Joseph Frank "Joe" Pesci (born February 9, 1943) is an American actor, comedian, and musician. He is known for playing a variety of different roles, from violent mobsters to comedic leads to quirky sidekicks. Pesci has starred in a number of high profile films including Goodfellas, Casino, Raging Bull, Once Upon a Time in America, My Cousin Vinny, JFK, Home Alone, and the Lethal Weapon series. He took a six year hiatus from acting between 1999 and 2005 before returning for a cameo in The Good Shepherd (2006).
In 1990, Pesci won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the psychopathic mobster Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, ten years after receiving a nomination in the same category for Raging Bull.
Pesci was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Mary, who worked part-time as a barber, and Angelo Pesci, a forklift driver for General Motors and bartender. Pesci was raised in Belleville, New Jersey and attended Belleville High School. By the time Pesci was five years old, he was appearing in plays in New York. A few years later, at age ten, he was a regular on a television variety show called Startime Kids, which also featured Connie Francis. He started out working as a barber in the 1960s, following in his mother's footsteps.
The first film he starred in was the 1975 low budget crime film The Death Collector with Frank Vincent. After the film Pesci returned to run his restaurant in The Bronx, Pesci then got a phone call from Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro who were impressed with his performance in the film and asked him to co-star in a 1980 film with Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull. Pesci won the BAFTA Award for Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles in 1981 and was nominated an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Subsequently, he performed with De Niro in the films Once Upon a Time in America, and in Scorsese's Goodfellas (for which Pesci received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, in 1990), and Casino. He also had small role in 1993's A Bronx Tale and 2007's The Good Shepherd, which were both directed by and starred De Niro.
The pairing became famous enough to inspire a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live (SNL) called "The Joe Pesci Show". (The real Pesci and De Niro made a surprise appearance in one episode.) Pesci hosted SNL on October 10, 1992. During the monologue, he restored a picture of Pope John Paul II, which had been torn by Sinead O'Connor on the previous broadcast; he demonstrated this by tearing up a photo of O'Connor, which was met with huge applause.
In 1988, Pesci co-starred with pop singer Michael Jackson in the musical-fantasy film Moonwalker as the film's antagonist, Frankie "Mr. Big" LiDeo (an anagram for one of the film's producers and longtime Jackson manager Frank DiLeo. In the film, Pesci was featured in the fifth and final segment, a short movie called Smooth Criminal, which was based on Michael Jackson's song of the same name.
He later co-starred in the blockbuster Home Alone (1990), playing Harry Lyme; one of two bumbling burglars (along with good friend Daniel Stern), who attempt to rob the house of the character played by Macaulay Culkin. Two years later, he reprised his role in the sequel.
Pesci also played David Ferrie in 1991's JFK and the title character in the 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny. He appeared as Leo Getz in the Lethal Weapon sequels, released in 1989, 1992 and 1998 respectively.
He had starring roles in several other films including Easy Money (1983), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Man on Fire (1987), The Super (1991), Jimmy Hollywood (1994), With Honors (also 1994) and Gone Fishin' (1997).
Other work and retirement from acting
In the late 1970s, Joe teamed up with Frankie Vincent, performing in local clubs like the Arlington Lounge and other venues around Northern NJ as "Vincent and Pesci." The comedy duo's material was a play on Martin and Lewis and Abbott and Costello.
He is one of the producers of the hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys. The musical is based on the lives of the musical group, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Pesci was present during the formation of the group as a young man and is portrayed as a character in the play.
In 1998, he released his second LP (his first album in 30 years) called Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You, which spawned the single "Wise Guy", a rap tune that played on the gangsta theme by referencing Mafia gangsterism. "Wise Guy" interpolated the 1980 Hip-Hop hit "Rapture" by Blondie and was co-written and produced by Poke & Tone—the Hip-Hop production team better known as Trackmasters, who first musically introduced the world to 50 Cent. Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just For You was an album that was both humorous and serious, exploring a variety of genres, though most of it was big band Jazz, and which paid homage to his character name from the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny, not only through its album title, but also by its lead track "Yo Cousin Vinny".
In 1999, Pesci announced his retirement from acting to pursue a musical career and to enjoy life away from the camera. He returned to acting when he did a cameo in De Niro's 2006 film The Good Shepherd. He is the star in the 2010 brothel drama Love Ranch, alongside Helen Mirren. Pesci appeared in a 2011 Snickers advertisement in which he attended a party and becomes agitated by two women.
Pesci was married to Claudia Martha Haro from 1988 to 1992. He has a daughter, Tiffany, from this marriage. In July 2007, Pesci, then 64, became engaged to actress/model Angie Everhart, who was 37 at the time. However, according to Everhart, they were never actually engaged. They announced their breakup in April 2008.