Joe Pesci

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Joe Pesci
A head shot of Pesci, unshaven, wearing dark sunglasses, hat, shirt, and leather jacket
Pesci in 2009
Joseph Frank Pesci

(1943-02-09) February 9, 1943 (age 81)
  • Actor
  • musician
  • singer
Years active1961–1999, 2006–present
(m. 1988; div. 1992)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • guitar

Joseph Frank Pesci (/ˈpɛʃi/ PESH-ee, Italian: [ˈpeʃʃi]; born February 9, 1943) is an American actor and musician. He is known for portraying tough, volatile characters in a variety of genres and for his collaborations with Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese in the films Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995), and The Irishman (2019). He has received several awards including an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award with nominations for three Golden Globe Awards.

He also appeared in Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Moonwalker (1988), JFK (1991), A Bronx Tale (1993), and The Good Shepherd (2006). Pesci is also known for his comic roles in Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), My Cousin Vinny (1992), and the Lethal Weapon franchise (1989–1998).

Pesci won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the gangster character Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas and received two other nominations in the same category for his portrayals of Joey LaMotta and Russell Bufalino in Raging Bull and The Irishman, respectively. He announced his retirement from acting in 1999, but has returned to act in four films and a television series since then.

Pesci is also a musician who has recorded three studio albums: Little Joe Sure Can Sing! (1968), Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You (1998), and Pesci... Still Singing (2019).

Early life[edit]

Pesci was born on February 9, 1943, in Newark, New Jersey. His mother, Maria (Mesce), worked part time as a barber, and his father, Angelo Pesci, was a forklift truck driver for General Motors and a bartender. He is of Italian descent with family origins both in Turin[1][2][3] and Aquilonia in the province of Avellino.[4] Pesci was raised in Belleville, New Jersey, and graduated from Belleville High School. By the time Pesci was five years old he was appearing in plays in New York.[1] At age 10 he was a regular on a television variety show called Startime Kids, which also featured Connie Francis.[1] As an entertainer from Belleville, he was acquainted with guitarist Tommy DeVito of The Four Lovers, a novelty act from Belleville that included (among others) singer Frankie Valli; Pesci also knew keyboardist Bob Gaudio of The Royal Teens. Pesci introduced Gaudio to DeVito and Valli in 1958, which led to the formation of the band The Four Seasons.[5] Pesci and DeVito remained friends for the rest of DeVito's life; when DeVito fell on hard times in the 1970s following his resignation from the Four Seasons, Pesci placed DeVito on his personal payroll, and Pesci arranged for DeVito to make cameos in some of Pesci's 1990s films.[6] Pesci was childhood friends with American Mafia figure Robert Bisaccia.[7]


Early career[edit]

In the 1960s, Pesci began working as a barber, following in his mother's footsteps. At the same time, he tried to start a musical career, playing guitar with several bands, including Joey Dee and the Starliters who introduced the "Peppermint Twist" record, dance, and Peppermint Lounge in New York City.

In 1968, he released his debut album Little Joe Sure Can Sing! (billed as Joe Ritchie), on which he sang covers of contemporary pop hits.[8]

Pesci later joined Frank Vincent as a comedy duo, performing as "Vincent and Pesci" from 1970 to 1976. Their act coupled Abbott and Costello-inspired double act antics with Don Rickles-style insult comedy, which proved popular with crowds. During this time, the pair developed a strong professional and personal friendship.[9][10] In 1975, they appeared in the Broadway show The New Vaudevillians, which only lasted one week.[8]

The first film Pesci starred in was the 1976 low-budget crime film The Death Collector alongside Frank Vincent. After the film Pesci returned to The Bronx and lived above Amici's Restaurant, where he was an employee.[8]

Acting career[edit]

Pesci with co-star Cathy Moriarty on the set of Raging Bull

In 1979, Pesci received a phone call from Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, who were impressed with his performance in The Death Collector and asked him to co-star in Scorsese's Raging Bull as Joey LaMotta. During the course of filming Pesci broke one of his ribs.[11]

Pesci won the BAFTA Film Award for Newcomer to Leading Film Roles in 1981 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Over the next few years, Pesci appeared in several smaller films, including Dear Mr. Wonderful (1982), Eureka (1983) and Easy Money (1983).[8]

In 1984, he was cast in Once Upon a Time in America, again appearing alongside De Niro. The following year he starred as private detective Rocky Nelson in the short-lived television comedy series Half Nelson.[8]

In 1988, Pesci appeared in the Michael Jackson musical anthology film Moonwalker, in the film's sixth and longest segment, "Smooth Criminal". He played the antagonist, crime boss Frankie "Mr. Big" LiDeo (an anagram for one of the film's producers and longtime Jackson manager Frank DiLeo,[12] with whom Pesci later acted in Goodfellas).[13]

He appeared as Leo Getz, a comedic sidekick and best friend to protagonist detectives Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) in the Lethal Weapon sequels, released in 1989, 1992 and 1998.

