Paul Sorvino, an imposing actor known for portraying crooks and cops such as Paulie Cicero in Goodfellas and NYPD sergeant Phil Cerretta on Law & Order, has died. He was 83.
According to his publicist, Roger Neal, he died of natural causes on Monday morning in Indiana.
“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 grace the screen and stage,” Dee Dee Sorvino, his wife, said in a statement.
Paul Sorvino was a mainstay in the entertainment industry for over 50 years, 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 would often say that, while he was best known for playing gangsters, his true loves were poetry, painting, and opera.
Sorvino was born in Brooklyn in 1939 to a piano teacher mother and a robe factory foreman father. He was musically inclined from a young age and attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, where he fell in love with the theatre. In 1964, he made his Broadway debut in Bajour, and in 1970, he made his film debut in Carl Reiner’s Where’s Poppa?
Paul Sorvino’s 6-foot-4-inch stature made him an imposing presence in any medium. He co-starred with Al Pacino in The Panic in Needle Park and James Caan in The Gambler in the 1970s, reteamed with Reiner in Oh, God!, and was part of the ensemble in William Friedkin’s bank robbery comedy The Brink’s Job. Sorvino got to play a romantic lead and use his dance training opposite professional ballerina Anne Ditchburn in John G. Avildsen’s Rocky sequel Slow Dancing in the Big City.
He was especially active in the 1990s, beginning the decade as Lips in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy and Paul Cicero in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, both of which were based on real-life mobster Paul Vario, and finishing the decade with 31 episodes on Dick Wolf’s Law & Order.
He then appeared in The Rocketeer, The Firm, Nixon (for which he received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination), and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet as Juliet’s father, Fulgencio Capulet. Beatty would return to Sorvino frequently, hiring him for his 1998 political satire Bulworth and his 2016 Hollywood love letter Rules Don’t Apply. He was also in James Gray’s film The Immigrant.
Paul Sorvino’s first marriage bore three children, including Academy Award-winning performer Mira Sorvino. He also directed and starred in a film written and directed by his daughter Amanda Sorvino, which also starred his son Michael Sorvino.
When he learnt that Mira Sorvino was among the women reportedly sexually assaulted and blacklisted by Harvey Weinstein during the #MeToo reckoning, he told TMZ that if he had known, Weinstein “would not be walking.” He’d be confined to a wheelchair.”
He was overjoyed when his daughter won the Oscar for best supporting actress for Mighty Aphrodite in 1996. That night, he told the Los Angeles Times that he didn’t have the words to express how he felt.
“They don’t exist in any language I’ve ever heard, except perhaps Italian,” he said.