Thursday, February 28, 2013
Vito Vincent and Monty
Earlier this month, eight cats clawed their way into an open casting call for the dream role of Holly Golightly's beloved kitty, Cat, in the upcoming production of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" on Broadway.
The pool has since been narrowed down to two fortunate felines who will potentially act alongside "Game of Thrones" star Emilia Clarke in the iconic role, including a sturdy orange tabby named Vito Vincent, and a lithe Tuxedo kitty, named Monty. Monty, 8, and Vito Vincent, 6, are both professional cat actors, with numerous roles under their tiny belts. They both also share unique rags-to-riches stories, that tell of their hard fought paths to the Broadway stage.
On Wednesday morning, the cast, creative team, and cats behind "Breakfast at Tiffany's" gathered for a press conference in the Royal Suite at the famed Carlyle Hotel in New York City. I was granted access to the event thanks to Fancy Feast, and am proud to say that I was the only kitty correspondent in attendance!
Before appearing on Broadway and attending exclusive media events, Monty the cat's life began after he was dumped on a road by Babette Corelli's farm. The animal rescuer, trainer, and agent tells me that it took her nearly a month to catch him, and that it took another year before she started taking him along on jobs. Corelli describes him as a smart cat, who is a fast learner, and loves attention. "He's always the first cat to jump in the crate to go on set," she says.
Monty is now a Hollywood veteran, having trained for roles including "The Heat" with Sandra Bullock, "Life Before Her Eyes" with Uma Thurman, and "Sex and the City: The Movie." He has also appeared on "30 Rock," "The Late Show with David Letterman," and "Rescue Me."
The petite feline, who bears an adorable white spot on his forehead, is filled with an excited energy and is as affectionate as can be. While I was snapping a few photos, he began rubbing against me, and I could hear him start to purr.
Vito Vincent as Christianne Amanpurr on "The Colbert Report"
I immediately recognized ginger tabby, Vito Vincent, as a famous feline in his own right. Most notably, he has appeared on "30 Rock" and on "The Colbert Report" as Senior Corespondent, Christianne Amanpurr. He was also the subject of a major Los Angeles Times feature last year, "A star isn't born - yet," about the trials and tribulations of a cat actor trying to make it in show business. Unlike Monty's more frenetic energy, Vito can only be described as one cool cat. Far from being a diva, the charismatic kitty eagerly accepted chin scritches while I chatted with his proud dad, Michael LeCrichia, about his cat's humble beginnings.
The domestic shorthair was relinquished to a Brooklyn shelter as a kitten, and was brought to Bideawee, where Michael adopted him when he was 7-months-old. He trained the cat to walk on a leash early on because of his history - he didn't want to put Vito in a cage, making him feel abandoned all over again.
The pair live in New York City, where Vito accompanies Michael everywhere he goes. After taking the cat to an event where he was mistaken for a hired animal actor, LeCrichia realized his kitty's potential and eventually found him an agent. Vito Vincent is trained to sit, stay, come, and jump, and can ride an escalator. In addition to his television roles, he has done work for Macy's, Animal Planet, Target, and American Greetings, and is also the highest level of therapy cat through Pet Partners.
The feline star indulges in a well-deserved cat nap between interviews
Both kitties are represented by Dawn Animal Agency, Babette Corelli's family run business that has been providing professional animals to the media since 1959. In addition to their extensive roster of furry actors, which includes everything from cats and dogs to rodents and camels, they also run a Sanctuary for less fortunate animals, that is supported in part by working animal actors like Monty.
I'm regularly asked for tips on how people can get their cat started in showbiz, so I took the opportunity to get Corelli's expert advice. The first question she asks is, "What is its personality?" If your cat hears a noise and is curious and shows interest, they just might have what it takes to become a feline thespian. Take time to observe if they really look at things and seem to understand them, as opposed to being frightened or running away in fear.
The next important step, she says, is making sure your cat is leash trained, and taking them outside to see how they respond. Confirm that your kitty has an outgoing personality and likes strangers. It's not fair to force them into being in an uncomfortable environment.
If you still think you might have a star on your hands, contact a reputable animal agency for an expert opinion. Corelli admits that they mostly use their own animals, however they maintain a file of outside talent for roles that require something they don't have.
You'll want to provide the agency with clear front and profile photos of your cat, along with their rough measurements and any unique talents or characteristics they possess, such as liking water or being able to high five. In addition to leash training, Babette also recommends teaching your kitty its name and the "come" command. Not only is this helpful on a set full of cats where she is trying to get one individual kitty's attention, it's also helpful if your cat gets away at home or on set, and you need to easily call them back.
Holly Golightly and Cat in the 1961 film version of "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
Monty and Vito Vincent began on-set rehearsals earlier this week so they'll both be prepared to take on the part, although whichever deserving feline ultimately nabs the role will have some big paw prints to fill.
At least nine kitties were used during the production of the 1961 movie, but only one named Orangey is credited with playing the role of Audrey Hepburn's cat. Orangey was a professional animal actor with a 15 year film and television career, and was the first feline to win two Patsy Awards, the animal equivalent of an Oscar.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" begins previews on March 4, and opens on Broadway March 20 at the Cort Theatre. Tickets are available now through telecharge and the Cort Theatre box office.