Actor Paul Sorvino, best known for his role in films like Goodfellas and Nixon, has died. He was 83.
Sorvino’s publicist Roger Neal confirmed the star’s death, telling the Associated Press that Sorvino died of natural causes on Monday morning at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Sorvino’s wife, Dee Dee Benkie, issued a statement saying “our hearts are broken, there will never be another Paul Sorvino.”
Born in 1939, Sorvino, a Brooklyn native, worked in Hollywood for more than 50 years, and appeared in dozens of films and television shows. Among his most well-known roles is mobster Paulie Cicero in the 1990s GoodfellasHenry Kissinger in 1995′s Nixonand Eddie Valentine in 1991′s The Rocketeer.
In addition to his work in film, Sorvino also appeared in a number of fan-favorite TV roles, including as Sergeant Phil Cerreta on Law & Order in 1991 and Frank DeLucca in CBS’ That’s Life in 2000.
But, as Philadelphians, we will always remember Sorvino in the role of one of the most controversial figures in the city’s history: Frank Rizzo.
In 2000, Sorvino depicted the embattled Rizzo in a made-for-TV movie dubbed The Thin Blue Lie, which premiered on Showtime in August that year. Based on a true story, the movie follows real-life Inquirer reporter Jonathan Neumann (played by Northern Exposure‘s Rob Morrow) as he works on a series of articles that exposed the corruption of the Philadelphia Police Department and Rizzo himself.
Sorvino-as-Rizzo comes in at around the 13 minute mark in the film below:
In real life, that series of articles was released in 1977 as The Homicide Files, and focuses on how city homicide detectives used beatings and other forms of coercion to force confessions and statements from suspects and witnesses. The series earned Neumann, along with reporting partner William K. Marimow, a Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism in 1978.
The Thin Blue Lie, though, wasn’t so critically lauded. A 2000 review of the film from the Los Angeles Times, for example, calls the film “a badly blemished Showtime movie” that lionizes Neumann as “a superhero who is somehow the only reporter in Philadelphia who sees that the police are out of control. ” It also reportedly experienced “clearance” issues with The Inquirer, which is referred to as the Examiner in the film.
And, unfortunately, the mere idea of Sorvino as Rizzo wasn’t well-received — at least in Philadelphia. As Daily News film critic Gary Thompson wrote in a 1998 column, Sorvino was “a fine actor, but he’s too much of a marshmallow to play Rizzo.”
“He could have done the job a few years ago, maybe, before his daughter won an Academy Award and he showed himself to be a big crybaby,” Thompson wrote, referring to daughter Mira Sorvino’s 1996 win for best supporting actress for her role as Linda Ash in Mighty Aphrodite. Sorvino famously cried openly during the ceremony following his daughter’s win.
“If you want a theatrical release, you’re going to have to choose someone who can open a movie. Again, Paul Sorvino is a fine actor, but he couldn’t open a Taco Bell,” Thompson wrote in 1998. His pick instead? Sylvester Stallone.
Sorvino is survived by his wife, three children, and five grandchildren, CNN reports.