One of the most recognizable screen presences of his generation has died. Paul Sorvino, best known as Paulie Cicero in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, and as one of the early police detectives on the long-running Law & Order television franchise, passed away earlier this week.
Sorvino’s wife Dee Dee announced the news on her Instagram account, writing “I am completely devastated. The love of my life & the most wonderful man who has ever lived is gone.” Sorvino was 83 years old. He reportedly passed away of natural causes.
Born in Brooklyn, Sorvino first worked as an advertising copywriter before transitioning into the world of acting, first on Broadway and later in film and television. He appeared in many memorable movies of the 1970s including The Panic in Needle Park, The Gambler, and Oh, God!
In Goodfellas, Sorvino played Paulie, the powerful Mafia capo who controlled the neighborhood where the main character, Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) grew up and became a father figure to the young and impressionable Henry.
Sorvino appeared in many of Goodfellas’ most iconic scenes, including the sequence where the characters wind up in jail, but continue to live a lavish lifestyle behind bars. There, Paulie reveals his secret to cooking garlic: Slicing it paper thin with a razor.
Not long after Goodfellas, Sorvino replaced George Dzundza as the senior detective on Law & Order. His Sgt. Phil Cerreta partnered with Chris Noth’s Mike Logan for all of Season 2 of the show, and the first eight episodes of Season 3, before Sorvino decided to leave the show to pursue other projects.
Sorvino’s other film roles include Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, Romeo + Juliet, Bulworth, and Nixon, where he memorably played Henry Kissinger. He also worked on TV shows ranging from Murder She Wrote to Godfather of Harlem to The Goldbergs to Star Trek: The Next Generation to The Streets of San Francisco (and its spinoff, Bert D’Angelo/Superstar).
Sorvino was also the father of actress Mira Sorvino, and he worked with her on the film The Trouble With Cali. When she won her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1996, she publicly thanked him from the stage, leading a very memorable Oscar moment.
While Sorvino had many other interests and talents — he was an opera singer and a sculptor, and he owned a horse farm — he will likely be best remembered for his work in films like Goodfellas, where he had an enormous and unforgettable presence.
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