Native New Yorker and Italianate Bruno Kirby tended towards assertive, pushy, streetwise characters and was armed with a highly distinctive scratchy tenor voice that complemented his slim eyes and droopy puss and accentuated his deadpan comedic instincts on film and TV. The well-regarded character actor was born Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu on April 28, 1949, in New York City, the son of Lucille (Garibaldi) and actor Bruce Kirby. He was raised in NY’s Hell’s Kitchen section.
In the late 1960s he moved with his family to California. His career began to rev up in the early 1970s with a part in the TV pilot episode of M*A*S*H (1972) and roles in the films The Young Graduates (1971), The Harrad Experiment (1973), Cinderella Liberty (1973) and Superdad (1973). Most notable of all, however, was his featured part as Young Clemenza alongside Robert De Niro’s young Vito Corleone in The Godfather: Part II (1974). Bruno also played Richard S. Castellano’s son in the short-lived ethnic sitcom The Super (1972). Coincidentally, Castellano played older Clemenza in the original The Godfather (1972).
On stage in the 1980s and 1990s, Bruno appeared in “On the Money” (1983) and “Geniuses” (1985) and later replaced Kevin Spacey on Broadway in “Lost in Yonkers” in 1991. In 1997 he showcased off-Broadway, playing writer Alan Zweibel in “Bunny Bunny,” Zweibel’s tribute to comedienne Gilda Radner and their close 14-year friendship.
Bruno’s close association with director Rob Reiner and actor Billy Crystal arguably led to the apex of his film career. In the early 1980s he chummed around with both Reiner and Crystal on a softball team, along with writer/actor/director Christopher Guest. Bruno wound up playing Crystal’s best buddy in two of Crystal’s biggest box-office hits — When Harry Met Sally… (1989) and City Slickers (1991). He also appeared in Reiner’s cult hit This Is Spinal Tap (1984). Other important film roles for him included his humorless lieutenant in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), the refined salesman named “Mouse” in Tin Men (1987) and Marlon Brando’s nephew in The Freshman (1990), that more or less amusingly parodied the “Godfather” association.
Bruno was equally effective in taut, heavier stories and supported such up-and-coming stars as Leonardo DiCaprio in the dark and downbeat The Basketball Diaries (1995) and Johnny Depp in the mob family-styled drama Donnie Brasco (1997). On TV he was a regular on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. (1986), played dogged prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in the miniseries Helter Skelter (2004), which was a reenactment of the Charles Manson family horror, and appeared on the more popular shows of the day, such as Entourage (2004). He was married for the first time to actress Lynn Sellers in 2004 at age 55. His brother John is a well-known acting coach. An occasional TV director to boot, Bruno was diagnosed with leukemia shortly before his death on August 14, 2006, after having completed his part in the film Played (2006) starring Gabriel Byrne.
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