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The World Loses Another Legendary Fictional Mobster: Paul Sorvino of 'Goodfellas' is Dead at Age 83

Source - Paul Sorvino, the burly character actor who made a career out of playing forceful types, most notably the coldhearted mobster Paulie Cicero in Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas, has died. He was 83.

Sorvino, the father of Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), died Monday of natural causes, his wife, Dee Dee, announced.

“Our hearts are broken, there will never be another Paul Sorvino, he was the love of my life and one of the greatest performers to ever grace the screen and stage,” she said. ...

During a solid career that spanned a half-century, Sorvino portrayed James Caan’s bookie inThe Gambler (1974), Claire Danes’ pushy father in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (1996), Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995) and a strung-out heroin addict in The Cooler (2003).

He played a founder of the American Communist Party in Warren Beatty’s Reds (1981) and worked alongside the actor-director again in Dick Tracy (1990), Bulworth (1998) and Rules Don’t Apply (2016).

First Ray "Henry Hill" Liotta. Then Tony "Paulie Walnuts" Sirico. It seems like just a couple of years ago (actually it was nine) that we lost James "Tony Soprano" Gandolfini. Now it's Paul Sorvino. The fact so many actors who made their careers giving unforgettable portrayals of mobsters have died recently is obviously sad. But also speaks to the impact a great antihero can have on us. I suppose it's possible to make great fiction about a humble, noble person who obeys all the rules and never does anything wrong. But as human beings, we're wired to be fascinated by the gangster. 

As the Liotta character puts it about the Robert DeNiro character in Goodfellas, "Jimmy was the kind of guy who rooted for the bad guys in the movies." To some extent, we're all Jimmy. And there have been precious few bad guys you rooted for like you did Paul Sorvino's Paul Cicero. Right from the moment we get the background on him in Hill's voiceover, and realize with some great non-verbal acting how much power and influence he has by the fact he doesn't have to show it:

To the way he takes control over a restaurant without lifting a finger (cued to the 1:25 mark):

To the iconic prison cooking scene. For 30 years now, not a man, woman or child among us has cooked with garlic without thinking of Paulie's "wonderful system for doing the garlic":

To the heartbreaking last time we see him, when Henry - whom he treated like a son - has betrayed him. And Paulie turns his back on him, figuratively and literally: 

I suppose it's not fair to sum up a 50 year career with one role. After all, the man has 172 credits on his IMDb page. Actors notoriously hate being associated with only one piece of work. But it's not always an insult. Not when you've gifted to the world such an indelible character of your own creation. A transcendent piece of cinematic art that will last forever. And the impression Sorvino always gave off was that he embraced it. 

I hesitate to make value judgments on what kind of a human being a celebrity is, because you never know. When you act for a living, you can act like a decent person while being the furthest thing from it. But there's one moment from Sorvino's life I don't think even he was talented enough to fake. When his daughter won an Oscar. This daugther:

And this was his reaction:

Yeah, he was a talented actor. But no one could pull this off it wasn't genuine. Just a dad proud of his daughter as she gets a major award, following in his footsteps. Just an all time great awards show moment. 

So RIP to yet another one we've lost after they've given us a piece of fiction that will outlive us all. Now if the universe could please take a break from stealing out best mobster actors from us, it would be appreciated. Sincerely, the human race.