Heavy-set character actor Paul Sorvino is widely remembered for playing mob boss
Pauly Cicero in Martin Scorsese's highly acclaimed Goodfellas (1990). The
veteran actor, the father of actress Mira Sorvino, has made almost 100 film
appearances since 1970, including Slow Dancing In The Big City (1978), Reds
(1981), That Championship Season (1982), Dick Tracy (1990), Nixon (1995), Romeo
+ Juliet (1996), Warren Beatty's political satire Bulworth (1998), The Cooler
(2003) and Mr. 3000 (2004). On TV, his credits include a recurring role as Det.
Sgt. Philip "Phil" Cerreta (1991-1992) on the award-winning “Law and Order” and
as Frank DeLucca, Ellen Burstyn's husband, in the CBS series "That's Life"
On stage, Sorvino received a 1973 Tony nomination and won a Drama Desk Award for
his Broadway performance in "That Championship Season." The accomplished tenor
also has sung with the Seattle Opera Company and created a public television
special, Paul Sorvino, An Evening of Song.
The 6' 4" tall, commanding-looking Italian-American actor, who was ranked #10 on
Tropopkin's Top 25 “Most Intriguing People” (Issue #100), will soon be seen in
the upcoming films Last of the Mustangs and Greetings from the Shore. He is also
set to play roles in Giovanni's Song, The Real Catch, and Rites of Winter (Sorvino
Childhood and Family:
Italian-American, of Neapolitan descent (Naples, Italy) Paul Anthony Sorvino was
born on April 13, 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. He has a brother named Bill
Sorvino. In his teenage years, Sorvino attended Lafayette High School, Brooklyn,
New York and continued his study on scholarship at American Musical and Dramatic
Academy, New York, New York, where he graduated in 1962.
Sorvino has been married and divorced twice. His first wife was Lorraine Davis,
from whom he has three children: daughters Mira Sorvino (actress; born in 1964)
and Amanda Sorvino (screenwriter; born in 1971), and a son named Michael Sorvino.
Paul and Lorraine divorced in 1988. On March 20, 1991, Sorvino married Vanessa
Arico, but this marriage also ended in divorce in 1996. As of March 2006,
Sorvino resides in Gilbert, Pennsylvania.
The fluent Italian actor, who has severe asthma, had his budding career
threatened when asthma compromised his ability to talk and sing. But the
breathing exercises he learned thirty years ago have allowed him to breathe
normally ever since. He later started the Sorvino Asthma Foundation. He also
founded the Dogfellas Dog Adoption organization in February of 2002 with his
family, based in Manhattan and Pennsylvania.
Sorvino is not only film and TV actor. He is also an enthusiastic opera singer,
painter, sculptor and cook.
That Championship Season
16-year-old Paul Sorvino was trained to be a dance instructor at an Arthur
Murray studio but was fired for being underage and later sang at charity events
and on the Catskills circuit as "The Romantic Voice of Val Sorvino" in his early
20s. He then found job as a copywriter in an advertising agency, where he worked
with the soon-to-be-great John Margeotes, founder of Margeotes, Fertitta, and
Meanwhile, he took voice lessons, and after 18 years learning, he decided to go
into the theatre. He made his Broadway debut as a gypsy in the short-lived 1964
musical “Bajour.” Six years later, he appeared in his first film, director Carl
Reiner's adaptation of Robert Klane's novel, the comedy Where's Poppa? (1970;
starring George Segal and Ruth Gordon). The next year, he appeared alongside Al
Pacino for the first time in Jerry Schatzberg's romantic drama based on James
Mills' book, The Panic in Needle Park.
In 1972, Sorvino had a breakthrough stage role as Phil Romano in the
Pulitzer-winning Broadway play "That Championship Season," written by Jason
Miller. The role brought Sorvino a Tony nomination for Best Actor (Dramatic).
That same year, Sorvino originated character of Sgt. Burt Deangelo in an episode
of ABC's "The Streets of San Francisco" and had supporting role in Melvin
Frank's Oscar-nominated romantic comedy A Touch of Class (1973; opposite George
Segal and Glenda Jackson).
TV viewers saw Sorvino as Earl of Gloucester in the TV movie version of William
Shakespeare's play, King Lear (1974) and starred as George Platt, a lawyer who
lives with his family in a middle-class neighborhood in a New Jersey suburb, in
Alan Alda's short-lived sitcom "We'll Get By" (1975; CBS). He also played
maverick San Francisco cop Bert D'Angelo again in ABC’s action-packed series
"Bert D'Angelo/Superstar" (1976).
