It was March 2020, the beginning of the lockdown, and Daniel Ranieri, then 8, was growing very serious about public safety. He decided to express his thoughts on the matter in an expletive-laden video presentation, imploring viewers to skip “parties and the casino.” It went viral.
Jimmy Kimmel ended up doing a live Zoom session with Daniel, comparing him to Joe Pesci. Within five minutes of airing, George Clooney’s people were calling. A few days later, Daniel had been cast in Mr. Clooney’s next movie, “The Tender Bar.”
“When my mom told me I got the part, I kept saying: ‘What? I can’t believe it. Oh my God, Ma, I can’t believe it,’” said Daniel, who plays the main character in the film as a child. “I loved spending time with the cast. Everyone was really nice. George Clooney shot hoops with me. He’s a really good player. My mom got a part. She plays one of my aunts. She didn’t have to audition.”
“The Tender Bar,” based on the memoir of J.R. Moehringer, was just released in theaters and will be available on Amazon Prime starting Jan. 7.
Daniel, 10, lives with his mother, Danielle Ranieri, 51, a public-school teacher, and his father, Stephen Cacioppo, 51, an electrician, in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.
SATURDAY SETS THE TONE If I’m going to church with my gaga, what’s what I call my grandpa, or my best pal or my buddy, my mom wakes me at 7:30 a.m. If not, I wake up on my own at 9 or 10. I like to play video games: Madden NFL, PlayStation 5, NBA 2K22, which is a basketball game, at night on Saturdays. Sometimes it’s with friends on the phone or a friend will sleep over, or I just play on my own, so if I’m up late I might sleep later.
INDOOR SPORTS I do a morning stretch. Then I get on my phone. I play mini basketball on the hoop on my door, or soccer. I make a small goal area with a beanbag and a chair and try to kick the ball through.
CEREAL MOVES At 10 I have family breakfast. I just started to pour my own cereal, Special K Chocolatey Delight. I don’t pick out the chocolate first because then I won’t touch the rest of it, which is what I used to do with Lucky Charms. I’d eat the marshmallows and drink the milk and leave the rest. Sometimes my dad makes chocolate chip pancakes, or bacon and eggs. Then we talk about what we’re going to do that day.
PIECING TOGETHER If there’s time, I do some Legos. I just made this big white owl, with 1,700 pieces, which took three days. The head moves. I got some help from my assistant, which is what I call my grandpa when he’s working with me on this or puzzles. I also made a Star Wars spaceship.
BOOKS, NUMBERS, STARS I’m in the fifth grade. I do homework on Sundays; usually it’s reading or math. I just finished “Esperanza Rising.” It was really good and had a lot of lessons in it, like always respect people and that you have to rise above difficult circumstances. In science we’re learning about stars and constellations, which is interesting. Schoolwork is very different from learning lines. For the movie, each day we would shoot a different scene. They only gave me my lines for that day. Then I would memorize them.
BALLS Soccer just ended on Sundays, so now I’m on two different flag football teams, which go from noon to 3. I dress in a jersey, which doesn’t have a number, but the name “Raiders” is on it. The pants say “the Knights,” which is the name of the league. I wear a hoodie if it’s cold and football gloves which have clips on them so I can catch the ball. My mom stays the whole time on the field, bundled up, and drives me to my grandparents’ after the game. They only live three or four minutes away.
GRANDPARENTS They’re both 81. My grandpa had a bad cold so he hasn’t gone to the gym for two weeks. Usually, he goes every day. My mother grew up in the house they live in. He and I sit at the dining room table and build Legos or do puzzles. We had a pandemic puzzle that was 1,000 pieces. It was of Yoda. It took a year to do because it was all the same color, green. You didn’t know which piece goes in where because there was so much green.
BEST FRIENDS Sometimes we go to the Card Cave, which is a card store, and he buys me an N.B.A. mystery box, which has 500 cards, but you don’t know what you’re getting. I don’t dump them out because they could be valuable, so you need to be careful. I look through them and hope we find a good one, like a rookie or really young players because they can be worth a lot of money. Some of my best finds are LeBron and Shaquille. We put those in plastic sleeves.
SUNDAY SAUCE My grandma makes “Sunday sauce” dinner. Last week we had rigatoni and meatballs with tomato sauce. She makes it from scratch in the morning. I don’t know what she does, but the flavor is really great. My grandpa buys fresh bread and dessert after church. My favorite is cannoli. After dinner I help make coffee or espresso, which I’m sometimes allowed to have. My grandpa also taught me how to make bacon and eggs, to do push-ups and situps, and to ride a bike, which I can do with one or no hands. He also picks me up and drops me off at school.
SPORTS, GAMES We’re home by 8. I shower, put on my pajamas and then it’s more football. (If there’s a game on, we watch it while we eat dinner, too.) During the commercials I play basketball in the house or I’m on my phone. I might text Ben and Tye and sometimes George. They’re like my family. I ask them how they’re doing or I tell them I miss them. And they get back to me. Tye sent me a puzzle and some PlayStation games. He’s like a brother.
SCREEN TIME I’m in bed at 9:30 or 10. I watch basketball games on YouTube on my phone. Staring at the screen makes my eyes tired and drowsy. Then I go to sleep.