Paul Sorvino Dead at 83 | Playbill

Obituaries Paul Sorvino Dead at 83

The Tony nominee was a respected actor, director, and activist.

Tony nominee Paul Sorvino passed away July 25. He was 83.

Known for his frequent appearances as mafioso types on screen, Mr. Sorvino cultivated a more law abiding persona onstage. In the span of one year, Mr. Sorvino appeared in three Broadway productions, making his Broadway debut in the musical Bajour as a patrolman, which was quickly followed by Officer Lynch in Mating Dance, and Francesco in Skyscaper. 

In 1972, Mr. Sorvino starred in the Pulitzer-winning play That Championship Season, garnering a Tony nomination and winning the Drama Desk award for Outstanding Performance. Mr. Sorvino replicated his performance onscreen in the 1982 film adaptation, and later directed and acted in a 1999 television adaptation of the work. He continued to work in proximity to the stage through the 1970s, including a stint as a Broadway director for Wheelbarrow Closers in 1976, the same year he joined the company of The Baker's Wife following the exit of original star Topol opposite Patti LuPone.

By the 1980s, Mr. Sorvino had transitioned to the screen, portraying Italian-American communist Louis C. Fraina in Warren Beatty's film Reds, a reclusive militia leader in Larry Cohen's horror film The Stuff, and Officer Ike Porter in The Oldest Rookie. In 1991, Mr. Sorvino began his tenure as Sergeant Phil Cerreta on the long running procedural Law & Order. Mr. Sorvino portrayed the no nonsense sergeant for 29 episodes before the character was shot in the line of duty, where he was replaced by fellow Broadway favorite Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe. 

In 1990, Mr. Sorvino delivered the performance for which he is most often remembered, as Paul Cicero in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. So great was the impact that Mr. Sorvino soon became indelibly linked with Italian mob–related characters on screen, playing mob bosses Eddie Valentine in The Rocketeer, and Tony Morolto in The Firm. His additional film credits include The Day of the Dolphin, The Gambler, Cruising, Bulworth, Romeo + Juliet, The Cooler, NixonRepo! The Genetic Opera, and Mambo Italiano.

Mr. Sorvino founded the Paul Sorvino Asthma Foundation in 1993, and lobbied both Congress and the Senate to pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. The Sorvino family run a private horse rescue in Gilbert, Pennsylvania, and Mr. Sorvino's bronze sculpture of That Championship Season playwright Jason Miller is on public display in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

In his later years, Mr. Sorvino was an familiar figure on television screens, appearing on Moonlighting, Murder, She Wrote, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Elementary, The Goldberg, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, and Godfather of Harlem. A lover of opera and Broadway standards, he released an album, Paul Sorvino Sings, in 1996. In 2009, he returned to the stage to play Tony in the New York City Opera production of The Most Happy Fella. His final onstage appearance was in Nick Kroll and John Mulaney's Oh, Hello, where he appeared as the special guest during their 'Too Much Tuna' segment.

Mr. Sorvino is survived by his wife Dee Dee, his children Mira, Amanda and Michael, and five grandchildren.


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