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Paul Sorvino, Master of the Mild-Mannered Mobster, Dies at 83

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Paul Sorvino, the tough-guy actor — and operatic tenor and figurative sculptor — known for his roles as calm and sometimes courteously quiet but dangerous men in movies like “Goodfellas” and tv shows like “Law & Order,” died on Monday. He was 83.

His publicist, Roger Neal, confirmed the death, on the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. No specific cause was given, but Mr. Neal said that Mr. Sorvino “had handled health issues over the past few years.”

Mr. Sorvino was the daddy of Mira Sorvino, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for Woody Allen’s “Mighty Aphrodite” (1995). In her acceptance speech, she said her father had “taught me all the pieces I find out about acting.”

“Goodfellas” (1990), Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed Mafia epic, got here along when Mr. Sorvino was 50 and many years into his film profession. His character, Paulie Cicero, was an area mob boss — lumbering, soft-spoken and ice-cold.

“Paulie may need moved slow,” says Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, his neighborhood protégé within the film, “however it was only because he didn’t must move for no one.” (Mr. Liotta died in May at 67.)

Mr. Sorvino almost abandoned the role because he couldn’t fully connect emotionally, he told the comedian Jon Stewart, who interviewed a panel of “Goodfellas” alumni on the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. Once you “find the spine” of a personality, Mr. Sorvino said, “it makes all the selections for you.”

That didn’t occur, he recalled, until in the future when he was adjusting his necktie, looked within the mirror and saw something in his own eyes. When he saw what he called “that lethal Paulie look,” Mr. Sorvino told The Lowcountry Weekly, a South Carolina publication, in 2019, “I knew at that moment I had embraced my inner mob boss.”

He had made his mark onstage as a really different but perhaps equally soulless character in “That Championship Season” (1972), Jason Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning tragicomedy in regards to the sad reunion of highschool basketball players whose glory days are many years past. In the unique Broadway production, Mr. Sorvino played Phil Romano, a small-town strip-mining millionaire arrogantly having an affair with the mayor’s wife.

Mr. Sorvino received a Tony Award nomination for best actor in a play and reprised the role in a 1982 film adaptation.

The tough-guy actor, who was best known for his role because the mobster Paulie Cicero in “Goodfellas,” died at 83.

Paul Anthony Sorvino was born on April 13, 1939, in Brooklyn, the youngest of three sons of Fortunato Sorvino, often called Ford, and Marietta (Renzi) Sorvino, a homemaker and piano teacher. The elder Mr. Sorvino, a robe-factory foreman, was born in Naples, Italy, and emigrated to Recent York along with his parents in 1907.

Paul grew up within the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn and attended Lafayette High School. His original profession dream was to sing — he idolized the Italian American tenor and actor Mario Lanza — and he began taking voice lessons when he was 8 years old or so.

Within the late Nineteen Fifties, he began acting at Catskills resorts and charity events. In 1963, he received his Actors Equity card as a chorus member in “South Pacific” and “The Student Prince” on the Theater at Westbury on Long Island. That very same 12 months, he began studying drama on the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Recent York.

Acting jobs were elusive. Mr. Sorvino’s Broadway debut, within the chorus of the musical “Bajour” (1964), lasted almost seven months, but his next show, the comedy “Mating Dance” (1965), starring Van Johnson, closed on opening night.

Mr. Sorvino worked as a waiter and a bartender, sold cars, taught acting to children and appeared in commercials for deodorant and tomato sauce. After his first child, Mira, was born, he wrote promoting copy for nine months, however the office job gave him an ulcer.

“More often than not I used to be just one other out-of-work actor who couldn’t get arrested,” he told The Recent York Times in 1972. “I had confidence in my ability, and I used to be offended as hell when other people didn’t recognize it.”

Then his luck modified. He made his film debut in “Where’s Poppa?” (1970), a dark comedy directed by Carl Reiner, in a small role as a retirement-home owner. Then “That Championship Season” got here along, starting with the Off Broadway production on the Public Theater.

The film role that first won him major attention was as Joseph Bologna’s grouchy Italian American father in “Made for Each Other” (1971). Mr. Sorvino, almost five years younger than Mr. Bologna, wore old-age makeup for the role.

He appeared next as a Recent Yorker robbed by a prostitute in “The Panic in Needle Park” (1972) but didn’t fall victim to the cops-and-gangsters stereotype instantly. In 1973, he was George Segal’s movie-producer friend in “A Touch of Class” and a mysterious government agent in “The Day of the Dolphin.”

Mr. Sorvino later played an egotistic, money-hungry evangelist with a Southern accent within the comedy “Oh, God!” (1977) and God Himself in “The Devil’s Carnival” (2012) and its 2015 sequel. He was a down-to-earth newspaper reporter in love with a ballerina in “Slow Dancing within the Big City” (1978). In “Reds” (1981), he was a passionate Russian American Communist leader just before the Bolshevik Revolution.

He was Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, complete with German accent, in Oliver Stone’s “Nixon” (1995). And he played Fulgencio Capulet, Juliet’s intense father with an ancient grudge, in Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” (1996).

But in a half-century screen profession, Mr. Sorvino’s characters were often on the improper side of the law. He played, amongst others, Chubby de Coco (“Bloodbrothers,” 1978), Lips Manlis (“Dick Tracy,” 1980), Big Mike Cicero (“How Sweet It Is,” 2013), Jimmy Scambino (“Sicilian Vampire,” 2015) and Fat Tony Salerno (“Kill the Irishman,” 2011).

And in no less than 20 roles, he played law officers with titles like detective, captain or chief. For one season (1991-92), he was Sgt. Phil Cerreta on NBC’s “Law & Order,” but he found the shooting schedule too demanding — and difficult on his voice.

Mr. Sorvino continued to sing professionally, making his City Opera debut in Frank Loesser’s “The Most Completely happy Fella” in 2006.

His personal life sometimes reinforced his tough-guy image. Most recently, in 2018, when the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was on trial for criminal sexual acts — and Mira Sorvino had accused him of harassment — Mr. Sorvino predicted that Mr. Weinstein would die in jail. “Because if not, he has to fulfill me, and I’ll kill the [expletive deleted] — real easy,” Mr. Sorvino said in a widely aired video interview.

4 months later, Mr. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Mr. Sorvino’s final screen roles were in 2019. He played a corrupt senator in “Welcome to Acapulco,” a spy-comedy film, and the crime boss Frank Costello within the Epix series “Godfather of Harlem.”

He married Lorraine Davis, an actress, in 1966, they usually had three children before divorcing in 1988. Mr. Sorvino’s second wife, from 1991 until their 1996 divorce, was Vanessa Arico, an actual estate agent. He married Dee Dee Benkie, a Republican political strategist, in 2014.

Mr. Sorvino began making bronze sculpture within the Nineteen Seventies and thought of his nonperforming arts work particularly satisfying. “That’s why I prefer it,” he told The Sun-Sentinel, a Florida newspaper, in 2005. “Nobody really tells you easy methods to finish something.”

“Acting onstage is like doing sculpture,” he said. “Acting in movies is like being an assistant to the sculptor.”

Mr. Sorvino is survived by his wife, Dee Dee Sorvino; three children, Mira, Amanda, and Michael; and five grandchildren.

Johnny Diaz contributed reporting.

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