The truth is, most abusers truly believe that what they are doing is teaching their loved ones life lessons, and that they do it out of love. They believe what they're doing is in the best interests of their loved ones. I wanted to get that point across to those people out there and, hopefully, let them realize that there is no reason to treat someone that way—whether you think you're doing them good or not. The emotional scars left on those who are abused stick with them their entire lives. This story has a personal connection with me because the young boy, Jesus, is loosely based on stories I heard from my father and the beatings he and his mother got from his father. But amazingly, my father never hit me or my brother. He understood that the beatings caused more mental damage than physical. The physical wounds will heal. The psychological ones will not.
"The Nail" has been called to account by some critics for the brutality of the beating young Jesus takes near the end of the film. We wanted to let the audience experience the beatings through the sensibilities of the child. Everything is bigger and more intense to him. We had to do it that way to relay that intensity to the viewers so they would feel that fear, and the only way to get that point across was to make the beating as realistic and extreme as possible. Truth be told, in most circumstances, if something isn't done to stop an abuser, that's how extreme things would get.
As an actor, doing this film was like going to college. Doing bit roles in films doesn't really prepare you for doing a lead role. Sometimes the best way to get to that next level is to simply to dive in headfirst and do it. However, I believe that without the guidance, and teachings, of my friend and mentor Leo Rossi, and the patience and brilliant directing from James Quattrochi, I wouldn't have gotten through it. I also owe a debt of appreciation to a great supporting cast in William Forsythe, Leo Rossi, Billy Gallo, Daynarra Torres, Tony Danza, Ray Boom Boom Mancini, and Pablo Orrantia—a superstar in the making. I remember the director telling me that no matter how good the performances are, if the chemistry between me and Pablo, who plays Jesus, doesn't come across onscreen, then nothing else will matter. After the first five minutes of meeting with Pablo, we had an instant chemistry that has developed into a great friendship.
I hope this movie finds its audience. Even though this story has a message that has been told before, I'm hoping that this movie delivers it in a way to make those doing harm to others—out of what they feel is love—realize the error in their ways.
A true son of South Philly, "Tony Luke" Lucidonio Jr. trained as an actor and has appeared in feature films with Dennis Hopper, Mark Wahlberg, Val Kilmer, Brian Dennehy, and many others, all the while building the reputation of Tony Luke's restaurants and products and its Old Philly Style Sandwich. For the recently released feature "The Nail," Luke developed the story, co-produced, and appears in his first starring role.