Archives For Tribeca Film Festival

Chuck Wepner told me he is just happy to still be alive so that he can tell his story – and now it will be shown on the silver screen for all to see.

Wepner is a former professional heavyweight boxer who was known as “The Bayonne Bleeder” because he had one of the sport’s bloodiest faces. Most notably to that point, there was a fight between Wepner and Sonny Liston in which the New Jersey heavyweight required 72 stitches to his face.

But the match that changed Wepner’s life was his 15 round battle with the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Muhammad Ali. That fight yielded a $100,000 payday for the Marine Corps veteran (the biggest check of his career, although Wepner insisted to me that he would’ve fought Ali for free) and inspired a young man named Sylvester Stallone to write a screenplay called “Rocky.”

And in the new film “Chuck,” out Friday, the world gets to see not only the real-life fighter who inspired the iconic movie series but also the effect that it all had on his personal life – filled with ups and downs that were fueled by sex, alcohol and drugs and led to marital issues and a stint in jail.

However at Wepner’s insistence, the film needed to be family-friendly. He attributes that characteristic along with the task of finding a good lead character in why it took 12 years to make. And it wasn’t until Liev Schreiber that Wepner knew they had their man.

“It was actually (Liev) who asked to play the part,” recalled Wepner on the second floor of the Loews Regency on New York City’s Upper East Side. “Taking no money up-front, everything on the other end. That’s how much he loves the movie.”

Wepner also revealed that Naomi Watts, who plays his third wife, signed up for the same deal.

“They wanted to do this movie,” he said. “They put their heart and soul in it and that’s why the movie is good.”

Schreiber’s acting chops impressed the boxer, right down to his in-ring dialect. Wepner even allowed that the “Ray Donovan” star has a little New Jersey in him.

“He’ll use a little slang now and then, if you know what I mean,” the boxer joked. “He likes to drink. He likes to party. He likes the girls.

“Yunno, that’s me!”

A friend of the show, TheKnockturnal.com Editor Shaina Moskowitz called in on this “Media Monday” to talk about her coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival, including an after-party with Jason Bateman that she invited yours truly to and a hilarious exchange she had with a one Justin Timberlake!

Last Thursday night I was texting with my friend Quinn who was in town from Nashville for a work event. We scratched tentative plans to meet-up that evening, opting for the following day. After finding out what hotel she was staying in I offered to make Brunch reservations.

She liked the idea but also suggested that she was down to perhaps sightsee, something that I have done a terrible job of in my three-plus years in the city.

That’s when I got the idea that we should check out the observatory at One World Trade Center in the Financial District. Quinn enthusiastically co-signed.

We met Friday morning in FiDi and headed in to the Freedom Tower. Attendants scanned our pre-purchased tickets, we passed through security and waited in queue for the elevator. Once inside, it shot up 102 floors in seconds. Before we knew it, we were overlooking the greatest city in the world from the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


After the breathtaking views, Quinn and I walked to the Seaport and grabbed that brunch at The Paris Café, one of the oldest watering holes in the city that claims both Thomas Edison and Teddy Roosevelt as past patrons. Afterwards, I sent her off to the hotel so she could catch an afternoon flight and I Uber-ed uptown so I could grab a quick 5.6 mile run in Central Park before my show.

On Saturday I added yet another new experience to my time in the city, and it is something I’ve wanted to do since I moved in to my apartment on the Upper West Side. According to Google, my place is 4.3 miles from Yankee Stadium. I always thought it would be cool to one day run to the Stadium and catch a 1 pm first pitch. So on Saturday morning I did just that, jogging up Manhattan, through Harlem and in to the Bronx, crossing the Macombs Dam Bridge before entering the ball park.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


Yankees lost to the Mariners and I hopped on the subway home. After an eventful past 48 hours, my plan was to settle in with a sandwich, a beer and my PlayStation 4.

And then my friend Shaina, who I first met covering red carpets here, shot me a text. She had a plus one for a TriBeCa Film Festival after-party. So instead of picking out a game to play on PS4 I picked out an outfit and headed downtown. The event was in celebration of “The Family Fang,” a movie that Jason Bateman both directed and starred in. His co-stars include Christopher Walken and Nicole Kidman.


I didn’t see the film but the party, sponsored by Hendrick’s Gin, was fantastic.

I’m pretty sure Sunday marked another first for me: the first time I spent an entire weekend at the Stadium. I rode the subway up and after the Yanks salvaged the final game of the series, I walked a mile across the bridge again before hopping on C, as to avoid the crowds at 161 and River.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on


Before Sunday Funday ended I saw a few friends, racked up another 5.6 in the Park and caught the season finale of HBO’s “Vinyl.” We got another shout-out!

A video posted by 95.5 PLJ (@955plj) on


All-in-all it was another weekend for the books. And to think, when I first made those plans on Friday I thought to myself, “Well, at least I’ll be leaving my neighborhood once this weekend.”