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Joe Pesci

Joe Pesci
Pesci in February 2009
Born Joseph Frank Pesci
(1943-02-09) February 9, 1943 (age 77)
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Residence Lavallette, New Jersey
Occupation Actor, comedian, singer, musician
Years active 1961–1999, 2006–present
Spouse(s) Claudia Martha Haro (1988–1992; divorced)
2 other previous wives
Children 1

Joseph Frank "Joe" Pesci (/ˈpɛʃi/, PESH-ee; born February 9, 1943) is an American actor, comedian and musician, known for playing tough, volatile characters, in a variety of genres. He is best known for a trio of films in which he co-starred with Robert De Niro, directed by Martin Scorsese: 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 then won the same award for his role as the psychopathic mobster Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas.

Pesci has starred in a number of other high-profile films, including Once Upon a Time in America, My Cousin Vinny, JFK, Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, A Bronx Tale and the Lethal Weapon series.

He announced his retirement from acting in 1999, and since then he has appeared only sporadically in films.

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.[1][2] 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.[3] At age 10, he was a regular on a television variety show called Startime Kids which also featured Connie Francis.[3]

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, including Joey Dee and the Starliters. (The position of guitarist in that band was taken several years later by Jimi Hendrix.) In 1968, he released the album Little Joe Sure Can Sing! (billed as "Joe Ritchie"), on which he sang covers of contemporary pop hits.[4]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Pesci teamed up with fellow actor Frank Vincent, performing in local clubs like 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.[4]

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 run his restaurant, Amici's, in the Bronx.[4]

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).[4]

In 1984, he was cast in Once Upon a Time in America, again appearing alongside De Niro.

In 1985, he starred as private detective Rocky Nelson in the short-lived television comedy series Half Nelson.[4]

In 1988, Pesci co-starred with pop singer Michael Jackson in the musical-fantasy film Moonwalker, appearing as the film's antagonist, Frankie "Mr. Big" LiDeo (an anagram for one of the film's producers and longtime Jackson manager Frank DiLeo,[5] with whom Pesci would later act in Goodfellas). Pesci was featured in the film's fifth and final segment, a short movie called Smooth Criminal, based on Jackson's song of the same name.[6]

He appeared as Leo Getz in the Lethal Weapon sequels, released in 1989, 1992 and 1998.

In 1990, he reunited with Scorsese and De Niro for Goodfellas, where he played mobster Tommy DeVito, based on real-life mobster Thomas DeSimone. Pesci received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role, which he accepted with the shortest speech in Oscar history, saying simply, "It's my privilege. Thank you," before leaving the stage.[6][7] (Coincidentally, Tommy DeVito is also the actual name of Pesci's old acquaintance from Belleville, NJ—the real-life Four Seasons band founder Tommy DeVito, noted below. However contrary to popular belief, the character was not named after DeVito.[8]). Old friend Frank Vincent also appears in the film.

Pesci also co-starred in the blockbuster Home Alone in 1990, playing Harry Lyme, one of two bumbling burglars (along with good friend Daniel Stern) who attempt to burglarize the house of the young character played by Macaulay Culkin. 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.

In 1992, Pesci spearheaded the cast of The Public Eye as Leon "Bernzy" Bernstein, a photographer. His performance in the film was some of his best, albeit less referenced work, and marked a departure from his more popular repertoire of character work.

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, which had been torn by Sinéad O'Connor on the previous broadcast; he then tore up a photo of O'Connor, which was met with huge applause.[citation needed]

Pesci had a small role in 1993's A Bronx Tale.

In 1995, Pesci had his third and so far final collaboration with Scorsese and De Niro in the film Casino, playing Nicky Santoro, based on real-life Mob enforcer Anthony Spilotro.

He was the original choice to play Myron Larabee, the stressed-out postman in Jingle All the Way opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1996, 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).

Other work and retirement from acting

In 1998, he released his second LP (his first album in 30 years) called Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You, which spawned the single "Wise Guy," a rap number that played on the gangsta theme by referencing 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. Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just For You was an album that was both humorous and serious, exploring a variety of genres, though most of it was big band jazz, and which paid homage to his character name from the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny, not only through its album title, but also by its lead track "Yo Cousin Vinny".

