Profile: Danny DeVito

In his make-up

He also likes a project. Perhaps that came from his dad, Daniel DeVito, who at one time or another owned a drycleaners, dairy business, luncheonette and a pool hall in the family’s home state, New Jersey. DeVito junior certainly explored his options in the early days. He was a hairdresser at his sister Angela’s salon, then took a cosmetics course at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. The arts must have been dramatic – by 1966 DeVito had downed his eye-liner in favour of acting professionally.

As DeVito might rightly assume, you know the rest. But to erase any conceivable doubt: he starred in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest in 1975, the hit TV show Taxi from 1978-83 and Romancing the Stone in tandem with his future limoncello-imbibing partner Michael Douglas in 1984. There was Twins, with his ‘brother’ Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 1988, his appearance as a deranged penguin in Batman Returns (1992) and a part in Look Who’s Talking Now, as the voice of a taking dog. Of course more serious work took the form of Pulp Fiction in 1994, which he helped produce and a role in Get Shorty the following year. Add to that his directing and TV roles and there are far more stellar examples than space to list them.

Fast-forward to 2012 and DeVito’s providing the lead voice for cartoon film The Lorax. And this summer there was a three-month role in The Sunshine Boys at the Savoy Theatre in London (during which period he also gave up some of his time for Drinks International). Right now DeVito is back home in Beverly Hills to direct an as-yet untitled movie, which will see filming in Hollywood and London. 

All in all, it’s difficult to see how a man normally found either side of a camera might find the time, never mind possess the skills to make a success of a fledgling limoncello brand. “I make people smile whether it’s in movies or in television or giving the best limoncello that people can taste,” says DeVito. “[The film and drinks industry are] very, very similar in that you have to have a great product in both. You have to have great promotion in a movie, as you do in the drinks industry. You have to have great people contributing to the movie, like you do with Tonino, the people who create the limoncello. Its all about offering the best product money can buy. ”

Scratch and sniff

Tonino is Antonino Scala, owner of the Fagema Distillery in Sorrento, Italy, that makes the limoncello from organic lemons, sugar and grain alcohol. The final liqueur carries an abv of 30% and has a scratch-and-sniff label to offer consumers “the full flavour before tasting the product”, says Design Foods, the US importer and agent that part-owns the brand (DeVito owns the majority). The product itself has a “sweet lemon flavour” and is suitable for serving “chilled and straight up, in a mixed drink or with a dessert”.

Chilled and straight up is, in the UK anyway, how most of us first met with limoncello. A freebie shot from the cheerful Italian waiter to reward a hearty meal of carb-crunching. So does DeVito embrace or reject this perception? “Whether it’s a freebie drink is not the question. As long as the restaurateur has my brand…” he says. He’s sounding like an old-hand already.

Having rolled out from the US to the UK this summer, orders for the brand have also come in from Australia, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg and negotiations are underway in China, Japan and New Zealand. DeVito’s limoncello is picking up pace. At least it was until August. At the time of publishing, word was that there was a delivery delay in Italy that was hampering the brand’s roll-out. Something about the Italians being on their extended August holidays. 

Welcome to the global drinks trade, Danny.