Actor Frank Vincent, a staple of numerous classic mob films and television shows over the years, passed away on Wednesday at 80 after suffering a heart attack the week before. Most will recognize Vincent from his role as mob boss Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos, but his roles in the films of Martin Scorsese likely rate a little higher and placed him directly against Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci on the big screen. Playing Billy Batts in Goodfellas and the film version of Frank Cullotta in Casino helped cement his “wiseguy” status and his career is owed to Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro when the latter brought him and Pesci on board for Raging Bull.
This is made even clearer through Scorsese’s statement on the late actor’s career. In a written statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Scorsese shares his thoughts on Vincent and how he managed to build his career on film with an ease that would make some actors jealous:
“Frank Vincent was someone I could count on. He was a natural who was at ease in front of the camera — on a set or on a stage. He made it look easy in all respects. He was genuine…
“We worked together on three pictures, each time with his old partner Joe Pesci, and I always marveled at his genius for improvisation. He was a hard-working actor, he understood the world we were portraying so well that he really didn’t appear to be acting at all.
“I will always marvel at his artistry, and consider myself lucky to have had the chance to work with him and to know him,”
Before appearing in Raging Bull, Vincent made his debut on screen with Joe Pesci as gangsters in the film The Death Collector and caught DeNiro’s eye with their performances. Before that, Vincent and Pesci were hoping to make it as musicians and carried a look that honestly should’ve stuck around for quite a while:
We could’ve easily gotten a classy musical career from these two, though it wasn’t exactly a crime that we got a memorable acting career instead.
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)