In 1972, Spinell made his debut in movies with a small role in the highly acclaimed movie, ‘The Godfather.’ In this, he performed as mafia help, ‘Willie Cicci,’ who worked for the ‘Corleone’ family. Though the character was insignificant, Spinell was noticed by the director of the movie, Francis Ford Coppola. In 1974, he reprised the character in the sequel, ‘The Godfather Part II.’
In 1975, Spinell performed in a small role as ‘Mr. Coleson,’ a Native American cowboy, in the contemporary western film, ‘Rancho Deluxe.’ In the same year, he performed as ‘Nick,’ in the crime thriller movie, ‘Farewell, My Lovely.’ It was based on a novel of the same name. Spinell was seen as ‘Ollie Slatt,’ in the movie, ’92 in the Shade.’ He played a supporting character in the TV series, ‘Strike Force’ too.
In 1976, Joe Spinell performed in a supporting role in another classic movie, ‘Rocky.’ It had Sylvester Stallone in the title role, and told the story of a professional boxer. In the movie, Spinell performed as ‘Tony Gazzo,’ who was the employer of the protagonist. After the movie, Spinell and Stallone became close friends.
In 1978, Spinell performed in minor roles in movies such as ‘Nunzio,’ ‘Paradise Alley,’ and ‘Big Wednesday.’ In the same year, he performed as ‘Mike Abatino,’ in the crime movie, ‘The One Man Jury.’ Due to his sturdy frame, Spinell was offered the roles of cops, thugs, or underworld helps. In 1979, Spinell reprised the character, ‘Tony Gazzo,’ for the movie, ‘Rocky II.’
In 1980, Joe Spinell performed in the first lead role of his career. He performed as the protagonist, ‘Frank Zito,’ in the movie, ‘Maniac.’ Spinell was also the co-writer of the movie. It told the story of man who was abused his mother during his childhood days, and grew up to become a serial killer. Due to the presence of extreme violence, the movie was released with the tag, ‘For Adults Only.’
In 1982, Spinell performed in the lead role in the movie, ‘The Last Horror Film.’ It was a horror comedy movie directed by David Winters. In the movie, Spinell performed as ‘Vinny Durand,’ a taxi driver in New York City, who was obsessed with a horror movie actress. The movie is about the attempts made by ‘Vinny,’ to direct a movie with his favorite actress in the lead role.
In 1983, Spinell performed as a corrupt lawyer, ‘Eisenberg,’ in the movie, ‘Vigilante.’ He performed as a U.S. Customs policeman, in the comedy movie, ‘Losin’ It.’ The movie had Tom Cruise in the lead role. In 1985, Spinell performed as the main villain, ‘Brusstar,’ in the crime movie, ‘Walking the Edge.’
In 1986, Joe Spinell was seen in the supporting role as ‘Max Caldwell,’ in the movie, ‘Hollywood Harry.’ His character was a friend and business partner to the protagonist of the movie. In the same year, he appeared in small roles in movies such as ‘The Whoopee Boys,’ and ‘The Messenger.’ From 1986 to 1987, Spinell performed in a few episodes of the TV series, ‘Night Heat.’
In 1988, Spinell performed in the last lead role of his life. He was cast as an undertaker, ‘Roscoe,’ in the horror movie, ‘The Undertaker.’ It told the story of a mortician who murdered women for his personal use. Though the movie was completed in 1988, it was not released to theaters. In 2010, an edited version of the movie was released for DVD.
Family & Personal Life
Joe Spinell was married to Jean Jennings, who was a star in adult movies. They were married in 1977, and had one daughter. The couple parted ways in 1979.
Spinell was an alcoholic, and relied heavily on drugs too. He suffered from hemophilia. On January 13, 1989, Spinell had a fall in his bathtub, and cut himself very badly. Instead of calling for help, he dozed off. Due to hemophilia, his bleeding did not stop. A few hours later, one of his friends found him dead, in a couch in his living room. He was buried in ‘Calvary Cemetery,’ near his home.