Paul Sorvino Dead: Paul Dies at The Age of 83

Sorvino, the actor and operatic tenor best known for his appearances in films like “Goodfellas” and television episodes like “Law and Order,” died on Monday. The man was 83 years old.

Roger Neal, his spokesman, announced his death, which occurred at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. Neal added that Mr. Sorvino “had suffered with health challenges over the past few years,” but he did not specify what caused his death.

Mr. Sorvino was the father of Mira Sorvino, Woody Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite” best-supporting actress winner (1995). When she accepted the award, she referred to her father as the “greatest actor I’ve ever known.”

He was 50 years old when “Goodfellas” (1990), Martin Scorsese’s legendary Mafia epic, came around. Paulie Cicero, a local mob boss who was ponderous and soft-spoken but ice-cold was the focus of his portrayal.

A character in the film, Henry Hill, comments, “Paulie might have moved sluggish, but it was only because he didn’t need to move for anyone.” His death occurred in May at the age of 67.

At the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, comedian Jon Stewart interviewed a panel of “Goodfellas” alumni and Mr. Sorvino revealed that he almost walked away from the part because he couldn’t connect emotionally with it. In Mr. Sorvino’s words, “it makes all the decisions for you when you find the spine” of a character.
Then he spotted something in the mirror when he was straightening his necktie, and he remembered that it had never happened before. Mr. Sorvino told The Lowcountry Weekly, a South Carolina website, in 2019, that when he saw “that fatal Paulie expression,” “I realized that I had embraced my inner mob leader.”

In Jason Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning tragicomedy “That Championship Season” (1972), he made his mark as a completely different but possibly similarly heartless figure, a high school basketball player whose glory days are decades ago.

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Mr. Sorvino played Phil Romano, a small-town strip-mining magnate who arrogantly had an affair with the mayor’s wife in the original Broadway show.

Mr. Sorvino was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the play and returned to reprise the role in the film adaptation that followed in 1982.

As the youngest of three sons, Paul Anthony Sorvino was born on April 13, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York, to Fortunato and Marietta (Renzi) Sorvino. The foreman of a robe manufacturer, the eldest Mr. Sorvino, was born in Naples, Italy, in 1907, and came to the United States with his parents.

Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, is where Paul grew up, where he attended Lafayette High School. Mario Lanza, the Italian American tenor, and actor he admired as a child inspired him to begin taking vocal lessons at the age of 8 or so.

He began performing at Catskills resorts and charitable functions in the late 1950s. The Theater at Westbury on Long Island awarded him his Actors Equity card as a chorus member in “South Pacific” and “The Student Prince” in 1963. He enrolled in the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York in the same year.

Acting roles were hard to come by. “Bajour” (1964) was Mr. Sorvino’s Broadway debut, but his next show “Mating Dance” (1965), which starred Van Johnson, closed on its opening night.

Mr. Sorvino was a waiter, bartender, car salesman, and acting teacher in addition to his employment in deodorant and tomato sauce ads. He wrote advertising text for nine months after the birth of his first child, Mira, but the office job gave him an ulcer.

For the most part, I was just another unemployed actor who couldn’t be arrested,” said the actor in an interview with The New York Times in 1972. “I was enraged as hell when other people didn’t recognize my skill. I had complete faith in myself.”

After that, he had a change of fortune. For his cinematic debut, he appeared in the dark comedy “Where is Poppa?” (1970) by Carl Reiner, as a retirement home owner. There followed the Off-Broadway performance at the Public Theater of “That Championship Season.”

Joseph Bologna’s cantankerous Italian American father in “Made for Each Other” was the character that originally garnered him notoriety (1971).

To portray an elderly man, Mr. Sorvino, who is nearly five years younger than Mr. Bologna, applied old-age makeup.

In “The Panic in Needle Park” (1972), he played a New Yorker who is robbed by a prostitute, but he did not immediately fall victim to the cops-and-gangsters cliché. In “A Touch of Class” and “The Day of the Dolphin,” he was George Segal’s producer friend and a mysterious government agent.

Sorvino went on to play a Southern-accented evangelist in the comedy “Oh, God!” (1977) and God Himself in “The Devil’s Carnival” (2012) and its 2015 sequel.

“Slow Dancing in the Big City,” tells the story of a newspaper reporter who falls in love with a ballerina (1978). A fervent Russian American Communist leader immediately before the Bolshevik Revolution, he appeared in the 1981 film “Reds.”
In Oliver Stone’s “Nixon,” he played Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, complete with a Germanic accent (1995). In Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” he plays Juliet’s father, Fulgencio Capulet, an aggressive man with a longstanding feud (1996).

However, Mr. Sorvino’s characters have frequently been on the wrong side of the law throughout his five-decade film career. He appeared in several films, including “Bloodbrothers,” “Dick Tracy,” “Big Mike Cicero,” “How Sweet It Is,” “Sicilian Vampire,” and “Kill the Irishman,” among others.

And he played police officers with designations like a detective, captain, and chief in at least 20 different roles. Sgt. Phil Cerreta on “Law and Order” for one season (1991-92) was too demanding for him and his voice; it was too much for him to handle.

In 2006, Mr. Sorvino made his City Opera debut in Frank Loesser’s “The Happiest Fella” as a professional opera singer.

There were instances when his personal life bolstered his tough-guy attitude. Sorvino predicted Harvey Weinstein will die in prison during his criminal sexual conduct trial in 2018 when he was accused of harassment by actress Mira Sorvino. Why? “Because I’ll murder the [expletive deleted] real simple,” Mr. Sorvino stated in a widely broadcast video interview.

Paul Sorvino Dead

Mr. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in jail four months later.

In 2019, Mr. Sorvino appeared in his final film roles. In the spy comedy “Welcome to Acapulco,” he portrayed a corrupt senator, and in the Epix series “Godfather of Harlem,” he played criminal boss Frank Costello.

They had three children together before divorcing in 1988, all of them were born after his 1966 marriage to actress Lorraine Davis. Vanessa Arico, a real estate salesperson, was Mr. Sorvino’s second wife from 1991 until their divorce in 1996. In 2014, he wed Republican political strategist Dee Dee Bunkie.

In the 1970s, Mr. Sorvino began sculpting bronze sculptures and found his non-performing arts work very rewarding. The Sun-Sentinel, a newspaper in Florida, quoted him as saying, “That’s why I prefer it.” No one can teach you how to end something.

It’s “like doing sculpture” to act onstage, he remarked. “Acting in movies is like being a sculptor’s assistant.”

The Sorvino family includes his wife, Dee Dee, three daughters, Mira, Amanda, and Michael, and five grandkids. Mr. Sorvino passed away on January 22, 2019.

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