Paul Sorvino, actor, singer, businessman, artist, husband, and father, has died at the age of 83. Perhaps best-known for playing gangsters in the movie Goodfellas (1990) and The Firm (1993), he passed away Monday morning of natural causes at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida on July 25, 2022. Sorvino had been struggling with health issues over the past few years.
In addition to playing mob bosses, Sorvino popped up in all sorts of unexpected roles, as everything from God to Santa Claus. In the course of a theatrical career stretching from 1956 to 2022, he naturally included some science fiction and horror roles.
- He played Gallio De Dominicis in Witches to the North (2001).
- In Day of the Dolphin (1973) he played Curtis Mahoney,
- In Disney’s The Rocketeer (1991), Sorvino played mob boss Eddie Valentine (who may have been a crook, but he was a patriotic crook).
- He played the Rev. Willie Williams in Oh, God! (1977).
- He was Lips Manlis in Dick Tracy (1990).
- He played Dr. Henry Kissinger in Nixon (1995).
- He played Rotti Largo in Repo! the Genetic Opera (2008).
- In The Devil’s Carnival (2012) he played God.
- He voiced Alphonse Perrier du von Scheck in Hey, Arnold! The Movie (2002). He had previously voiced Mr. Scheck in the Hey, Arnold! cartoon.
- He was Tommy Scambino in Scilian Vampire (2015).
- He played Rev. Penny in Wes Craven’s Chiller (1985)
- He appeared on one episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation as Nikolai Rozhenko, Worf’s foster brother.
- Paul Sorvino played Santa Claus in Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe (2009).
Paul Sorvino, Artist, Businessman, and Father
Born Paul Anthony Sorvino on April 13, 1939 in New York City, NY, he was the son of Angela, a piano teacher of Italian descent. His father, Ford Sorvino, was an Italian immigrant who worked in a robe factory as a foreman. Paul originally had his heart set on a life as an opera singer.
He was exposed to dramatic arts while studying at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. He furthered his studies with Sanford Meisner and eventually made his film debut in Where’s Poppa? (1970).
Sorvino suffered from severe asthma, and worked hard at mastering various breathing techniques to manage the illness. He wrote a best-selling book entitled “How to Become a Former Asthmatic”. He also started the Sorvino Asthma Foundation based in New York City.
Sorvino has appeared in a variety of film, TV and theatrical productions over the the last four decades. He received critical praise for his role in the Broadway play “That Championship Season”, and played the role again in the 1981 film alongside Robert Mitchum and Martin Sheen. Other noteworthy performances during the 1980s and 1990s included a stressed-out police chief in Cruising (1980), Mike Hammer’s cop buddy in I, the Jury (1982), “Lips Manlis” in Dick Tracy (1990) with James Caan and in a standout performance as mob patriarch “Paul Cicero” in the powerhouse Goodfellas (1990).
Always keeping himself busy, Sorvino has performed in nearly 50 movies just in the past decade.
Sorvino is the father of Academy Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino.
Paul Sorvino was a sculptor, working in cast bronze. His company, Paul Sorvino Foods, made and sold pasta sauces based on his mother’s recipes. Married three times and divorced twice, he had three children, all with his first wife, Lorraine Davis. They were married from 1966 – 1988. He and his second wife, Vanessa Arico were together from 1991 -1996. His third wife, Dee Dee Benkie married him in 2014. Sorvino leaves two daughters, Mira and Amanda, and one son, Michael to mourn him. Paul Sorvino wrote two books, How to Become a Former Asthmatic and Pinot, Pasta, and Parties.
In His Own Words
From a 2014 interview with the Orlando Weekly:
“Most people think I’m either a gangster or a cop or something, but the reality is I’m a sculptor, a painter, a best-selling author, many, many things — a poet, an opera singer, but none of them is gangster, but, you know, obviously I sort of have a knack for playing these things,” Sorvino says. “It’s almost my later goal in life to disabuse people of the notion that I’m a slow-moving, heavy-lidded thug, and most people’s impression of me IS that — because of the success of Goodfellas and a few other things, but they forget that I was also Dr. Kissinger in Nixon, the deaf lawyer in Dummy, and they forget a lot of things that I’ve done.
It would be nice to have my legacy more than that of just tough guy.”
Goodbye, Mr. Sorvino, as author, singer, sculptor, and actor, you left a full, rich legacy for your family and your fans. Rest in peace.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.