Back on stage, Sorvino replaced Topol in the role of the baker in the stage
musical "The Baker's Wife" (1977) and toured with show in Boston and Washington,
DC. It was scheduled to open on Broadway but closed out of town. In 1978,
Sorvino had a rare feature lead as a journalist who falls in love with a
ballerina in John G. Avildsen's romantic musical drama, Slow Dancing in the Big
City. Afterward, he played a hearing-impaired lawyer appointed to defend a deaf
and dumb young man accused of murder in the fact-based CBS movie Dummy (1979).
During the new decade, Sorvino could be seen portraying Louis Fraina in Warren
Beatty's Oscar-winning political drama Reds (1981; also starring Diane Keaton)
and reprised his stage role as Phil Romano in its 1982 film version, directed by
Jason Miller. He also had his first screen teaming with Ellen Burstyn on ABC’s
drama movie about teen suicide, Surviving (1985), and played Bruce Willis'
father in a 1986 episode of the weekly series “Moonlighting.”
Entering the 1990s, Sorvino reteamed with Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, playing
Lips Manlis, in the Oscar-winning Dick Tracy. The film, which also featured
Madonna and Dustin Hoffman, is based upon the comic strip character of the famed
detective hero with the same name. Sorvino then once again teamed up with Pacino,
portraying one of his best screen roles as mob boss Paul Cicero, in Martin
Scorsese's Oscar-winning film, Goodfellas. The film, which stars Robert De Niro,
Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci, is based on the true-story book "Wiseguy" by Nicholas
Being asked what he thought of Goodfellas (1990) when it first came out in 1990,
Sorvino said: "I thought it was boring, excessively violent and not a good
movie. I thought I was boring, I thought that I had hurt my career, I thought
that this movie should not have been made and it's not a good movie." He then
said three hours later after thinking more about it, "Do you know, I'm kind of
coming through a clearing here and I'm thinking that's not a boring movie,
that's a good movie, that's a great movie maybe, and I'm really good in it!"
The next year, Sorvino spent one season playing Det. Sgt. Philip “Phil” Cerreta
on the long-running NBC cop drama series "Law & Order." On why he left the
popular series in 1992, Sorvino said: "One of the frustrating things about that
role - one of the reasons George Dzundza left, I assume, and certainly why I
left - is that there wasn't enough range...It wasn't a large enough vehicle for
me to express what it was I want to express as an artist."
Sorvino continued to his film acting resume with such films as Oliver Stone's
Nixon (1995; as Henry Kissinger), Baz Luhrmann's take on William Shakespeare's
Romeo + Juliet (1996; as Fulgencio Capulet) and Joseph Bologna and Renée
Taylor's comedy Love Is All There Is (1996; as the father of Angelina Jolie’s
character). He also reunited with Beatty, playing a platinum-haired lobbyist in
the political drama comedy Bulworth (1998). Meanwhile, TV viewers could catch
him portraying New York Yankees manager Joe Torre in the Showtime biopic Joe
Torre: Curveballs Along the Way (1997) and making his directorial debut with
Showtime remake of That Championship Season (1999), in which he also starred as
In the new millennium, Sorvino went back to TV series as Frank DeLucca, Ellen
Burstyn's husband, in the CBS drama comedy "That's Life” (2000-2002) and
costarred as Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo in Showtime’s fact-based movie The
Thin Blue Lie. He also portrayed the principal who must fire a teacher who
provides his students with the answers to a local competition in HBO movie
Cheaters and had a featured role in Nicolas Cage vehicle Family Man. Afterward,
he was seen in the improvisational parody Perfume and appeared in The Cooler,
alongside Alec Baldwin, William H. Macy and Maria Bello.
In 2004, Sorvino was cast opposite Bernie Mac and Angela Bassett, playing
baseball manager Gus Panas, in Charles Stone III's comedy Mr. 3000. In July that
same year, he was awarded the "Premio per gli Italiani nel Mondo" at a ceremony
in Rome. The prize is distributed by the Marzio Tremaglia Foundation and the
Italian government to Italian emigrants and their descendants who have
distinguished themselves abroad.
More recently, Sorvino just completed his new film, Craig Clyde-directed drama
Last of the Mustangs (starring Danielle Chuchran and Miranda Cosgrove) and will
soon finish Greg Chwerchak's upcoming romantic drama comedy Greetings from the
Shore. He is also set to play roles in the romantic musical comedy Giovanni's
Song and director Benjamin Louis' thriller The Real Catch. Additionally, Sorvino
is expected to direct and star in a new drama film called Rites of Winter, and
reportedly plans to start filming his own movie, The Trouble with Cali, in late
November 2006 in Scranton, although preproduction and casting will start shortly
in New York.
Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award,
Drama Desk: Outstanding Performance, That Championship Season, 1972