Mesa’s Michael Saquella diverts from his usual gangster role

BY Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Mesa multihyphenate entertainer Michael Saquella is thrilled about small things as well as easy laughs.

“I’m excited that I got out of bed this morning,” Saquella says deadpan.

High on his priority list, though, is “Dream Round,” in which he wrote, produced and stars. The film features Richard Grieco and premiered last month on streaming services.

“It’s a great role for me,” says Saquella, who owns Cactus Blue Entertainment. “I normally play mobsters and gangsters. In this film, I play a real sweet, innocent gentleman who lost a family.”

He and Grieco have known each other since 1991, when the two worked on the Burt Reynolds vehicle “Forget About It,” which was shot in Mesa.

“We played a lot of golf,” he says. “We’re like brothers.”

Saquella is also looking forward to the release of “Carolina’s Calling,” in which he appears alongside Antonio Sabato Jr. The indie film is “comedy with an alien twist,” he says.

It was filmed in Arizona in mid-June, when the state reopened, and it wrapped principal shooting on July 3. The project continued in the Carolinas this summer.

A major film studio is considering releasing it this winter.

“It’s one of my better projects,” he says. “Besides Antonio Sabato Jr., it has Stacey Dash in it. We’re hoping to do a red carpet event at Harkins and make a big event out of it. We’ll open it up to the public and have paparazzi.”

Saquella grew up in New York but moved to Arizona to attend ASU in 1977. After that, he relocated to Los Angeles. He has been entertaining for nearly four decades.

His versatile acting skills have landed him roles in film, television, comedy and live entertainment. Saquella’s career began when he took to the stage as a standup comic, opening for notables such as Charro, Tony Bennett and Rachel Welch.

He showcased his talents when he wrote, starred in and made his directorial debut in the horror film “Blue Lake Butcher.” As an actor he also starred in the movies “Used Cars,” “O’Hara’s Wife,” “Assassin,” “Second Chance,” “Lady Blues,” “News Traveler” and “Desert Rose.”

He directed and wrote the film “Ambush at Peck Canyon,” based on the true story of murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

A comedian and a blues singer, Saquella does impersonations of the late comedic talent John Belushi in live performances in “Legends in Concert” and “Legendary Superstars.” Saquella’s favorite role was in “Forget About It,” as he and Reynolds have a long-standing relationship.

As a boy, Saquella and his family drove from Los Angeles to La Jolla only to find the beach blocked off because Reynolds was filming “Lucky Lady.”

He went through the yellow caution tape and walked up to Reynolds, who offered an autograph.

“I said, ‘No, I want to know how I get started,’” he says with a laugh. “He said, ‘Figure out what it is to make you want to do that and never quit.’”

Saquella replied, “Mr. Reynolds, I’m going to work with you some day.”

The two ran into each other frequently before they reunited for “Forget About It,” which was filmed at Sunrise Village on McKellips Road.

“We were sitting under the orange trees talking,” he says. “Burt said, ‘I think I remember you.’ His son, Quinton, had the hots for my daughter, Samantha.”

Saquella enjoys living in Arizona, though, because of the cactus and rocks.

“People love the ocean,” he says. “I love the desert. I love Arizona. It’s like home. I’ve been here 43 years now and I absolutely love this place. I would definitely tell everybody to move here.”