The actor-filmmaker is due to fly in to Toronto to talk up his upcoming role as director and lead opposite Woody Allen on Fading Gigolo, which QED International is fully financing and will introduce to the market.

“It’s like Broadway Danny Rose meets Midnight Cowboy,” Turturro said of his story about a bookstore owner who convinces his friend to become a male escort.

Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara and Vanessa Paradis will play women who receive various forms of comfort from Turturro’s gigolo, while Liev Schreiber is on board as a jealous neighbourhood watchman.

Production is scheduled to kick off in New York in mid-October and Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and QED International’s Bill Block and Paul Hanson are producing with Sasha Shapiro and Anton Lessine.

Turturro, a longtime Coen Brothers collaborator whose previous directorial efforts include Romance & Cigarettes and Passione, pitched the idea to Allen after a serendipitous hair cut.

“I told my barber the story and he cuts Woody’s hair,” Turturro said over the phone from New York. “He told Woody the story. Woody liked it and Anthony called me up and said Woody wanted to talk to me.”

Allen was intrigued and agreed to play the role of the bookstore owner, but he was a demanding collaborator and made Turturro undertake a series of rewrites. “The first draft was too overt for him; the women were different ages and I was trying to get out of the business. Woody was more interested in how we got into the business.”

Allen finally approved the screenplay in February. “He has a huge role and it’s more like a French comedy because it deals with the rich and poor of New York. I have a friend who is a bookseller and he was quite inspirational for me when I was writing it. [The characters] Woody and I [play] are on the low economic end and Sharon and Sofia play women on the opposite end. There’s a whole sub-plot about a religious community, which is an allegory for sexuality.

“Sexuality interests me because most movies deal with it from 18-25, but people [older than that] do have sex, sometimes until they die,” Turturro said with a laugh. “Sex in the film isn’t destructive. It can be the cheapest way to get through the day or take the edge off the day… so it’s something I have always been interested in.”

Asked how he felt about the prospect of directing Allen, Turturro quipped: “You got any ideas? I know that he likes to get on with it and he likes to have some freedom to paraphrase. He can be a fabulous actor. I’m interested to see what happens between us. I have a lot of affection and respect for him.”