Robert Loggia, actor known for gangster roles in Scarface, Prizzi's Honor, dead at 85

Oscar-nominated actor Robert Loggia, who was known for gravelly voiced gangsters from Scarface to The Sopranos but who was most endearing as Tom Hanks's kid-at-heart toy-company boss in Big, has died. He was 85.

Oscar nominee fit neatly into mobster movies but also played endearing toy-company boss in Big

Actor Robert Loggia, left, played Tom Hanks's character's boss in the 1988 comedy Big, which saw the pair tap out a tune on a walking piano. (20th Century Fox/Touch Museum/AP)

Oscar-nominated actor Robert Loggia, who was known for gravelly voiced gangsters from Scarface to The Sopranos but who was most endearing as Tom Hanks's kid-at-heart toy-company boss in Big, has died. He was 85.

Loggia's wife, Audrey Loggia, said he died Friday at his home in Los Angeles after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for five years. "His poor body gave up," she said. "He loved being an actor and he loved his life."

Hanks expressed his grief on Twitter. 

"A great actor in heart and soul," Hanks wrote. "A sad day."

A solidly built man with a rugged face, Loggia fit neatly into gangster movies, playing a Miami drug lord in Scarface, which starred Al Pacino, and a Sicilian mobster in Prizzi's Honor, with Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner.

Loggia arrives at a Scarface event in Los Angeles in 2011. He played a Miami drug lord in the movie, which starred Al Pacino. (Matt Sayles/AP)

He played wise guys in David Lynch's Lost Highway, the spoofs Innocent Blood and Armed and Dangerous, and again on The Sopranos, as the previously jailed veteran mobster Michele (Feech) La Manna.

It was not as a gangster but as a seedy detective that Loggia received his only Academy Award nomination, as supporting actor in 1985's Jagged Edge. He played gumshoe Sam Ransom, who investigated a murder involving Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges.

Loggia gave an endearing comic performance in Big, when he danced with Tom Hanks on a giant piano keyboard.

Hanks played an adolescent granted a wish to be big, overnight becoming a 30-something man who — still mentally a boy — eventually finds work at a toy company run by Loggia's character. A chance meeting in a toy store leads to the pair tapping out joyful duets of Chopsticks and Heart and Soul on the piano keys built into the floor.

Loggia also appeared in five films for comedy director Blake Edwards, including three Pink Panther films. He also portrayed Joseph, husband of Mary, in George Stevens's biblical epic The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Asked in 1990 how he maintained such a varied career, he responded: "I'm a character actor in that I play many different roles, and I'm virtually unrecognizable from one role to another. So I never wear out my welcome."

Among his later roles was as a general and presidential adviser in the 1996 sci-fi thriller Independence Day.

Studied journalism

The son of Sicilian immigrants, Loggia was born in 1930 in New York City's borough of Staten Island. He grew up in Manhattan's Little Italy section.

First inclined toward newspaper work, he studied journalism at the University of Missouri, but was drawn to acting and returned to New York to study at the Actors Studio.

He appeared on a number of live dramatic series during television's Golden Age, and made his stage debut off-Broadway in 1956 in The Man with the Golden Arm, appearing in the title role of a drug addict, played in the movie version by Frank Sinatra.

His Broadway debut came in 1964 with the Actors Studio production of Chekhov's The Three Sisters, which also appeared in London.

In 1956 Loggia made his film debut in Somebody Up There Likes Me, playing mobster Frankie Peppo, who tries to persuade boxer Rocky Graziano (Paul Newman) to throw a fight.

Loggia married Marjorie Sloane in 1954, and they had three children, daughters Tracey and Kristina and son John.

After their divorce, Loggia married Audrey O'Brien in 1982.