Compact Italian-American actor Joe Pesci was born February 9, 1943 in Newark, New Jersey, to Mary (Mesce), a part-time barber, and Angelo Pesci, a bartender and forklift driver. Pesci first broke into entertainment as a child actor, and by the mid-1950s, was starring on the series “Star Time Kids”. In the mid-1960s, he released a record under the stage name Joe Ritchie titled “Little Joe Sure Can Sing”, and was also playing guitar with several bands, including Joey Dee and The Starliters. He even joined with his friend Frank Vincent to start a vaudeville-style comedy act, but met with limited success (interestingly, Pesci and Vincent would later go on to co-star in several gangster films together, including Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995).
Pesci’s first film role was as an uncredited dancer in Hey, Let’s Twist! (1961) and then he had to wait another 15 years for a minor role in The Death Collector (1976). His work in the second film was seen by Robert De Niro, who convinced director Martin Scorsese to cast him as Joey LaMotta in the epic boxing film Raging Bull (1980), which really got him noticed in Hollywood. He played opposite Rodney Dangerfield in Easy Money (1983), was with buddy DeNiro again in Once Upon a Time in America (1984), nearly stole the show as con man Leo Getz in Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) and scored a Best Supporting Actor Oscar playing the psychotic Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas (1990).
His comedic talents shone again in the mega-popular Home Alone (1990), and he put in a terrific performance as co-conspirator David Ferrie in JFK (1991). Pesci was back again as Leo Getz for Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), and was still a bumbling crook in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), and had a minor role in the Robert De Niro-directed A Bronx Tale (1993). He was lured back by Scorsese to play another deranged gangster named Nicky (based on real-life hood Tony Spilotro [aka “The Ant”]) in the violent Casino (1995), and starred in the comedies 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (1997) and Gone Fishin’ (1997), although both failed to fire at the box office.
Pesci returned again as fast-talking con man Leo Getz in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). In 1999, he announced his retirement from acting and since then, he appeared only occasionally in films, including a cameo appearance in The Good Shepherd (2006). He also appeared in the music documentary I Go Back Home: Jimmy Scott (2016).
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