Oscar-winning actor, comedian and singer Joe Pesci, who is frequently typecast as a violent hoodlum or crabby funnyman, acquired worldwide recognition and acclaim for his spectacular, scene-stealing turn as sadistic thug Tommy DeVito in the highly successful biopic film by renowned director Martin Scorsese titled Goodfellas (1990), starring Robert De Niro, wherein he was handed an Academy Award, a Chicago Film Critics Association award and a Boston Society of Film Critics Award. Before the success, the ex-child performer and nightclub entertainer made a name for himself in the cinematic industry with his Academy Award-nominated, supporting performance as Joey LaMotta in Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980), which also starred De Niro. For his bravura acting, he picked up a BAFTA award, a National Society of Film Critics award and a National Board of Review award. The trio rejoined in 1995 for the film Casino.
Aside from the rewarding teamwork with Scorsese and De Niro, Pesci is also well-remembered as Brooklyn attorney Vincent Gambini in the 1992 surprise hit comedy My Cousin Vinny, in which he was garnered an American Comedy award. He gained further popularity for playing roles in such box office hits as Mel Gibson’s vehicle Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) and its sequel in 1992 and in 1998, Home Alone and its continuation in 1992 and the Oliver Stone-helmed JFK (1991).
As music, Pesci, under the name Joe Ritchie, launched his debut album, Little Joe Sure Can Sing, in the mid ‘60s. He also played the guitar for the pop band Joey Dee & the Starliters and sang with partner Frank Vincent and the Aristocrats. After several years off from the music scene, in 1998, he withdrew from the cinematic industry to give music another try, but he currently is set to re-embark in film with a role in the upcoming The Good Shepherd (2006).
Off screen, Joe Pesci, who earned $ 3,000,000 for Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), is a passionate golfer. As for his private life, 5’ 5” tall Pesci has been married three times. He married first wife Marti, with whom he shares a daughter named Tiffany Pesci, but they later divorced. His second marriage also ended up in divorce and he later married wife Martha Haro. Unfortunately, the couple filed for divorce in 1992.
Star Time Kids
Childhood and Family:
Born Joseph Pesci, on February 9, 1943, in Newark, New Jersey, Joe Pesci was raised in the Bronx by father Angelo Pesci, a forklift driver and bartender, and mother Mary Pesci. He has an older sister named Louise Pesci. As a child, he found he had a knack for acting and began performing in radio plays at age 4. By the time he was 10, Pesci had been recruited as a regular in the TV variety program “Star Time Kids.”
Joe Pesci has been married three times. He first tied the knot with first wife Marti, but they later separated. The couple has a daughter named Tiffany Pesci. Before marrying Martha Haro, whom he met at an Easter brunch in 1988, he divorced his second wife. Unfortunately, his relationship with third wife Haro also ended in divorce in 1992.
American-Italian Joe Pesci has been acting ever since he was a little boy. At age 4, he began his career on a radio program and was in Broadway musicals and Eddie Dowling plays by the time he was 5. Five years later, he broke into television as a regular on a television variety program called “Star Time Kids.” As a teenager, Pesci began his film career as an extra in the Joey Dee film, Hey, Let’s Twist (1961), but left the business to pursue a career in music. In the mid ‘60s, under the stage name Joe Ritchie, he released a debut album titled Little Joe Sure Can Sing. He also worked as a guitarist for the pop band Joey Dee & the Starliters, and sang with partner Frank Vincent and the Aristocrats. The two later formed a nightclub comedy act that played the Jersey shore in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Also in the late ‘60s, Pesci made his return to film with a small role in the 1969 comedy Out of It, where he played Michael. He didn’t appear again in film until 1976 when director Ralph De Vito landed him a larger role in the low budget gangster yarn The Death Collector, which starred Joseph Cortese and Lou Criscuolo. Just like many other struggling actors, Pesci, who arrived in Los Angeles in 1976, found trouble gaining work. He had to take a number of odds jobs like barber, postal clerk, produce manager, delivery boy, letter carrier and pickup truck driver to support himself. Disappointed with his career, he decided to put acting on the back burner and moved back to New York to manage a restaurant.
In was in New York Pesci got a call from director Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, who were impressed by his work on Death Collector, and the rest was history. Teaming up with De Niro in Scorsese’s boxing film Raging Bull (1980), Pesci offered a scene-stealing turn as Joey LaMotta, a role that won him international recognition with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Additionally, he also took home a BAFTA for Most Outstanding Newcomer in a Leading Film Role, a National Society of Film Critics and a National Board of Review for Best Supporting Actor. The film itself has often been hailed as the best American film of the eighties.
Following Raging Bull’s success, Pesci became a regular in films. He had roles in I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can (1982), Dear Mr. Wonderful (1982), the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Easy Money (1983), Everybody in Jail (1984), Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1984, starring De Niro and James Woods), Eureka (1984), Man on Fire (1987), The Legendary Life of Ernest Hemingway (1988) and Moonwalker (1988), but it was the 1989 hit Lethal Weapon 2, where he costarred with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, that made Pesci popular. Playing Leo Getz, a fast-talking police informant, the actor came into public awareness with his eccentric delivery of lines and his many memorable tirades. On TV, Pesci headlined his own series by starring as private investigator Rocky Nelson in “Half-Nelson” (1985). The show, however, was soon cancelled.
Pesci scored a huge success in 1990 when he rejoined Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsease for the film Goodfellas, where he was cast in the supporting role of violent mobster Tommy DeVito. The biopic film was a commercially triumphant, and as for Pesci, his performance received widespread appreciation with a Best Supporting Oscar win. Pesci further proved he was an excellent actor by nabbing the Chicago Film Critics Association award and the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor. The same year, he also enjoyed a phenomenal victory with the hit comedy Home Alone, opposite Macaulay Culkin.
Pesci followed the phenomenal success with an ill-received starring turn as Louie Kritski in The Super (1991), but he soon bounced back and cemented his position as a character actor with his small, but impressive, turn as David Ferrie in Oliver Stone’s controversial JFK (1991, starring Kevin Costner). Fortune was still in Pesci’s hand in the following year as he won an America Comedy for Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) for his brilliant starring performance as Brooklyn Lawyer Vincent Gambini in the comedy My Cousin Vinny (1992). His onscreen mockery with Marisa Tomei helped create a surprise hit with critics and audiences alike. Also in 1992, Pesci returned into his Leo Getz role for the sequel Lethal Weapon 3 and Harry Lime in the 1992 installment Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
1993-1994 saw roles in the drama A Bronx Tale (1993, along with Chazz Palminteri and Robert De Niro), Jimmy Hollywood (1994), With Honors (1994, costarred with Brendan Fraser) and All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever (1994, TV). In 1995, he re-teamed with De Niro and Martin Scorsese for the third time in Casino. After 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (1997), Gone Fishin' (1997) and Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), Pesci decided to retire from film to once again pursue his music career. The actor is scheduled to make his acting comeback in 2006 with a role in The Good Shepherd.
- American Comedy: Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role), My Cousin Vinny, 1993
- Academy Award: Best Supporting Actor, Goodfellas, 1991
- Chicago Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actor, Goodfellas, 1991
- Boston Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, Goodfellas, 1991
- BAFTA: Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Role, Raging Bull, 1982
- National Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, Raging Bull, 1981
- National Board of Review: Best Supporting Actor, Raging Bull, 1980