A pair of humble hooves have taken center stage in the new HBO drama, “The Night Of,” and everyone in Hollywood is talking about it. Since the show premiered in July, media critics have been obsessed with debating the significance of John Turturro’s feet. Twitter feuds have erupted and lifelong friendships are breaking apart. No one can quite agree on what the plight of those pedis actually represents, but there is a consensus that it’s one of the most fascinating plotlines in primetime this television season.
For those who haven’t seen the series, Turturro plays a lawyer who suffers from eczema on his feet and the story revolves around his tragicomic attempts to find treatment. Creator Richard Prince reportedly spent unheard of sums hiring the best make-up artists, lighting engineers and cinematographers to capture this very moving narrative of private torment. The results, as fans across the internet have proclaimed, are decidedly stunning.
For Turturro, this role is a return to his roots. The acclaimed actor launched his career doing catalog work for the Brooklyn-based Abraham & Straus Department Stores, eventually becoming their top footwear model of the 1970s. This was a theme he later returned to in the 1992 indie sleeper Mac, which Turturro also wrote and directed. The Hollywood lothario’s feet later made a star turn in the dark Cohen Brothers satire, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and stole the show from Jeff Bridges in an important scene in The Big Lebowski, which nearly caused John Goodman to quite the project altogether.
In “The Night Of,” director Steven Zaillian has taken a noirish approach to Turturro’s lower quarter. A monochrome filter is used most of the time, giving the ankles a chilling Bone China whiteness. The feet are grand and sinewy and, in this reviewers opinion, just hairless enough. The toes are long, elegant and have a mischievously bumpy way to them. The arches are sensually articulated, but his dorsals are the true standouts. They are extremely well delineated, definitely in the top 0.0001% of Hollywood performers working today, allowing for a fascinating play of light and shadow when they are on screen. Clearly, the camera just loves this actor’s incredible assets!
“The Night Of” is, at its core, a Zen kōan on human suffering. Turturro’s eczema is presented as an unsolvable mystery. Pain without a cause and without a cure but something we must pursue nonetheless. It’s fascinating to see the actor’s feet, as gorgeous and famous as they are, transformed by Hollywood magic into something so terrifying. In that role, they are uniquely melancholic while maintaining a sarcastic hopefulness that never turns too bitter. It’s a testament to their ability as paramount performers that despite the make-up and sophisticated cinematography, the inner charisma of Turturro’s feet never fails to shine through.