In 1990, he reunited with Scorsese and De Niro for Goodfellas, in which he played mobster Tommy DeVito, based on real-life mobster Thomas DeSimone. Tommy DeVito was also the name of Pesci's old acquaintance from Belleville, New Jersey, and a member of The Four Seasons, but contrary to popular belief, the naming is coincidental.[5] Pesci's old friend Frank Vincent also appears in the film. Pesci's character kills Vincent's character in a rage in one of the best-remembered scenes in the film after the Vincent character contemptuously tells him to "go home and get your fucking shine box". According to Pesci, improvisation and ad-libbing came out of rehearsals, where Scorsese let the actors do whatever they wanted. He made transcripts of these sessions, took the lines the actors came up with that he liked best, and put them into a revised script that the cast worked from during principal photography.[14]

For example, the scene where Tommy tells a story and Henry is responding to him—the "Funny how? Do I amuse you?" scene—is based on an actual event that Pesci experienced. He was waiting tables when he thought he made a compliment to a mobster by saying he was "funny", which was not taken well.[15][16] It was worked on in rehearsals where he and Liotta improvised, and Scorsese recorded four to five takes, rewrote their dialogue, and inserted it into the script.[17] The dinner scene with Tommy's mother was largely improvised.[18] Pesci received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role, which he accepted with one of the shortest speeches in Oscar history, saying simply, "It's my privilege. Thank you" before leaving the stage.[13][19]

Pesci also co-starred in the blockbuster Home Alone in 1990, his character Harry Lime one of two bumbling burglars - along with Daniel Stern as Marv Murchins - who attempt to burgle the house of an eight-year-old played by Macaulay Culkin. Pesci's use of "cartoon cursing", or menacing gibberish, garnered comparisons to Looney Tunes character Yosemite Sam.[20] Two years later, Pesci reprised his role in a sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

In 1991, Pesci played David Ferrie in JFK. In 1992, he appeared as the title character in the comedy My Cousin Vinny with Ralph Macchio, Marisa Tomei and Fred Gwynne. During the same year Pesci headed up the cast of The Public Eye as Leon "Bernzy" Bernstein, a photographer. His performance in the film, a departure from his usual characters, has been critically acclaimed.

Pesci hosted the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live on October 10, 1992, while doing publicity for My Cousin Vinny. During his monologue, in response to Sinéad O'Connor tearing a picture of Pope John Paul II on the previous broadcast in protest of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, he described how he wished to give her "such a smack".[21]

In 1993, Pesci made an appearance in A Bronx Tale as Carmine. The film starred Robert De Niro, who also directed, and Chazz Palminteri, who wrote the play from which the film was adapted. Both De Niro and Palminteri personally offered Pesci the role. In 1995, Pesci had his third collaboration with Scorsese and De Niro in the film Casino, playing Nicky Santoro, based on real-life Mob enforcer Anthony Spilotro, along with Sharon Stone and James Woods; Pesci had previously co-starred with the latter in Once Upon a Time in America. During filming, Pesci broke the same rib that had been broken 15 years prior during the production of Raging Bull.[11] In 1996, Pesci was considered to play Myron Larabee, the stressed-out postman, in Jingle All the Way opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the part was ultimately given to Sinbad, whose physical size was more comparable to Schwarzenegger's.

He had starring roles in several other films, including Man on Fire (1987), The Super (1991), Jimmy Hollywood (1994), With Honors (also 1994) and Gone Fishin' (1997). Pesci's role in With Honors was a dramatic role in which he played a homeless man living on the campus of Harvard.

Musical career[edit]

In 1998, he released his second album and his first in 30 years, Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You which was named after his character from the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny. The album was both humorous and serious, exploring a variety of genres, though most of it was big band jazz. The album spawned the single "Wise Guy", a rap number that played on the gangsta theme by making reference to Mafia gangsterism. "Wise Guy" interpolated the 1980 hit "Rapture" by Blondie, and was co-written and produced by the hip-hop production team the Trackmasters.