Pesci is associated with the hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys, which premiered there in 2005. The musical is based on the lives of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. As a friend of the group's Tommy DeVito, he was present during the group's formation as a young man. Pesci is a character in the musical, pivotal for introducing DeVito and Valli to the singer/songwriter who would become a seminal Seasons member, Bob Gaudio.

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.[9]

Pesci appeared with Don Rickles in a 2011 Snickers advertisement in which he portrays the alter-ego of a young man who attends a party and becomes agitated by two women.[10]

In popular culture

Pesci's tendency to play violent, short-tempered characters, especially in the Scorsese films, was lampooned in a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live, "The Joe Pesci Show", in 1995 and 1996. In the sketches, Pesci (played by Jim Breuer) hosts a talk show with sidekick Robert De Niro (played alternately by Colin Quinn and various guest hosts), which usually ends with Pesci and De Niro beating up the guest with baseball bats due to some perceived slight. (The real Pesci and De Niro made a surprise appearance in one sketch, announcing their displeasure with the sketch and then giving the same treatment to Breuer and Quinn.)

In the film Jersey Boys, Pesci is portrayed by Joey Russo with nods to his prior films Lethal Weapon 2 and Goodfellas.[11]

George Carlin stated in one of his comedy routines that, instead of praying to God, he prays to Joe Pesci, because "he looks like a guy who can get things done."[12]

In an episode of the 1993 animated series Animaniacs, a "Good Feathers" segment pays homage to the film Goodfellas in which the pigeon named Pesto represents Joe Pesci's character from Goodfellas.

In the Full House episode "The Test", Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier) finds a potato he claims to look like Joe Pesci, which several other characters confirm.

Personal life

Pesci is single, having been divorced three times[13] since his first marriage in 1964.[14] From 1988 to 1992, Pesci was married to Claudia Haro, a model and actress. In 2007 Pesci was engaged to Angie Everhart,[15] but the couple broke up in 2008.[16]

While filming scenes in two of Martin Scorsese's films (Raging Bull and Casino), Pesci broke the same rib, 15 years apart.[17]



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
Nominated – Utah Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
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 Nominated – Utah Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Tutti dentro Corrado Parisi
1985 Half Nelson Rocky Nelson Television film
1987 Man on Fire David Coolidge
1988 Moonwalker Frankie Lideo (aka Mr. Big)
The Legendary Life of Ernest Hemingway John Dos Passos
1989 Lethal Weapon 2 Leo Getz
1990 Catchfire Leo Carelli (uncredited) AKA Backtrack
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
Utah Film Critics Association 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 Lyme Utah Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
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 Lyme
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 – Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor
2006 The Good Shepherd Joseph Palmi Cameo
2010 Love Ranch Charlie Bontempo
2015 Savva: Heart of the Warrior Mosquito Voice; English version
TBA The Irishman In Development


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


  1. ^ FILM; Joe Pesci? That Guy Is Some Kind of Character. New York Times. March 8, 1992.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Harrison, Nancy. Joe Pesci? That Guy Is Some Kind of Character, The New York Times, March 8, 1992.
  4. ^ a b c d e Joe Pesci biography, Yahoo! Movies
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Academy Awards official site. Retrieved March 8, 2008.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Three join Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci in 'Love Ranch'". February 13, 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  10. ^ "There is an Angry Joe Pesci in all of us Snickers Ad". 
  11. ^ Jersey Boys – Broadway (August 5, 2013). "Joey Russo and Jeremy Luke Join Christopher Walken in Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys Movie". Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  12. ^ "George Carlin on Religion and God". YouTube. February 12, 2009. Retrieved October 31, 2013. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Reardanz, Karen (July 30, 2007). "Pesci to Wed Everhart". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  16. ^ "Pesci ends engagement with model Everhart". Ireland On-line. April 25, 2008. Archived from the original on April 30, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  17. ^ Dutka, Elaine (February 22, 1997). "'I Am the Movies I Make': Martin Scorsese's passion and commitments earn him the AFI's most prestigious honor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-01-23. Joe Pesci testified to Scorsese's mania for realism. During a fight scene for Raging Bull, he took such a beating from De Niro that he fell to the ground with a broken rib, he recalled. When a couple of 275-pound 'heifers' fell on him the wrong way in Casino, that same rib was broken again. 

External links

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