Paul Sorvino, an imposing actor who specialized in playing crooks and cops like Paulie Cicero in Goodfellas and NYPD Sergeant Phil Cerretta in Law & Order, has died. He was 83.
His publicist Roger Neal said he died of natural causes in Indiana on Monday morning.
“Our hearts are broken there will never be another Paul Sorvino, he was the love of my life and one of the greatest performers to ever walk the screen and stage,” his wife Dee Dee Sorvino said in a statement .
In his 50+ years in entertainment, Sorvino has been a mainstay in film and television, playing an Italian-American communist in Warren Beatty’s Reds, Henry Kissinger in Oliver Stone’s Nixon, and mob boss Eddie Valentine in The Rocketeer. He often said that while he is best known for playing gangsters, his real passions are poetry, painting and opera.
Sorvino was born in Brooklyn in 1939 to a piano teacher and a robe factory foreman. Sorvino was interested in music from an early age and attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, where he devoted himself to theater. He made his Broadway debut in 1964’s Bajour and made his film debut in Carl Reiner’s Where’s Papa? in 1970.
With his 6ft 4in stature, Sorvino made an impressive presence regardless of the medium. In the 1970s he starred opposite Al Pacino in The Panic in Needle Park and with James Caan in The Gambler, and teamed again with Reiner in Oh, God!. and was part of the cast in William Friedkin’s bank robbery comedy The Brink’s Job. In John G. Avildsen’s Rocky sequel, Slow Dancing in the Big City, Sorvino played a romantic lead, utilizing his dance training alongside professional ballerina Anne Ditchburn.
He was particularly prolific in the 1990s, earlier in the decade playing Lips in Beatty’s Dick Tracy and Paul Cicero in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, based on real-life gangster Paul Vario, and 31 episodes of Dick Wolf’s Law . & Command.” He followed with roles in The Rocketeer, The Firm, Nixon, which earned him a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet as Juliet’s father, Fulgencio Capulet. Beatty turned to Sorvino often, hiring him again for his 1998 political satire Bulworth and his 2016 Hollywood love letter Rules Don’t Apply. He also starred in James Gray’s The Immigrant.
Sorvino had three children from his first marriage, including Academy Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino. He also directed and starred in a film written by his daughter Amanda Sorvino and co-starring his son Michael Sorvino.
Upon learning that Mira Sorvino had been among the women Harvey Weinstein allegedly sexually harassed and blacklisted amid the #MeToo billing, he told TMZ that if Weinstein had known, he “wouldn’t go.” would. He would be in a wheelchair.”
He was proud of his daughter and cried when she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Mighty Aphrodite in 1996. He told the Los Angeles Times that evening that he lacks the words to express his feelings.
“They don’t exist in any language I’ve ever heard — well, maybe Italian,” he said.