QUINCY − Nothing about Michael Malvesti shimmers with the tinsel and glitz of Hollywood. From a long line of Quincy police officers and firefighters, the burly ex-football player still works a 9-to-5 job, wielding a leaf blower or driving a five-deck rider mower over the rolling fields of Milton Academy.
But looks can be deceiving.
An inveterate cinephile, Malvesti said that when he watched "Good Will Hunting" at Kendall Square Cinema in 1997, he realized he could pursue screen acting without uprooting to the West Coast. He kept the ticket stub, a talisman that would prove instrumental in his success.
Twelve years later, Malvesti went to an open casting call in Charlestown for the 2010 crime thriller "The Town." He read a couple of lines, and the casting directors liked what they heard: an authentic Boston accent.
On a second callback, Malvesti walked into a Cambridge office and found director Ben Affleck seated at a table with several casting directors. Star-struck, Malvesti told Affleck how "Good Will Hunting" inspired him to pursue acting, and he pulled out the ticket stub, now faded and worn at the corners, from his wallet. Then he read through his lines.
"Judging by (Affleck's) reaction, I didn't get the part," Malvesti said. "He gave me some direction, but I didn't hear it. I was star-struck and didn't make any of the adjustments."
To his surprise, Affleck not only gave him a part, but a bigger one than he auditioned for, playing an armored car guard.
"Huh, what do you think!" Affleck said to Malvesti when he arrived on the set at a Charlestown warehouse. Malvesti said the director gave him a big hug before showing him around the stages and pointing out a trailer with his name on it.
Malvesti keeps the ticket stub in his wallet to this day.
Malvesti, who now lives in Holbrook with his wife and two daughters, boasts a long and distinguished Quincy pedigree. A dedicatory plaque at the West Quincy fire station bears the names of his grandfather Nick (a Quincy High Hall of Famer in three sports) and four great-uncles. His younger brother Tom works there today.
Another great-uncle was a police sergeant, and his father, Tom Malvesti, was a Quincy cop for 32 years before retiring as a lieutenant.
His older brother Nick Malvesti worked for the Quincy Parks Department for 30 years and was recently appointed animal control officer.
And his great-uncle Lou Malvesti, a World War II veteran, worked for the fire department for 40 years. A parade was held in 2022 to honor his 99th birthday.
While this article awaited publication, Lou Malvesti died at the age of 100 on Wednesday, Feb. 7. "He was literally the last of an amazing generation," Michael Malvesti said of his great uncle.
Michael Malvesti studied criminal justice at Framingham State University and meant to become a police officer like his father. But fate had other plans. He would still become a police officer, but as an actor in such films as "The Boston Strangler," "American Fiction" and "Honest Thief."
Malvesti's dream followed him as much as he followed it. Movie crews would arrive at each in a series of jobs he took after college. It happened often enough that Malvesti learned how to sneak onto a set unnoticed.
"As long as you wore a North Face jacket and carried a cellphone, they thought you worked there," he said.
It first happened at Quincy Auto Auction in Quarry Hills, Malvesti's first job after college. His shift was cut short to make way for the shot. Malvesti lingered, a helicopter landed and a truck arrived. Actor Val Kilmer got out, boarded the helicopter and flew away.
Malvesti then took a job for Quirk, the well-known Quincy auto dealer, at the old Fore River shipyard. One day he saw an SUV pull up and people with North Face jackets, clipboards and cellphones walking around.
"Scorsese gets out," he said, referring to film director Martin Scorsese. He was shooting scenes for "The Departed," a movie Malvesti auditioned for, unsuccessfully.
More recently he saw director Alexander Payne visiting Milton Academy for "The Holdovers," which Malvesti had just auditioned for.
The movie takes place at an elite New England boarding school. Ultimately, it was shot at Deerfield Academy, not Milton, but Malvesti won a small part in the film as a blue-collar worker at a tony private school.
Malvesti said opportunities came rolling in after he appeared in a 2018 political ad urging Massachusetts residents to vote yes on Proposition 3, a law protecting an individual's right to use bathrooms, lockers and other gendered facilities based on gender identity rather than the sex listed on a birth certificate.
In the ad, Malvesti sits at the bar of a darkened pub, addressing the bartender and camera alternatively. In a mock-inspiring speech, Malvesti defends his right to be a bad driver, an obnoxious sports fan and an unashamed speaker of an idiosyncratic dialect − in other words, to be a Masshole.
"For a few weeks, I was the Masshole," Malvesti said.
The following video contains adult language.
Malvesti said the ad helped him get more and better parts, including an intense role in the first episode of "City on a Hill," in which he played a victim in the double-murder that launches the crime drama.
Malvesti later scored a recurring role in "Julia," the HBO comedy-drama about the late chef Julia Child. He appears in 12 of the series' 16 episodes as a cameraman named Benny on Child's trailblazing cooking show, "The French Chef."
Through his success, Malvesti has kept the down-to-earth demeanor of a local Quincy kid never chosen to star in any production, not even a Sterling Middle School performance of "Oliver" when he was a boy.
One day he's mowing lawns, the next day he's in front of the camera with actor Paul Giamatti, and the next day he's coaching his daughters' sports teams, his players calling him "Benny" in reference to his role on "Julia."
Now 50, Malvesti said his unlikely path to the big screen was paved by perseverance and a willingness to take the steps necessary to improve.
"If you absolutely want to do it, and you can't see yourself doing anything else, then just do it," he said. "Just keep at it."
It worked for Malvesti. He next appears in a Super Bowl ad produced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Opposite "Sopranos" star Edie Falco, Malvesti plays a scowling, taciturn mafioso who breaks into Falco's home to "kidnap" a wedge of cheese.
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