Semi-retirement from acting[edit]

In 1999, Pesci announced his retirement from acting to pursue a musical career and to enjoy life away from the camera. He returned to acting when he did a cameo in De Niro's 2006 film The Good Shepherd. In 2010, he starred in the brothel drama Love Ranch alongside Helen Mirren.[22]

Pesci appeared with Don Rickles, with whom he had worked in Casino, in a 2011 Snickers advertisement in which he portrays the angry alter ego of a young man who attends a party and becomes agitated by two women until he is calmed down by eating a Snickers bar.[23]

In 2011, Pesci sued Fiore Films, the producers of the film Gotti, saying they had broken their promise to cast him in the film as real-life mobster Angelo Ruggiero.[24] Pesci stated that he had gained 30 pounds (14 kg) for the role.[24] He sued them for $3 million, which was the payment he had been promised.[24] The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2013 for an unspecified sum,[24] and the role, after many production delays, eventually went to Pruitt Taylor Vince.

Pesci appears in the 2016 music documentary Jimmy Scott: I Go Back Home, in which he is filmed recording "The Folks Who Live on the Hill" from Scott's 2017 posthumous album I Go Back Home.

Reprise for The Irishman[edit]

In 2017, Pesci was cast alongside Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in The Irishman, a crime film directed by Martin Scorsese. Pesci was offered his role a reported 50 times before agreeing to take part, at first saying he did not want to do "the gangster thing again," while Scorsese tried to persuade him The Irishman would be "different."[25] The film received a limited theatrical release on November 1, 2019, followed by digital streaming on November 27, 2019, by Netflix.[26] Pesci's performance as Russell Bufalino was critically acclaimed and earned him various accolades, including nominations for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor,[27] the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor and for two Screen Actors Guild Awards. Pesci also returned to music with his third album and his first in 21 years, titled Pesci... Still Singing, released on November 29, 2019.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Pesci has been married and divorced three times.[29]

His first marriage was in January 1964.[30] His third marriage was from 1988 to 1992, to Claudia Haro, a model and actress. They have one child, a daughter, named Tiffany (b. 1992).[31] In 2000, Pesci started dating Angie Everhart they became engaged in 2007 but broke up in 2008.[32]



Year Title Role Notes
1961 Hey, Let's Twist! Dancer At The Peppermint Lounge Uncredited
1976 The Death Collector Joe Salvino
1980 Raging Bull Joey LaMotta BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer
1982 I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can Roger
Dear Mr. Wonderful Ruby Dennis
1983 Eureka Mayakofsky
Easy Money Nicky Cerone
1984 Once Upon a Time in America Frankie Minaldi
Everybody in Jail Corrado Parisi
1987 Man on Fire David Coolidge
1988 Moonwalker Frankie "Mr. Big" Lideo
The Legendary Life of Ernest Hemingway John Dos Passos
1989 Lethal Weapon 2 Leo Getz
1990 Catchfire Leo Carelli Uncredited cameo
Betsy's Wedding Oscar Henner
Goodfellas Tommy DeVito Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Home Alone Harry Lime
1991 The Super Louie Kritski Jr.
JFK David Ferrie
1992 My Cousin Vinny Vincent LaGuardia Gambini
Lethal Weapon 3 Leo Getz
The Public Eye Leon "Bernzy" Bernstein
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York Harry Lime
1993 A Bronx Tale Carmine
1994 Jimmy Hollywood Jimmy Alto / Jericho
With Honors Simon B. Wilder
1995 Casino Nicky Santoro
1997 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag Tommy Spinelli
Gone Fishin' Joe Waters
1998 Lethal Weapon 4 Leo Getz
2006 The Good Shepherd Joseph Palmi Cameo
2010 Love Ranch Charlie "Charlie Goodtimes" Bontempo
2015 A Warrior's Tail King of Mosquitos (voice)
2019 The Irishman Russell Bufalino
2023 Day of the Fight[33] Mike's Father


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Half Nelson Rocky Nelson 6 episodes
1992 Tales from the Crypt Vic / Jack Episode: "Split Personality"
Saturday Night Live Himself / Host Episode: "Joe Pesci/Spin Doctors"
1997 Saturday Night Live Himself Episode: "Rob Lowe/Spice Girls"
2023 Bupkis Joe Larocca Main role

Awards and nominations[edit]

Pesci has received numerous awards nominations including three Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), and The Irishman (2019).

