Joe Pesci

Joe Pesci was an American actor who was best known for playing loose-cannon tough guys and cold-hearted mobsters in a string of critically-acclaimed films, including "Raging Bull" (1980), "Goodfellas" (1990), and "Casino" (1995). Pesci was born into a working class Italian-American family in Newark, New Jersey, and was raised in Belleville. As a teenager he was friends with the singers Frankie Valli and Tom DeVito, and played a small role in the later formation of their band The Four Seasons. Valli and DeVito formed The Four Seasons after Pesci introduced them to the and songwriter Bob Gaudio, who would later write several of the group's best known songs. Having always had an interest in music himself, Pesci embarked on a career as a singer in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Together, along with Frank Vincent, who would later become a notable actor in his own right for playing the New York mob boss Frank Leotardo on "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1999-2007), the two men, who billed themselves as Vincent and Pesci, would perform at clubs all around North Jersey. In addition to performing songs, Vincent and Pesci also performed comedy on stage. In 1976 Pesci made his film acting debut by starring in the low-budget crime drama "The Death Collector" (1976). Pesci's performance in the film, which also starred Vincent, was widely praised, but it didn't do anything to advance Pesci's acting career at the time. Shortly after the film was released, Pesci, who was in his mid-30s at the time, went back to living in the same tiny Bronx apartment above the Italian restaurant he worked in. Then, three years after "The Death Collector" was released, Pesci received a phone call that would change his life. The call was from director Martin Scorsese. He told Pesci that Robert De Niro had saw him in "The Death Collector" and suggested Pesci co-star in his upcoming movie "Raging Bull." Pesci agreed. His riveting performance as Joey LaMotta, the cool-headed brother to De Niro's volatile Jake La Motta, earned Pesci an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor. Upon the film's release in 1980, critics were already calling it one of the greatest sports films ever made. But in the decades since it wowed audiences and critics, "Raging Bull" has gone on to be included in several lists of the greatest films ever made, thanks in part to Pesci and De Niro's riveting performances. After the massive success of "Raging Bull," Pesci went onto appear in a number of other films throughout the 1980s, including "Easy Money" (1983), "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984), and "Lethal Weapon 2" (1989), the latter of which featured Pesci in the comedic role of Leo Getz. Pesci would later go on to reprise the much beloved Leo Getz role in two additional sequels: "Lethal Weapon 3" (1992) and "Lethal Weapon 4" (1998). In 1990 Pesci reteamed with De Niro and Scorsese to play the hot-headed gangster Tommy DeVito in "Goodfellas" (1990). Once again, Pesci's performance earned him widespread praise from fans and critics, and at the 1991 Academy Awards he took home his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. By the 1990s, Pesci began showing off his versatility by appearing in a number of crowd-pleasing comedies, including "Home Alone" (1990), "My Cousin Vinny" (1992), "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" (1992), and "8 Heads in a Duffel Bag" (1997). Pesci reteamed with Scorsese and De Niro for a third time in the director's epic Las Vegas movie "Casino" (1995). Although Pesci and De Niro once again earned widespread acclaim for their performances, only Sharon Stone, who played De Niro's boozy hustler of a wife in the film, earned an Oscar nod. In 1999 Pesci announced his retirement from acting so that he could focus on one of his first loves: making music. He did, however, return to acting in 2006 to appear in the De Niro-directed spy film "The Good Shepherd," and later went on to co-star in the 2010 comedy "The Love Ranch." Then in 2019 Pesci reteamed with his old pals De Niro and Scorsese for a fourth time in the epic gangster film "The Irishman." The film, which was about a mob hitman's possible slaying of noted labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa, was the trio's first time working together in nearly 25 years. In addition to Pesci and De Niro, "The Irishman" also starred Al Pacino in his first film under the direction of Martin Scorsese. The eagerly awaited "The Irishman" was released in late 2019.