Who is Joe Pesci?
Joe Pesci is an American actor and musician who came to limelight after working in Martin Scorsese’s movie, Raging Bull, together with Robert De Niro. The trio went on to work together in three other acclaimed films– Goodfellas, Casino and The Irishman. He received a BAFTA for Raging Bull and an Academy Award for Goodfellas. His other notable works include Lethal Weapon 2 and its two sequels, Home Alone and its sequel, My Cousin Vinny, and Once Upon a Time in America. Joe Pesci began his career as a child artist working on stage and then turned towards music and released his first album. After working in numerous films and releasing his second album, he retired in 1999. Since then, he has returned to work in three films, the most prominent of which is the 2019 epic crime film The Irishman which once again bagged him numerous awards and nominations at the prestigious Academy Awards, BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards.
Childhood & Early Life
Joe Pesci was born on 9 February 1943, in an Italian-American family in Newark, New Jersey. His mother, Maria, was a part-time barber while his father, Angelo Pesci, was employed in multiple blue-collar jobs. He and his two siblings grew up in in Belleville, New Jersey where he attended the Belleville High School.
A teenaged Pesci was friends with singers Frankie Valli and Tommy DeVito. He introduced the two to the singer and songwriter, Bob Gaudio, which eventually resulted in the formation of the internationally successful rock band The Four Seasons.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Joe Pesci began appearing on New York stage productions at the young age of five and by the time, he was ten years old, he performed regularly on a television variety show called Startime Kids that aired on New York's WNBT (now WNBC) from 1950 to 1955.
As a teenager, he lost interest in acting and turned his attention towards a career in music. He began playing guitar in a string of pop and rock acts, most significantly for Joey Dee and the Starliters which led to his first feature film appearance (an uncredited one) as an extra in the musical Hey, Let's Twist! in 1961.
In 1968, he went solo and released his debut album Little Joe Sure Can Sing! as Joe Ritchie. However, the album was not successful.
He then formed a comedy duo – Vincent and Pesci – along with Frank Vincent and the two together performed songs and comedy acts in clubs all around North Jersey between 1970 and 1976. In 1975, they were also seen on the short-lived Broadway show The New Vaudevillians.
In 1976, he debuted in films with the low-budget crime drama film The Death Collector as Joe Salvino. Though his performance in the film drew positive reviews, further work did not come.
Joe Pesci returned to New York and took up a job as a manager at an Italian restaurant, Amici, in the Bronx. However, his performance did not go entirely unnoticed. Robert Di Niro, who had seen his performance, was impressed enough to recommend him to director Martin Scorsese for the biopic film of boxer Jake LaMotta.
Scorsese cast Pesci in the role of cool-headed brother and manager – Joey LaMotta – of boxer Jake La Motta (played by De Niro) for the 1980 film Raging Bull.
Joe Pesci’s performance brought him tremendous positive responses from critics and audience and a BAFTA for Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles. He also won nominations in the best supporting actor category at both Golden Globe and Academy Awards.
Post the film’s massive success, he went on to work in numerous other films in the 1980s. These included another biographical film I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can, the German musical Dear Mr. Wonderful (both 1982), the thriller drama Eureka and the comedy Easy Money (both 1983).
Continue Reading Below
Joe Pesci also starred an epic crime drama Once Upon a Time in America (with De Niro, 1984), the Italian comedy Everybody in Jail (Tutti dentro, 1984), another action thriller Man on Fire (1987), Michael Jackson’s musical anthology Moonwalker and drama The Legendary Life of Ernest Hemingway (both 1988).
In between, in 1985, he was also seen in NBC’s short lived detective comedy drama series Half Nelson.
In 1989, he starred in the hit buddy cop action film Lethal Weapon 2 together with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. His portrayal of con man Leo Getz showcased his comic skills and brought him a lot of popularity as well as the next two films of the series in 1992 and 1998 (wherein he reprised his role).
In 1990, he was roped in to play the violent-tempered mobster Tommy DeVito in Scorsese’s directed biographical crime film Goodfellas. Pesci received widespread acclaim for his performance and bagged the best supporting actor award at the 1991 Academy Awards together with numerous other awards at various other award function.
In the same year, in the blockbuster comedy movie Home Alone, he essayed the role of dim-witted and bumbling burglar Harry Lyme, who along with his companion, attempts to break into a home but is prevented from doing so by a kid. A couple of years later, he reprised his role in the sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
In 1991, Joe Pesci played the role of David Ferrie in director Oliver Stone’s controversial epic political thriller film JFK and the following year appeared in the title role of Vincent LaGuardia Gambini in the hit comedy My Cousin Vinny. The latter film has achieved cult status.
In 1992, he also appeared in the crime thriller film The Public Eye wherein his performance as Leon Bernzy Bernstein, a photographer earned critical appreciation. The same year, he hosted an episode of the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live and acted in the horror anthology television series Tales from the Crypt.
In 1993, Joe Pesci played a small part in the coming of age crime drama film A Bronx Tale. The film was directed by and starred Robert De Niro, who Pesci once again teamed up with in 1995 for Scorsese epic Las Vegas movie Casino. The latter film where he played a deranged gangster Nicky once again got him praises.
During the 1990s, he also appeared in several other films that did not create any magic at the box office. These include The Super, Jimmy Hollywood, With Honors, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag and Gone Fishin'.
In 1998, he turned his attention from acting to music and released his second album Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You; however, it was not a success.
After this, Pesci largely retired from acting but returned occasionally for some projects. He played a cameo role in the De Niro directed 2006 spy film Good Shepherd and in 2010, starred in the comedy drama film The Love Ranch.
In 2019, he once again collaborated with De Niro and Scorsese for the latter’s epic crime film The Irishman (2019). His portrayal of low-key but powerful Pennsylvania crime boss, Russell Bufalino, bagged him critical praise as well as nominations and wins at various award functions. The same year, he also released his third studio album Pesci... Still Singing.
Family & Personal Life
Joe Pesci married thrice but all three ended in divorce. He has a daughter from his first marriage and another daughter – model Tiffany Pesci – from his third marriage to model and actress Claudia Haro.