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1981 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Raging Bull Nominated
1991 Goodfellas Won
2020 The Irishman Nominated
1982 British Film Academy Awards Most Promising Newcomer Raging Bull Won
2020 Best Supporting Actor The Irishman Nominated
1981 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Raging Bull Nominated
1991 Goodfellas Nominated
2020 The Irishman Nominated
1998 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Supporting Actor Lethal Weapon 4 Nominated
2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Supporting Actor – Motion Picture The Irishman Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble – Motion Picture Nominated



  1. ^ a b c Harrison, Nancy (March 8, 1992). "Joe Pesci? That Guy Is Some Kind of Character". The New York Times. New York. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on November 14, 2015. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  2. ^ "Joe Pesci". celebritywonder. Archived from the original on March 21, 2011.
  3. ^ Martone, Eric (December 12, 2016). Italian Americans: The History and Culture of a People. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781610699952 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Aspesi, Natalia (September 4, 1992). "Piccolo e nero mezzo italiano Pesci è la star". la Repubblica (in Italian). Rome: GEDI Gruppo Editoriale. Archived from the original on April 15, 2020. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
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  7. ^ Iconic 'Goodfella' Robert Bisaccia dies in prison Chanta L. Jackson, (December 4, 2008)
  8. ^ a b c d e "Joe Pesci biography". Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on March 15, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  9. ^ Lewine, Edward (February 18, 1996). "Frank Vincent's Two-Limo Night". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 24, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  10. ^ Eidelstein, Eric. "The Mysterious Disappearing Act of Joe Pesci". Complex. Archived from the original on February 24, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
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  12. ^ "Moonwalker (1988)". IMDb. Archived from the original on January 5, 2016. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  13. ^ a b "The 63rd Academy Awards Memorable Moments". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 2015. Archived from the original on November 2, 2015. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  14. ^ Arnold, Gary (September 25, 1990). "Real Fellas Talk about Mob Film". The Washington Times.
  15. ^ "One of the most famous scenes in 'Goodfellas' is based on something that actually happened to Joe Pesci". May 4, 2015.
  16. ^ George Anastasia; Glen Macnow (2011). The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies: Featuring the 100 Greatest Gangster Films of All Time. Running Press. ISBN 9780762441549.
  17. ^ Kaplan, Jonah (writer and editor); Stephen Altobellow and Jeffrey Schwartz (producers) (2004). Getting Made: The Making of Goodfellas (Blu-ray Disc). Warner Home Video. ISBN 1-4198-4306-0.
  18. ^ Godfrey, Alex (November 2013). "Whaddya want from me?". mrgodfrey. Archived from the original on September 4, 2014. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  19. ^ "10 Oscar Winners Whose Speeches Were Under 11 Words". mental_floss. Archived from the original on February 14, 2016. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  20. ^ "Where Joe Pesci saw a connection between Looney Tunes and Home Alone". December 11, 2019. Archived from the original on December 11, 2018. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  21. ^ Brozan, Nadine (October 12, 1992). "CHRONICLE". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017. Retrieved March 13, 2017.
  22. ^ "Three join Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci in 'Love Ranch'". February 13, 2008. Archived from the original on June 23, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2010.
  23. ^ "There is an Angry Joe Pesci in all of us Snickers Ad". mememachine. Archived from the original on June 13, 2011.
  24. ^ a b c d "Joe Pesci settles dispute over "Gotti" film payday". CBS/AP. February 5, 2013. Archived from the original on December 29, 2017. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  25. ^ "The Irishman with Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee (Episode 224)". Apple Inc. November 2019. Archived from the original on November 8, 2019. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  26. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (August 27, 2019). "Netflix Sets November 1 Theatrical Bow For Martin Scorsese-Directed 'The Irishman:' 27 Day US & UK Rollout Comes Before Pic Streams For Thanksgiving Holiday". Deadline. Archived from the original on August 27, 2019. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
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  28. ^ "Joe Pesci's new jazz album is incredibly surreal, but sweet and sincere nonetheless – review". The Independent. November 29, 2019. Archived from the original on November 30, 2019. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  29. ^ "Now They're Good Fellas Ray Liotta And Joe Pesci Were Cold-blooded Wiseguys In Their 1990 Movie, But In Films Opening This Weekend, They're Unlikely Heroes. Joe Pesci Is Out For Justice". philly-archives. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
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  33. ^ Jack Huston To Make Feature Directorial Debut With 'Day Of The Fight': Sets Michael Pitt, Nicolette Robinson, Joe Pesci & More

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