Actor Paul Sorvino, known for roles in Goodfellas, Law & Order, dies at 83

In his over 50 years in the entertainment business, Sorvino was a mainstay in films and television, 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.

Sorvino's publicist said the actor died Monday morning in Indiana of natural causes.

Actor Paul Sorvino attends The 50th Anniversary World Premiere Restoration of "The Producers" Opening Night Gala in 2018. The 83-year-old actor has died of natural causes according to his publicist. (Getty Images for TCM)

Paul Sorvino, an imposing actor who specialized in playing crooks and cops like Paulie Cicero in Goodfellas and the NYPD sergeant Phil Cerretta on Law & Order, has died. He was 83.

His publicist Roger Neal said he died Monday morning in Indiana of natural causes.

"Our hearts are broken, there will never be another Paul Sorvino," his wife, Dee Dee Sorvino, said in a statement. "He was the love of my life, and one of the greatest performers to ever grace the screen and stage."

In his over 50 years in the entertainment business, Sorvino was a mainstay in films and television, 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 might be best known for playing gangsters, his real passions were poetry, painting and opera.

Paul Sorvino (centre) between Robert De Niro and Jon Stewart at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival’s closing night marking the 25th anniversary of Goodfellas. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival)

Born in Brooklyn in 1939 to a mother who taught piano and father who was a foreman in a robe factory, Sorvino was musically inclined from a young age and attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York where he fell for the theatre. He made his Broadway debut in 1964 in Bajour and his film debut in Carl Reiner's Where's Poppa? in 1970.

With his imposing stature, Sorvino made an impactful presence no matter the medium. In the 1970s, he acted alongside Al Pacino in The Panic in Needle Park and with James Caan in The Gambler, reteamed with Reiner in Oh, God! and was among the ensemble in William Friedkin's bank robbery comedy The Brink's Job.

In John G. Avildsen's Rocky follow-up Slow Dancing in the Big City, Sorvino got to play a romantic lead and used his
dance training opposite professional ballerina Anne Ditchburn.

Sorvino was especially prolific in the 1990s, kicking off the decade playing Lips in Beatty's Dick Tracy and Paul Cicero in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, who was based on the real-life mobster Paul Vario, and 31 episodes on Dick Wolf's Law & Order. He followed those with roles in The Rocketeer, The Firm, Nixon, which earned him a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet as Juliet's father, Fulgencio Capulet.

Beatty would turn to Sorvino often, enlisting him again for his political satire Bulworth, which came out in 1998, and his
2016 Hollywood love letter Rules Don't Apply. He also appeared in James Gray's The Immigrant.

Sorvino had three children from his first marriage, including Academy Award-winning actor Mira Sorvino. When he learned that his daughter had been among the women allegedly sexually harassed and blacklisted by Harvey Weinstein in the midst of the #MeToo reckoning, he told TMZ that if he had known, Weinstein, "would not be walking. He'd be in a wheelchair."

He was proud of his daughter and cried when she won the best supporting actress Oscar for Mighty Aphrodite in 1996. He told the Los Angeles Times that night that he didn't have the words to express how he felt.

"They don't exist in any language that I've ever heard -- well, maybe Italian," he said.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?