Paul Sorvino and David Warner both appeared in the 1997 action comedy Money Talks, but I’m not sure they appeared in the same scene together. They had both guest-starred on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sorvino and Warner both recently passed away leaving with them both an impressive resume that included many iconic movies that included Goodfellas, Tron, Titanic, The Omen, and Reds.
I first saw Sorvino in the Blake Edwards comedy A Fine Mess that got bad reviews even though I liked it. Sorvino was the son of Italian immigrants and he was often playing heavy Mafioso types, such as his role in A Fine Mess, The Rocketeer, The Firm and his most memorable role as mob boss Paul Cicero in Goodfellas. The role was based on real-life mobster Paul Vario who served as the consigliere and underboss of the Lucchese Family.
While Sorvino portrayed Cicero as a type of big uncle character, the real Vario was known for being a powerful and sometimes violent mobster. He reportedly even beat up writer Jimmy Breslin when the journalist wrote an unfavorable column about a friend of his. Sorvino requested some changes be made to the character before he accepted the role. One item left out of the movie was rumors that Vario was having sex with Karen Hill, husband of Henry HIll, while he was in the federal prison in Pennsylvania so she could get money from him.
When Paul talked to Henry (Ray Liotta) about how he doesn’t want him dealing drugs, it was Sorvino’s idea to give Liotta a little smack like he was knocking sense into him. Liotta’s reaction was geniune. Later when Henry is busted by narcotics officers, he visits Paul to ask for him. In one of the best scenes, Paul sympathetic looks at Henry and hands him a handful of money. Then he tells Henry, “Now, I got to turn my back on you.” And then he gives a slight head turn and look that reads like Paul is telling Henry, “I told you what would happen.”
This scene reminds me of the interaction between Abe Vigoda’s Sal Tessio and Robert Duvall’s Tom Hagen when it’s been discovered Tessio has turned against them. The way Duvall looks at Vigoda and says, “Can’t do it, Sally” when Tessio asks, “Can you get me off the hook, for old time’s sake?” Sorvino’s Paul is telling Henry he still likes him but this is the business they’re in and when you don’t play by the rules and listen to the bosses, they can’t help you out.
Sorvino’s passing comes just two months after Liotta passed away on May 26. Tony Siroco, who had a small role as a mobster in Goodfellas, passed away earlier this month on July 8. In March, Paul Herman, who played Henry’s Pittsburgh drug connection dealer in the movie, also passed away.
Sorvino’s performance won him a lot of opportunities in the 1990s such as playing Henry Kissinger alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins in Nixon. He was also cast as Fulgencio Capulet alongside a young Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrman’s modern adaptation Romeo + Juliet. He was also cast as a shady insurance representative in Warren Beatty’s political satire Bulworth. He also appeared as Sgt. Phil Cerreta on Law & Order.
But he was also known for having a wonderful singing voice and was an opera singer, never passing up the opportunity to sing. Here’s a clip of him singing with legendary guitarist Les Paul: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seZinuH2TT0
But Sorvino’s career wasn’t without controversy. In 1980, he appeared alongside Al Pacino in William Friedkin’s controversial Cruising. He was the NYPD supervisor who assigns Pacino’s character to go undercover in gay bars to find the killer. One of his most outrageous roles was as himself in The Jack and Triumph Show, which starred Jack McBrayer and Robert Smigel as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog who becomes infatuated with sniffing Sorvino’s pants saying he has the perfect ass smell. Whatever that means.
His daughter, Mira, went into acting as well winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Mighty Aphrodite. She thanked him especially during her speech to which he began to cry. In an August 2014 interview with Orlando Weekly, he said, “Most people think I’m either a gangster or a cop or something, but the reality is I’m a sculptor, a painter, a best-selling author, many, many things—a poet, an opera singer, but none of them is gangster, but, you know, obviously I sort of have a knack for playing these things. It’s almost my later goal in life to disabuse people of the notion that I’m a slow-moving, heavy-lidded thug, and most people’s impression of me IS that—because of the success of Goodfellas and a few other things, but they forget that I was also Dr. Kissinger in Nixon, the deaf lawyer in Dummy, and they forget a lot of things that I’ve done. It would be nice to have my legacy more than that of just tough guy.”
Sorvino passed on Monday, July 25 at the age of 83.
Warner, who passed away on Sunday, July 24 just five days before his 81st birthday once said he got into acting because he really didn’t feel he was able to do any other work. Beginning in 1962, when he appeared in small roles, he would spent the next six decades appearing on TV, in movies, on stage and even in audio dramas.
The website Imdb.com lists he has 228 acting credits. And what an impressive resume it is. He was in two Star Trek V and VI movies playing two different characters as well as appearing on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He had a crucial role in Sam Peckinpah’s controversial movie Straw Dogs alonside Dustin Hoffman. He famously lost his head in The Omen resulting in one of the most memorable death scenes ever on screen. He also played Jack the Ripper in the time-traveling movie Time After Time.
He won an Emmy for his portrayl as Pomponius Falco in Masada in 1981. And depending on who you talk to, he was considered for the role of Freddy Krueger in the 1984 horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. While some crew members say in the documentary Never Sleep Again, Warner was being considered but there was a scheduling conflict, director Wes Craven, producer Robert Shaye and even Warner himself disputed the claim. Warner said his agent may have heard of the offer but didn’t mention it, which was unethical. I also remember hearing that Warner’s salary couldn’t be met.
Either way, Warner would go on to appear in Scream 2 in 1997 working with Craven as he was the theater/drama instructor. That same year, he would appear as Spicer Lovejoy, a former Pinkerton Agent turned bodyguard/assistant for Billy Zane’s millionaire character in Titanic.
But it wasn’t all serious work. I liked him as the mad scientist Alfred Necessiter alongside Steve Martin and Kathleen Turner in the comedy The Man With Two Brains. He showed his comedic side. He was also Professor Jordan Perry in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze who during the Vanilla Ice “Ninja Rap” scene dances a little with the younger people at the club.
There’s an old saying that “An actor acts” and Warner spent a lifetime doing just that, appearing in roles left and right. There’s really way too many to name. Aside from his memorable role in Tron, he also appeared in the Planet of the Apes remake in 2001 and his last role was in Mary Poppins Returns in 2018. He also appeared as a Libertarian freedom fighter in Wild Palms.
Both actors leave behind them a legacy that can’t just be contained in a blog posting.
What is your favorite role of each actor? Please comment.