Beefy, roughhewn actor Robert Pastorelli was a former boxer and an admitted drug addict before he cleaned up his act and pursued theater work in New York in such 1970s productions as “Rebel Without a Cause,” “The Rainmaker,” and “Death of a Salesman,” he headed west and turned to film and TV in 1982, soon finding a fairly comfortable niche playing ballsy, streetwise characters often with a Runyonesque feel and truck driver mentality. Supporting Bette Midler and Shelley Long in Outrageous Fortune (1987) and Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), his first meaty film role came with Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves (1990). But it was TV that would be his claim to fame as Candice Bergen’s gruff but mushy-hearted house painter in Murphy Brown (1988), staying with the show for seven seasons. With that came more visible roles in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), Michael (1996), and Modern Vampires (1998). He played the role of salty Luther Billis in the mini-movie remake of South Pacific (2001) with Glenn Close, then appeared as Mitch with Ms. Close on stage in “A Streetcar Named Desire” a year later. Sadly, drugs once again took hold of Pastorelli in full force in later years. In 2004, the 49-year-old died of a heroin overdose and was found at home with a syringe in his arm in the bathroom by his assistant.
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