Joe Pesci

Joe Pesci

Birth name: Joseph Frank Pesci
Born: February 9, 1943
Age: 75
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
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Biography

Joseph Frank Pesci (/ˈpɛʃi/ PESH-ee; born February 9, 1943) is an American actor, comedian and singer. Known for portraying tough, volatile characters, in a variety of genres, he is best known for his role as Harry Lime in Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, as Leo Getz in the Lethal Weapon franchise, as Vincent Gambini in My Cousin Vinny (1992), and for co-starring with Robert De Niro in the Martin Scorsese films Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), and Casino (1995).

Pesci was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Raging Bull, and later won the award for his role as psychopathic mobster Tommy DeVito (based on Thomas DeSimone) in Goodfellas.

Pesci has starred in a number of other high-profile films, including Easy Money (1983), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Moonwalker (1988), JFK (1991), and A Bronx Tale (1993). He announced his retirement from acting in 1999, and since then he has appeared only occasionally in films, including a cameo appearance in the 2006 spy thriller The Good Shepherd, directed by De Niro, and in the biographical crime film The Irishman.

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Early life

Pesci was born on February 9, 1943, in Newark, New Jersey. His mother, Mary (née Mesce), worked part time as a barber, and his father, Angelo Pesci, was a forklift driver for General Motors and a bartender. Pesci, of Italian descent, was raised in Belleville, New Jersey, and attended Belleville High School. By the time Pesci was five years old, he was appearing in plays in New York. At age 10, he was a regular on a television variety show called Startime Kids, which also featured Connie Francis.

As a teenager, Pesci was friends with singers Frankie Valli (who was nine years his senior) and Tommy DeVito (who was 15 years his senior), and in 1959, at age 16, he helped introduce them to singer and songwriter Bob Gaudio, which led to the formation of the band the Four Seasons.

Early career

In the 1960s, Pesci began working as a barber, following in his mother's footsteps. At the same time, he tried to start a musical career, playing guitar with several bands. In 1968, he released his debut album Little Joe Sure Can Sing! (billed as Joe Ritchie), on which he sang covers of contemporary pop hits.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Pesci joined fellow actor Frank Vincent in performing in local clubs including the Arlington Lounge and other venues around North Jersey as Vincent and Pesci. The comedy duo's material was a play on Martin and Lewis and Abbott and Costello. In 1975, they appeared in the Broadway show The New Vaudevillians, which only lasted one week.

The first film Pesci starred in was the 1976 low-budget crime film The Death Collector alongside Frank Vincent. After the film Pesci returned to The Bronx and lived above Amici's Restaurant, where he was an employee.

Acting career

In 1979, Pesci got a telephone call from Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, who were impressed with his performance in The Death Collector and asked him to co-star in Scorsese's Raging Bull as Joey LaMotta. Pesci won the BAFTA Film Award for Newcomer to Leading Film Roles in 1981 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Over the next few years, Pesci appeared in several smaller films, including Dear Mr. Wonderful (1982), Easy Money (1983) and Eureka (1983).

In 1984, he was cast in Once Upon a Time in America, again appearing alongside De Niro. The following year he starred as private detective Rocky Nelson in the short-lived television comedy series Half Nelson.

In 1988, Pesci appeared in the Michael Jackson musical anthology film Moonwalker, in the film's sixth and longest segment, "Smooth Criminal." He played the antagonist, crime boss Frankie "Mr. Big" LiDeo (an anagram for one of the film's producers and longtime Jackson manager Frank DiLeo, with whom Pesci later acted in Goodfellas).

He appeared as Leo Getz, a comedic sidekick and best friend to protagonist detectives Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) in the Lethal Weapon sequels, released in 1989, 1992 and 1998.

In 1990, he reunited with Scorsese and De Niro for Goodfellas, wherein he played mobster Tommy DeVito, based on real-life mobster Thomas DeSimone. (Tommy DeVito is also the name of Pesci's old acquaintance from Belleville, New Jersey, and a member of The Four Seasons, but contrary to popular belief, the naming is coincidental.) Old friend Frank Vincent also appears in the film; Pesci's character kills Vincent's character in a rage in one of the best-remembered scenes in the film after the Vincent character contemptuously tells him to "go home and get your shine box." Pesci received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role, which he accepted with one of the shortest speeches in Oscar history, saying simply, "It's my privilege. Thank you" before leaving the stage.

Pesci also co-starred in the blockbuster Home Alone in 1990, playing Harry Lime, one of two bumbling burglars (along with good friend Daniel Stern) who attempt to burgle the house of the young character played by Macaulay Culkin. During filming of the film's climactic scene, Pesci accidentally bit one of Culkin's fingers, giving him a scar. Two years later, Pesci reprised his role in the sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

Pesci played David Ferrie in 1991's JFK. In 1992 he appeared as the title character in the comedy My Cousin Vinny with Ralph Macchio, Marisa Tomei and Fred Gwynne. The same year, Pesci spearheaded the cast of The Public Eye as Leon "Bernzy" Bernstein, a photographer. His performance in the film, a departure from his usual characters, was critically acclaimed.

Pesci hosted sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live on October 10, 1992, while doing publicity for My Cousin Vinny. During his monologue, he restored a picture of Pope John Paul II that had been torn by Sinéad O'Connor on the previous broadcast.

