 'Can you come back now!?' And I said, 'What happened? Did you guys burn the film?' He said, 'David wants to know if you want to play another part.' I said, 'When?' 'Right now. Can you come back to the set?' I said, 'He wants me to play another part, now, at the same set?'

I go back there and as I drive into the lot a hundred walkie-talkies go off: "Geno's here!" It was echoing across the block. It was so weird. I said (to the costumer), 'Look, before anything happens, I need to talk to David. Give me a walkie-talkie.' So I get David and I say, 'David, what am I doing?' He said, 'Ah, Geno, I'm so glad you got back. I have an idea. I think it will be some fun.' I said, 'Do you want me to change my look? Change my hair or shave, maybe?' He said, 'No, no. I want you to look exactly the same.' Then he said, 'What it's going to be - this is your day job. The other one's your night job.' (Laughter) I had no idea. I still have no idea! But I'm just loving this!"

David was so happy. He said, "That was great, Cookie." He kept calling me Cookie. What was funny to me was that nobody makes movies like this. That's like guerilla filmmaking, except the guy is one of the top directors in the world. That's what you would do if you were on college. But he can pull it off because of his incredible vision in true collaboration. That's what's fun about it.

On May 11, John Ortiz wrote a heartfelt Facebook post in mourning tribute to Silva:
Heartbroken at the passing of Geno Silva. My love and prayers go out to his amazing wife, Pam, their wonderful daughter Lucia, and her family especially the beautiful grandchildren Eva & Levon.

Geno was my friend. A father figure. An artistic warrior brother. A confidante. A lover of life.

He was generous, passionate, bold, strong, intelligent, joyful with a regally imposing physical presence which never shut down his magnetic curiosity or spirituality. He was proud of his roots, and even prouder of his friends and family.

I knew him for 26 years, and since day one it felt ancestral.

In the first 5 years of knowing Geno, I was lucky enough to act alongside him on 3 different intense projects as his lover, his business partner, and his son.

By the end of the 3rd project, we knew we’d be in each other lives forever.

I loved having meals and conversations with him that lasted for hours and hours. I loved his stories. One of my favorite things to do was to ask him about any of the hundreds of beautiful photos in his home because he would regale me with the most vivid, entertaining stories. I admired his love for his family. I loved his home. So comforting, so cozy, and filled with so much love. I was always welcomed by him and Pam, and I took full advantage. Showed up at random times, sometimes unannounced, but always greeted with the warmest smile and the biggest hug. He had that amazing quality of making people feel like the most important person in the world, me included.

He often believed in me more than I did in myself.

The greatest gift my profession has given me is the ability to meet some of the most interesting and dynamic people in the world. If I’m lucky, a few of those meetings might grow into a long lasting, transformative relationship.

My relationship with Geno certainly grew into one of those meaningful relationships.

I’m so grateful for the time we had and for the Silva spirit that will continue to live on in so many people lucky enough to have crossed paths with him.

Thank you, Geno, you giant of a man.

Rest In Power.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, May 21, 2020 7:55 AM CDT
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