More than a mobster: A look at Paul Sorvino’s best roles

Paul Sorvino could play more than one mobster, although mobster roles became standard throughout his prolific career.

But Sorvino, who died on Monday at the age of 83, was a good actor. And with more than 170 film and TV credits to his name, according to IMDb, there was plenty of room for other guys.

“Actually, I’m a sculptor, a painter, a best-selling author, many, many things — a poet, an opera singer, but neither of them is a gangster…” he once told the Associated Press. “It would be nice to have my legacy as more than just a tough guy.”

So here’s a quick look at some of Sorvino’s most iconic roles. And don’t worry – not all of them are wise guys.

‘Goodfellas’ (Paul Cicero)

As the Don of the Mafia family in 1990’s “Goodfellas,” Paul “Paulie” Cicero was something of Henry Hill’s real father, if not his biological father. The late Ray Liotta’s Hill says in the film, “Paulie may have been moving slowly, but that was only because Paulie didn’t have to move for anyone.”

The same Paulie we see slicing the garlic very, very thin for the Italian dinners he and his fellow gangsters enjoy together in prison is just as convenient when ordering a hit for a longtime associate.

“Law and Order” (Sgt. Phil Cerreta)

“I’ve been on a couple of TV shows where the quality didn’t hold up after the pilot,” Sorvino told The Times in 1991 when he was trying to replace George Dzundza on the second season of NBC’s Law & Order. “The quality of this one seemed clear to me and I’m in for the run of the show.”

But he was only on the show for 31 episodes partnering Chris Noth’s Det. Mike Logan before being replaced by Jerry Orbach’s Det. Lenny Briscoe. It doesn’t matter – Cerreta lives on in repetitions. Lots of reps.

“Nixon” (Henry Kissinger)

Sorvino as Kissinger? Henry Kissinger?

The actor portrayed the former US Secretary of State “in an uncanny way,” according to the New York Times. But Sorvino told Charlie Rose in 1995 that he never thought he would get the part. At 6ft 3 he was too tall, he thought, and no one would let him escape the “Scorsesean mafia don aura” he created for “Goodfellas”.

But Oliver Stone directed Nixon, and the actor said: “When Oliver decided I should play it, even though I was a fair bit taller than Dr. Kissinger, he knew I could play it, he knew I would play it, he knew I would give anything for it. That was it.”

“This Championship Season” (Phil Romano)

Sorvino had a long history with “That Championship Season,” first appearing in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play – his big break as an actor – that became the disappointing 1985 motion picture, directed by playwright Jason Miller.

Years later, Sorvino directed his own version of the story for Showtime, swapping the role of two-faced 1957 Fillmore High School basketball team member Romano for coach Spinel and wowing Miller.

“I wanted to see the author’s work properly filmed,” Sorvino told The Times in 1999.

Five men in suits pose together in a gymnasium in a scene from a film

Paul Sorvino (left), Terry Kinney, Vincent D’Onofrio, Gary Sinise and Tony Shalhoub celebrate the 20th anniversary of their characters’ winning the state championship in the Sorvino-directed remake of 1999’s That Championship Season.

(Michael Garland / Showtime)

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-07-25/paul-sorvino-famous-roles More than a mobster: A look at Paul Sorvino’s best roles

Sarah Ridley

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