Interview with Frank Monteleone - New Orleans' Hotel Owner, Actor and Film Producer

Interview with Frank Monteleone - New Orleans' Hotel Owner, Actor and Film Producer

Frank Monteleone is a dynamic actor, producer, and entrepreneur. Alongside his body of work in mainstream Hollywood, Frank is a distinguished producer of independent films through his production company Full Armor Films, as well as a family member and partial co-owner of the legendary luxury Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

  • Travel can be a great source of inspiration. How have your travels, both for work and leisure, influenced your creative projects and your role at the Hotel Monteleone?

History is what I most fall in love with when traveling, especially any place with a rich history that takes me on a journey through what life was like in a different time. I think that must come from my family history and our roots in New Orleans. This is the fifth generation of our family hotel, and I have never stopped being curious about what life was like for my great-great-grandfather, who took a massive risk building a brand new hotel as a recent immigrant to America. The stories found in history have become a big influence on our creative endeavors because there’s nothing like discovering a personal angle you can relate to regardless of the time that separates us. This is true of a number of our projects, which are inspired by a non-fiction element at the heart of their stories no matter how fictionalized the final narrative may eventually become.

  • As a co-owner of the legendary Hotel Monteleone, could you share a memorable story or experience tied to the hotel that has had a lasting impact on you?

Because it is a family-owned business, I think I’m most proud of the fact that it has stayed in the family for five generations now. My best memories then become the ones built around my family’s time there. Some of my earliest memories are watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July with all my cousins by the hotel’s rooftop; I distinctly remember my grandfather being in the suite while I played bartender and served him what I declared to be “the best drink made throughout the world:” a Sprite over ice from a classic tiny glass bottle. I also remember asking my mom how Santa was going to find us in a hotel room when we spent Christmas there. She informed me that he has a master key for all the hotel rooms in the world (in case you too were wondering just how he does it). 

  • The Hotel Monteleone is a renowned luxury establishment in New Orleans. What initiatives or projects are you currently working on to maintain and enhance the hotel's legacy while contributing to the community and its growth?

As far as continuing its legacy, we just completed a full renovation to our Iberville Tower as well as the Iberville Ballroom, bringing the most up-to-date luxury finishes and amenities to our rooms and facilities. These upgrades will enhance our guest’s experiences for years to come.

We also have a family foundation within the hotel that is designed to follow in the footsteps of my great-great-grandfather, Antonio, who gave generously to the city and became the commissioner of City Park. In fact, to this day a pair of 25-foot-tall marble pylons, known as the Monteleone Gate, mark the entrance to City Park in honor of the many contributions he made. Antonio was a big believer in helping his community, and we have carried on that tradition as we continue to look after and improve the hotel’s block and surrounding neighborhood in the French Quarter.

  • The Hotel Monteleone has a rich literary history, having hosted renowned authors like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. How does this legacy of creativity and storytelling tie into your own artistic pursuits?

Now you’re talking my language: where the arts meet hospitality and experience! I believe writers are drawn to the vibrancy of life, and nothing carries that captivating pulse like a classic hotel lobby—spend enough time in one and you feel like you experience the whole world pass by. Case in point, Tennessee Williams once famously said the French Quarter begins in the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone. It’s that magnetic, alive quality of a place that serves as the muse of our newest project.

My wife and I love to experience a show that marries its story to real-life destinations we can visit, like Downtown Abbey or The Crown. So it makes total sense that our production company, Full Armor Films, is working with an all-star team on a project featuring the Hotel Monteleone as its centerpiece. What’s really fun about this project, however, is that it’s not just set in a place you can currently visit, but also takes the viewer back in time on a journey to various points in the hotel’s rich history. So, along with showing you now, we also show you then, and allow you to visit the New Orleans of the past too. We’re excited to see that come together very soon.  

  • Balancing the demands of the entertainment industry and your responsibilities as a hotel co-owner must be quite a unique experience. Can you tell us more about how these two worlds intersect in your life?

To give an example, we’re currently in production on a movie and we have our out-of-state cast staying at the Hotel Monteleone. It is a joy for me to host the cast and talk to them on set about the hotel and its history, plus all the local favorites we recommend. It is definitely a unique situation, but one well-suited to what we love doing: exploring the creativity of storytelling while creating experience through hosting and hospitality. My goal is to see both the hospitality and the entertainment industries continue to flourish in New Orleans, so wherever we can intersect the two, no matter how nontraditional it may seem, I count it as a privilege. I see it as somewhat akin to my great-great-grandfather, who built his initial reputation with his shoe-cobbling business until he purchased the Commercial Hotel and made it his own, fusing the two worlds together into something that still stands today. 

  • Your production company, Full Armor Films, has been integral in the industry. How do you choose the projects you get involved with, and what is your vision for the company's future?

Our mission at Full Armor Films is to be a part of projects that unlock the human heart. But what does that really mean? The life we live is visceral, painful and yet the greatest gift we have. We want to be a part of stories that celebrate this truth, and we are always mindful of our in-house values, which keeps our storytelling oriented towards that goal. We believe that exploring these core truths wakes us up from complacency and allows us to celebrate the gift we’ve all been given.

At Full Armor, we are genre agnostics, and we pride ourselves on partnering with a wide variety of artists who want to share their voices and speak up and out in order to improve the world. To boil it down, we don’t take it for granted that we have the privilege to create art, and we believe through film and being able to craft compelling, impactful stories, we can make a difference.

  • You're also involved in developing a multifaceted studio and production facility in New Orleans. How do you see this contributing to the local creative community and the city's economy?

As someone who grew up in New Orleans, I’m so pleased to be a part of building a stronger film industry in Louisiana and really shifting the map of where you can live if you want to pursue filmmaking for a living. With that came the dream of building a conservatory here in New Orleans that lifts up the next generation of filmmakers and crew members by removing the barriers to entry into the business. We want to make it possible to keep talent here, and much like the writers who came to New Orleans to pursue their literary dreams all those years ago, we want to enable future generations to follow their muse and grow their talents. This multifaceted studio with a first-of-its-kind conservatory element will be a holistic ecosystem that strengthens the local industry and the wider community by creating actual production dollars and cutting-edge training and education programs.

  • The film industry has seen significant changes over the years. How do you adapt to the evolving landscape, and what excites you most about the future of filmmaking?

What excites me the most are the relationships I make along the way and my community of fellow filmmakers and artists here in New Orleans. Our team of producers, writers, actors, and coworkers are putting it all on the line to make our work come to life, and I have really come to respect and appreciate their talents and passion for the craft. 

I’m so happy to celebrate and support these people in our current climate, where we are striking for a fair shake and to protect ourselves from the rise of technology like AI. When change is happening so fast and times are uncertain, it’s good to be reminded that in the arts, authentic communication and hard work cannot be replaced. They are what allow us to grow, learn, and move forward without sacrificing quality. It really brings home our mission statement: by celebrating the human element and the authenticity of our relationships we can unlock the heart and lift each other up.

Photo credit: Paul Gregory