Jon Polito, a character actor known for his long association with the Coen Brothers as well as memorable roles on Seinfeld, Modern Family and Homicide: Life on the Streets, died Thursday night, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 65. Polito, who was diagnosed with melanoma in 2008 and recently suffered an infection following a surgery, slipped into a coma Sunday and was taken off life support Thursday evening.
Polito’s friend, director John McNaughton, also confirmed the actor’s death on Facebook. “Very sad to learn that my dear friend and collaborator, Jon Polito has passed away,” McNaughton wrote. “He appeared in over 100 films, countless TV episodes and on Broadway. Jon was a born actor and will be deeply missed by his legion of friends, fans, family and of course his long time partner, Darryl Armbruster to whom I send my condolences. R.I.P. old pal.”
Comedian Scott Aukerman was one of many to pay tribute to the actor.
One of the coolest days on Bang Bang recently was when Jon Polito guest starred on our “You Made Your Bed, Now Lie In It” sketch. As a big fan, I was nervous about how he would feel about being in such a stupid sketch, but the minute he saw me, he laughed and said, “I’ve been watching your show, and you’re a sick twist!” He spent all day delightfully regaling us with stories about Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, and Death of a Salesman. Then, when the cameras turned on, he slipped into his classic hard-boiled character. A great actor and cool dude! RIP.
Born in Philadelphia in 1950, Polito’s resume spans more than 200 credits over the past four decades. After winning an Obie in 1980 for his off-Broadway work with Dodger Theatre Company and the BAM Theater Company, Polito segued to both the big and small screens, proving himself to be equally adept at playing tough-talking criminals or bumbling comedic roles.
Polito’s association with the Coen Brothers began in 1990 as the rival Italian crime boss Caspar in the duo’s gangster classic Miller’s Crossing; the following year, Polito appeared in the Coens’ Barton Fink. The partnership continued in small but memorable roles in The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski and The Man Who Wasn’t There.
Polito was also cast in the first season of Homicide: Life on the Streets, appearing as Detective Steve Crosetti in a dozen episodes before he acrimoniously split from the NBC procedural. The actor’s TV credits also included stops on Seinfeld (as the cuckolded landlord Silvio in the episode “The Reverse Peephole”), Dream On, Gilmore Girls and dozens more.
Polito also appeared alongside Marlon Brando in 1990’s The Freshman, worked with directors Tim Burton (Big Eyes) and Clint Eastwood (Flags of Our Fathers) and played a villain in a pair of 1994 films, Blankman and The Crow.