As reported by TMZ, actor Frank Vincent—best known for playing tough guy mafia characters in Goodfellas and The Sopranos—has died. He reportedly suffered a heart attack last week and was undergoing open-heart surgery today, but he died from complications during the operation. Vincent was 78.
Born in Massachusetts but raised in New Jersey, Vincent originally wanted to have a career in music but switched to acting when he got a role in a low-budget mob movie called The Death Collector alongside another up-and-coming actor named Joe Pesci. Apparently, Robert De Niro saw that movie and showed it to Martin Scorsese, who was impressed with both Vincent and Pesci. He gave them both roles in Raging Bull, and Vincent would appear in films alongside Pesci a number of other times throughout his career—perhaps most notably in Goodfellas and Casino, both Scorsese movies.
Vincent also appeared in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever, as well as The Pope Of Greenwich Village, Wise Guys, and Shark Tale. One of his most notable roles, though, was on HBO’s The Sopranos, where he played crime boss Phil Leotardo. A regular thorn in the side of James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano, Vincent’s New York mobster was one of the show’s primary antagonists by the end of its run.