Tommy Denucci Opens the Vault

I recently interviewed local film director Tommy Denucci about his most recent project, “Vault,” which stars Don Johnson, Theo Rossi and Samira Wiley. The film is based on the 1975 Bonded Vault robbery, which took place in RI and was, at the time, the biggest heist in American history — the thieves stole more than $30 million dollars of valuables from the mafia. 

Tess Lyons (Motif): What made you take on this true story and make it into a movie?

Tommy Denucci: This story is actually a bit of a folk tale around Rhode Island. I first heard about it when I was a teenager, and I thought to myself, “Why isn’t this a movie?” 

Eventually, I met [producer] Chad [Verdi] and my career started. Chad had always wanted to do a story on Raymond Patriarca, so we combined the two ideas and started creating a script for this movie.

TL: What attracts filmmakers to RI?

TD: I think it has a lot to do with Steve Feinberg and the Rhode Island Film and Television Office. We [also] have a very dynamic look — woods, oceans and downtown Providence, where we are filming this movie. You can drive from one end of the state to the other. We have a nice little hub here.

TL: How long did it take you to find your star-studded cast? 

TD: Believe it or not, that stuff usually happens pretty quickly. Theo Rossi was attached to the project since August 2017. Then from there on out he was the only actor we had signed for months and months and months. It wasn’t until January that we brought in some other big names — the cast came together quickly in about a two-month process.

TL: Should audiences expect a lot of action in this film?

TD: There’s gonna be a little bit of action, a little bit of romance, a sense of adventure. There’s gonna be a feeling of needing to get away or escape. There’s gonna be a lot of exciting things for people who like the genre. They’re gonna get everything they want to get out of a movie like this, plus some surprises that make this movie unique.

TL: What’s the hardest part of setting a film in the ’70s?

TD: The looks of the actors. There’s a big difference between what we consider long hair today and considered long hair back then. There were thick mustaches and thick sideburns that take months to grow. You don’t really start casting until a month or two out, and it’s very hard to find those people just walking around. Not just the stars, but the background actors, too. 

TL: How is this project different from your other projects?

TD: This is my first movie working with this many elements. It’s the biggest movie I’ve ever made. The budget is bigger than all of my other projects combined. On this budget we are able to do some of the more advanced things I wanted to do in my movies before, and just didn’t have the means. It’s fun to work with people who can make my wildest dreams come true.