Pennsylvania County Has Second Thoughts About $500K Investment in Unreleased Sorvino Film

First-time director Paul Sorvino doesn't understand why his investors are so jittery.

More than two years ago, Lackawanna County agreed to partner with Sorvino on "The Trouble with Cali," an independent film the "GoodFellas" star is producing and directing in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Shot in the Scranton area in 2006, the low-budget movie has yet to hit theaters, prompting the cash-strapped county to ask Sorvino what he has done with its $500,000 investment.

Sorvino says he's happy to provide a full accounting of the money. But, he adds, elected officials don't necessarily have a good understanding of the movie business. And he resents any implication that he has been less than forthright.

"To have my honesty impugned has never happened in my life," the burly character actor said in a phone interview. "The record of how the money was spent was always available, to the penny."

Sorvino, 68, describes "Cali" as a black comedy about a young ballerina and her dysfunctional family. His Oscar-winning daughter, Mira, has a cameo; another daughter, Amanda, wrote the script; son Michael also appears on screen. Sorvino himself plays Cali's father, a New York police lieutenant.

Sorvino, who lives in the nearby Pocono Mountains, says he has completed a "very rough cut" of the film and hopes to have it ready for a distributor in three or four months. He's raised about $975,000 of the movie's projected $1.3 million budget, including a personal investment of $175,000.

He says he won't get paid until the county and other investors see a 20 percent return on their investment.

But some investors are getting impatient. County commissioners Michael Washo and Corey O'Brien have criticized the investment as too risky.

"If it's a good film, hopefully we'll receive a return on our investment," O'Brien said. "If it's a lousy film, we probably won't."

Sorvino says he's confident "Cali" will find an audience.

"I have never done anything that I've been in charge of that has failed. I don't intend to make this the first one," Sorvino said. "It's a wonderful movie and I can't wait to get it out."

Sorvino has ties to Scranton since he came to the city 25 years ago to film "That Championship Season," a movie adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Jason Miller.