After more than 35 years in the entertainment business, actor Steve Bastoni knows that versatility is the key to continued employment.
So, alongside high-profile roles in film, television and theatre, he’s developed other strings to his bow, such as voiceover artist, co-creator and producer of a web series (Welfare), and acting teacher.
“I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve always managed to make ends meet,” Bastoni said of his career. “I’m not one to sit around and mope (if the acting work is quiet). I’ll just go out and find a way to make it happen.”
In fact, it was a stint teaching acting during a quiet spell that led to another side project: founder and festival director of this weekend’s Peninsula Film Festival.
A range of short films is screening tonight, February 2, at Rosebud Village Green, from 4pm.
“I wanted to find a method to allow my students to get some on-screen experience, and short films were the obvious answer. A few of them then went off and made some films, so I thought, let’s have a short film festival,” the 52-year-old said of the inaugural event in 2011.
“The response was huge, so we just kept going with it.”
Fans of Bastoni will be pleased to hear he’ll be back on screen this year. First up is Channel 9’s drama series Bad Mothers (premiering February 18), which also stars Mandy McElhinney, Daniel MacPherson and Michala Banas.
“It’s a dream cast to work with. It’s been a real pleasure coming to work every day,” said Bastoni, who lives on the Mornington Peninsula with wife Bianca and their children, Roman, 11, Valentino, 9, and Stella, 6.
Rome-born Bastoni’s love of performing started when he was taken to see a London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when he was six.
“It was so magical: a darkened room where you could be transported out of the mundane. I thought if I ever get the chance, I want to do that.”
And get the chance he did. Aged 10, he performed in front of 1500 people in an amateur production his mother was in at the Adelaide Fringe and, at 16, a role in short film Skipping Class led to him being signed by an agent.
His resume now includes everything from Neighbours and Police Rescue to Wentworth and The Matrix Reloaded.
But Bastoni, who is soon to appear in Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of A View from the Bridge, still has a soft spot for the theatre. “It’s always been my first love, really,” he said.
Typical Saturday morning
If my wife and I get a sleep-in, we’re very grateful but that doesn’t happen very often! Normally, we take Valentino or Roman to their respective basketball games. And Stella has gymnastics, so it’s all hands on deck. If I can find the time, I’ll go for a surf, or skate up and down the pier or boardwalk nearby.
I like sushi but my favourite snack is pizza. I even like bad pizza. My favourite is a bit of a weird combination: pepperoni and prawns.
Secret domestic skill
I’m a very efficient floor cleaner. I use chamois cloths, which I soak in hot water with a little eucalyptus oil. I squeeze them out, put them on the floor and then walk around with them on my feet. They clean the floor beautifully.
Vitello tonnato. It’s roasted veal loin served paper thin, almost like a carpaccio, and topped with a mayonnaise-style sauce of tuna, capers and anchovies. It’s a northern Italian dish that I loved in a few restaurants in Italy so decided to learn how to make it at home.
On my bedside table
I love autobiographies. At the moment, I’m reading Confessions of a Dangerous Mind by Chuck Barris (a US TV host who claimed to be a CIA assassin). There’s also The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and a salt lamp, which I love — I find the light given off very peaceful.
Fantasy place to live
On a cliff in Hawaii, because of the surfing, the lifestyle and the warmth. I’d also settle for Noosa.
I like a bit of Van Morrison and Jack Johnson. And James Taylor has always got a soothing kind of vibe.
Happiness at home
Harmony and laughter, full bellies and full hearts.
My favourite things
When I was a kid, I had a little black poodle with a white chin called Tatty. When my kids were little, they also wanted a puppy, so when we got a black poodle with a white chin it made sense to call him Tattoo. And, then, of course, one dog is never enough, so my wife convinced me we needed another one. So we got little Maisie, a Japanese spitz, about six months ago and she’s just been beautiful. Tattoo’s getting a bit old and grumpy now, so I think he sometimes gets annoyed by Maisie wanting to play with him, but mostly they get on very well. And the kids just adore them.
This is a very special object because it was bequeathed to me by the late, great (entertainer) Stuart Wagstaff. I’d met him back in 1987 when I did The Rocky Horror Show musical. He would regale us with these incredible stories of his time at the tail end of the golden era of Hollywood, where he’d met all of the big stars. We became really good friends; he was like an uncle. When he was ill (Wagstaff died in 2015), he asked me to come over and he told me there were a few people he’d like to leave something to. He’d laid out some objects on the table and asked if I’d like to choose something. I told him I’d like the blue bird. It was very sad because he knew he was going but whenever I look at it, I think of Stuart in a happy way because it’s really a blue bird of happiness.
My surfboard is a custom-made McCoy. Geoff McCoy is a master shaper who works out of Byron Bay. It was actually made for someone else, but the specification suited me and the jade spray job is beautiful. I’m a big fan of McCoy’s boards. Three out of my four boards are his. I’ve been surfing since I was eight and for me, it’s a form of meditation. You become present and are in the moment 100 per cent. The adrenaline is pumping and you’re connected to the water. It’s quite a spiritual thing when you have a good day, although it can be frustrating, too, when you’re getting pounded and there are too many guys out. I’m lucky to live near Gunnamatta and St Andrews beaches and even surf in the bay when there are some waves.
My kids made me this T-shirt as a Father’s Day present. They drew their hands on cardboard, cut them out, put them on a T-shirt and then sprayed bleach all over it. I really love the design. When I first saw it, I thought it was an Indigenous design, but, when Bianca told me that the kids had made it, it made it even more special. Being a dad really grounds me, and it’s my purpose in life, really, to look after my family. It’s definitely made me more mature and less selfish. I can still be pretty selfish in that I allow myself some toys, such as my surfboards and my electric skateboard. But if I’m not happy, then I can’t be good to anybody else. So I do make sure I look after myself. But my family is the reason I look after myself.
This vintage Longines watch originally belonged to my grandfather, who gave it to my dad, Raffaele, who bequeathed it to me when he passed away. The watch is 128 grams of 24-carat gold and the strap was made by a Bulgari jeweller in Rome. I have worn it on occasion, such as when I played Louis Bayeh in (the third series of) Underbelly, or if I want that authentic kind of rich guy feel! But I value it as an heirloom more than an object of status. My dad was an elite athlete. He competed (for Italy) in the double kayak event at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games and was a five-time Italian champion.
I played basketball as a kid at state level and really enjoyed it. I even played a couple of games against (former professional player) Andrew Gaze in the under-16s. Now, both of my boys have discovered a passion for playing and watching the game, which has encouraged me to play in a Monday night men’s comp. We’ve also got a hoop out the front of our house and we all love it. We play in the street together and it gives them something to do that’s active. We’re also really into following Melbourne United. We go to the games, and Valentino’s had a few photos taken with some of the stars like (captain) Chris Goulding and David Barlow. This golden ball was (made) to commemorate them winning the NBL Championship in 2018.