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Tough-Guy Actor A Believer

The tough-guy actor of the Christmas movie "Noel" has built his career on believing.

Chazz Palminteri, best known for his roles as a wiseguy in films like "The Usual Suspects" and "Bullets Over Broadway," says he turned his life around in his 40s when, discouraged by his inability to land a leading role in Hollywood, he wrote a one-man play called "A Bronx Tale."

He played all 35 parts. It won great reviews and ran successfully in Los Angeles and New York.

Five years later, he scored his breakthrough role in the 1993 film version of "A Bronx Tale," co-starring with Robert DiNiro. He then garnered an Oscar nomination for his role in "Bullets Over Broadway." He had other notable appearances in "The Usual Suspects," "Analyze This," "Faithful," and the upcoming "Running Scared."

As if that wasn't enough, he now adds feature film director to his already impressive resume.

"Noel" follows a group of people who find new meaning in their lives on Christmas Eve. The ensemble cast is led by Susan Sarandon, and includes Alan Arkin, Penélope Cruz, Paul Walker and Robin Williams.

"As a director, you always want great actors because casting is everything," Palminteri tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "It's very, very important. If you have to tell an actor how to do the part, then you have the wrong actor. The idea is to get the right person and then just kind of, like, set the tone of the movie and follow the tone."

He says his strong passion for the project helped to persuade the cast to come on board. He says it was "not at all" intimidating directing Oscar winners Sarandon and Williams. "Being an actor gave me the confidence I needed."

"Noel" has a very small production and promotion budget. In order to draw attention, it is being released to movie theaters, getting one showing on television, and then on flex pay DVDs that cost only $5 but self-destruct after 48 hours.

Palminteri says that he picked the script because "a movie like this has a vision of hope and triumph and spirit. I think it's a wonderful Christmas movie, and I think when you see it, you'll feel really good about yourself."

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