How does a former intelligence operative diversify his career aspirations to include actor, director, producer, and CEO of a defense company?
Throughout his life, Tony’s skillsets ran the gamut, from being an accomplished heavyweight karate champion, group pioneer of a national sheriff association, and intelligence operative to actor, director, and producer of movies. Growing up watching action movies made him really want to emulate the characters, which in many ways, informed the direction of his life.
Circumstances led Tony to explore a bit of directing. In fact, Tony directed, and stars in his newest movie, The Weapon, a wild ride filled with action and suspense, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. Also in the cast are Sean Patrick Flanery, Jack Kesy, Bruce Dern, and Annalynn McCord.
Balancing the two roles was challenging. Tony admitted, “It was a challenging shoot on many levels, but we worked through each challenge effectively. It’s not easy when you’re wearing multiple hats, especially when you’re also executive producing and your company is also involved in making the movie. You have to be ok with being challenged, and some of us excel in those conditions.”
Asked to choose from this diverse resume, Tony revealed that his defense work in conflict areas across the globe and the victories he and his team accomplished for their country or clients are the most gratifying. However, he managed to take what he loved most and transform it into an impressive profession in the entertainment industry. The transition was actually inspired by an older colleague and mentor in the intelligence realm who advised him early in his career to get out of this “game,” as he believed he could be an excellent action star. But, according to Tony, “I’m still CEO of my defense company, so I guess I only half-listened to him.”
While the action is organic for Tony, he has also played many other diverse roles throughout his career. He likes to base his characters on actual people he knows. For example, producer Mike Tadross Jr. was doing a movie and wanted Tony cast in it. Tony thought “Johnny the Perv” sounded like a good fit and played him as an amalgamation of high school friends who left an impression on him. “It was really fun playing that character. I just starred opposite Claudia Gerini, Italy’s biggest star, in a romantic comedy shot in Sicily called Sicilian Holiday, and I had the character have an Italian accent. I had to learn a Sicilian dialect.” Moreover, Tony uses the wide range of characters he came across in the defense world to emulate the action genre.
Tony recalls, “My first film credit as an actor is Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino, and my first credit as a producer was Wilde Salome, again with Al Pacino, so yes, definitely Pacino, but my first film in actuality was with Armand Assante, who gave me my first shot, a “trial by fire” after the studio fired the director, trashed the film that had been shot and hired John Irvin to direct.
Advising aspiring actors, Tony Schiena will say, “there’s nothing worse than desperation, so try to make yourself as financially comfortable as possible; it will make the struggling ‘actors life’ a lot easier.”
Going forward, Tony is already in pre-production for the sequel of The Weapon. A compelling action movie will top the first movie. He believes the true beauty of film-making is it can make a young child dream, imagine, think, and conceive.