By Kourtney Webb
New York has become a hot spot for film and TV production. Although Times Square and other major New York attractions are iconic scenes in movies, Queens’ shops and restaurants have been getting their 15 minutes of fame in big movies and television series.
Ben’s Best Deli at 96-40 Queens Blvd. in Rego Park is the latest New York star to be featured on the big screen. The restaurant and catering business appear in the movie “The Comedian,” starring Robert De Niro. Owner Jay Parker said although it was exciting to have a film crew in the restaurant, it was also hard work.
“We shut down for two days,” Parker said. “The crew bought out the restaurant and we filmed for two 16-hour days. There was no kidding around.”
Cinematic qualities are not the only reason major film companies choose New York City as the backdrop to their films.
The made-in-New York program offers advertising and marketing incentives. There is also a state film incentive program, which has been extended through 2019. The $420 million per year program is designed to give a 30 percent tax credit on production expenses to qualifying film and television productions made in NYC.
A 30 percent post-production tax credit is also offered for local productions that don’t qualify for the production credit.
“The Comedian” tells the story of an aging stand-up comic Jackie Burke (Robert De Niro). Despite his efforts to reinvent himself and his insult-driven brand of comedy, his audience only recognizes him as the former television star he played.
In the movie that opened in December, the deli is owned by its real owner Jay Parker and his partner (Danny DeVito), who is also Burke’s younger brother.
Parker said his acting had to be top-notch to keep up with De Niro and DeVito.
“In the movie, Robert De Niro’s character comes into the deli to ask for money,” Parker said. “De Niro comes in and DeVito says to me, ‘Hey, Jay, where is my big-time brother?’ I walk into the scene. I give him a wave and a big deli smirk and say, ‘Hey,’ and that ends my illustrious acting career.”
Parker is no stranger to film crews. He was also featured on the show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” back in 2011. Ben’s Best was highlighted for cooking up third-generation recipes for stuffed cabbage and kreplach. Parker said that whether it’s a show or a movie, “showbiz” people take their jobs very seriously.
“We had to shoot everything five, six times until it was perfect,” Parker said. “It took two days to shoot an eight-minute segment, but it was a great experience.”
Since the movies debuted, Parker has been asked for his autograph and picture from patrons.
“People recognized me for my nanosecond on the screen. I’ve gotten applause, and people tell me all the time that I am a natural born actor.”