Pesci had a small role in 1993's A Bronx Tale as Carmine. The film starred Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri, both of whom made the film and personally offered Pesci the role. In 1995, Pesci had his third collaboration with Scorsese and De Niro in the film Casino, playing Nicky Santoro, based on real-life Mob enforcer Anthony Spilotro, along with Sharon Stone and James Woods; Pesci had previously co-starred with the latter in Once Upon a Time in America. In 1996, Pesci was considered to play Myron Larabee, the stressed-out postman, in Jingle All the Way opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the part was ultimately given to Sinbad, whose physical size was more comparable to Schwarzenegger's.

He had starring roles in several other films, including Man on Fire (1987), The Super (1991), Jimmy Hollywood (1994), With Honors (also 1994) and Gone Fishin' (1997). Pesci's role in With Honors was a dramatic role in which he played a homeless man living on the campus of Harvard.

Other work and retirement from acting

In 1998, he released his second album, and his first in 30 years, Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You, which was named after his character from the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny. The album was both humorous and serious, exploring a variety of genres, though most of it was big band jazz. The album spawned the single "Wise Guy," a rap number that played on the gangsta theme by making reference to Mafia gangsterism. "Wise Guy" interpolated the 1980 hit "Rapture" by Blondie, and was co-written and produced by the hip-hop production team the Trackmasters.

In 1999, Pesci announced his retirement from acting to pursue a musical career and to enjoy life away from the camera. He returned to acting when he did a cameo in De Niro's 2006 film The Good Shepherd. He starred in the 2010 brothel drama Love Ranch, alongside Helen Mirren.

Pesci appeared with Don Rickles in a 2011 Snickers advertisement in which he portrays the angry alter ego of a young man who attends a party and becomes agitated by two women until he is calmed down by eating a Snickers bar.

In 2011, Pesci sued Fiore Films, the producers of the film Gotti, for having broken their promise to cast him in that film as real-life mobster Angelo Ruggiero. Pesci stated that he had gained 30 pounds for the role. He sued them for $3 million, which was the payment he had been promised. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2013 for an unspecified sum, and the role, after many production delays, eventually went to Pruitt Taylor Vince.

Pesci appears in the 2016 music documentary Jimmy Scott: I Go Back Home in which he is filmed recording "The Folks Who Live on the Hill" from Scott's forthcoming posthumous album I Go Back Home.

In 2017, Pesci was confirmed to be starring in The Irishman with long time collaborators Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese. The film is planned for release in 2019 and will be distributed by Netflix.

Media depictions

Pesci is a character in the 2005 musical Jersey Boys, which tells the story of The Four Seasons, due to his involvement in the band's formation. He is similarly a character in the musical's 2014 film adaptation. In the film, the Joe Pesci character asks "Funny how?", a quote from a famous line of dialogue Pesci had in Goodfellas.

Personal life

Pesci has been married and divorced three times. His first marriage was in 1964. His third was from 1988 to 1992, to Claudia Haro, a model and actress with whom he has a daughter named Tiffany. In 2007 Pesci was engaged to Angie Everhart, but the couple broke up in 2008.

While filming scenes in two of Martin Scorsese's films (Raging Bull and Casino), Pesci broke the same rib, 15 years apart.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1961 Hey, Let's Twist! Dancer at the Peppermint Club Uncredited
1976 The Death Collector Joe Salvino
1980 Raging Bull Joey LaMotta BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1982 I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can Roger
Dear Mr. Wonderful Ruby Dennis
1983 Eureka Mayakofsky
Easy Money Nicky Cerone
1984 Once Upon a Time in America Frankie Minaldi
Everybody in Jail Corrado Parisi
1987 Man on Fire David Coolidge
1988 Moonwalker Frankie Lideo
The Legendary Life of Ernest Hemingway John Dos Passos
1989 Lethal Weapon 2 Leo Getz
1990 Catchfire Leo Carelli Uncredited cameo
Betsy's Wedding Oscar Henner
Goodfellas Tommy DeVito Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated - National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated - New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Home Alone Harry Lime
1991 The Super Louie Kritski
JFK David Ferrie
1992 My Cousin Vinny Vincent LaGuardia Gambini American Comedy Award for Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture
Nominated - MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance
Lethal Weapon 3 Leo Getz
The Public Eye Leon Bernstein
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York Harry Lime
1993 A Bronx Tale Carmine Cameo
1994 Jimmy Hollywood Jimmy Alto
With Honors Simon Wilder
1995 Casino Nicky Santoro Nominated - MTV Movie Award for Best Villain
1997 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag Tommy Spinelli
Gone Fishin' Joe Waters
1998 Lethal Weapon 4 Leo Getz Nominated - Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actor - Action/Adventure
Nominated - Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
2006 The Good Shepherd Joseph Palmi Cameo
2010 Love Ranch Charlie Bontempo
2015 A Warrior's Tail Mosquito Voice
2019 The Irishman Russell Bufalino In post-production

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1966 The Lucy Show Lead Musician/Musician Leader 2 episodes
1985 Half Nelson Rocky Nelson 6 episodes
1992 Tales from the Crypt Vic/Jack Episode: "Split Personality"
Nominated - CableACE Award for Actor in a Dramatic Series
Saturday Night Live Himself (host) Episode: "Joe Pesci/The Spin Doctors"

Albums

  • Little Joe Sure Can Sing! (1968) Brunswick Records
  • Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You (1998) Columbia Records

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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