Frank Vincent, the character actor that specialized in Mafia roles and appeared as a mobster in Goodfellas, The Sopranos and Casino, died Wednesday. He was 78.
The actor died at a New Jersey hospital following complications from open-heart surgery, TMZ reported. The Blast adds that actor Vincent Pastore, who co-starred with Vincent in The Sopranos, notified friends of Vincent’s death.
Director Martin Scorsese frequently cast Vincent in his films as the actor appeared in the filmmaker’s Raging Bull, Casino and Goodfellas, which Rolling Stone placed at Number One on the 100 Greatest Movies of the Nineties list.
Over a career that spanned more than 40 years, Vincent also had notable roles in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever, Copland, Witness to the Mob and NYPD Blue.
Vincent’s first big screen role was alongside Joe Pesci in the 1976 gangster film The Death Collector; 14 years later, in 1990’s Goodfellas, Pesci’s Tommy DeVito beat Vincent’s Billy Batts to death after being told to “go home and get your fucking shinebox” in a famous scene.
“If you played each take back, the timing would be exactly the same each time,” He told NJ.com of the scene with his real-life friend. “We have chemistry, which is so important. Our personal relationship is very relevant to the reality on the screen and makes it work.”
Five years later, Vincent’s Frankie exacted revenge on Pesci’s Nicky Santoro in Casino in another memorable murder scene.
However, Vincent will be best remembered as rival crime boss Phil Leotardo in the HBO series The Sopranos, Rolling Stone‘s pick for The Greatest TV Show of All Time. Vincent’s character tormented James Gandolfini’s Tony Sopranos over the show’s final two seasons, with Leotardo’s gruesome death the last murder shown on the series.
In the same NJ.com interview in 2009, Vincent seemed content with his typecasting. “They need a gangster, they call Frank or Joe. An Italian-American? Frank or Joe. I’m currently starring in a string of Miller Beer commercials where I am playing a gangster. It is who you are. You are a writer, reporter. That is what you do. … When I was 18 years old and playing the drums, I never thought that I would have a website and that people will be buying my autographed picture and paying money for it. I just bought a condo in Florida. Life is good. I can’t complain.”
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