APPEARED IN DE PALMA'S 'WISE GUYS', SEVERAL SCORSESE FILMS, SPIKE LEE, SOPRANOS, ETC.
Frank Vincent, the actor who developed an insult comedy nightclub act while playing in a band with Joe Pesci before the pair was cast by Martin Scorsese in Raging Bull, died Wednesday from complications during open heart surgery. He was 80.
Vincent played a gangster in Brian De Palma's Wise Guys in 1986. He also had memorable roles in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino (all of which saw him acting opposite Pesci), as well as in two Spike Lee movies, Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever. He reteamed with several of the actors in the above films for James Mangold's Cop Land in 1997.
"You usually had a good idea of a Frank Vincent character just from his name," Stephen Whitty states in an obit at nj.com. "Billy Batts. Joey Big Ears. Dino the Rat. Tommy the Bull. Or, when he was really starting out, simply, 'Mafia Thug.' But you didn't know the real Frank Vincent -- a Jersey City boy who idolized Dean Martin, once had a night-club act with buddy Joe Pesci, enjoyed a good hand-rolled cigar, and even wrote a book 'A Guy's Guide to Being a Man's Man.'"
Here's more from a profile piece Whitty re-posts in the article, from 2003:
"THERE was an article about me once, and the first line was "It's good to be a gangster'," Vincent says, finishing his frittata. "Well, I'm not a gangster. I'm an actor."
It's not that Vincent is squeamish about the subject, or in some state of denial about the Mafia. He saw plenty of mobsters in the bars he used to play. Plenty more became fans after he started playing them on screen. A few even became critics.
"They didn't like it when Joe beat me up in "Raging Bull,'" he says. ""Why'd you let that little guy beat you up?' And this one guy, Blackie something, I don't remember his name, but I remember him saying "What is it with the f------ language in that picture?' And, I thought, this guy's killed nine guys and he's concerned about the language?'"
It's not that Vincent minds playing gangsters, either. He had great parts in "Raging Bull" and "GoodFellas" (and got viciously attacked by Pesci in both of them); he had another good part in "Casino" (and finally got his old partner back, with a baseball bat). He realizes the mob roles are the ones he's remembered for and, as a character actor, believes "it's better to be typed than not typed."
Still, the shallowness of the assumptions annoys him. Vincent's a good uptempo drummer, with a genuine love of jazz; he's a natural comic, when he's gotten the chance to show it in films like "She's the One." He's worked with Scorsese, Spike Lee, Brian De Palma and John Sayles. But because he's a big, dark Italian-American, some people assume the gangster parts he's played are the only ones he can, or even the person he really is.
It's a hurdle a lot of actors have faced, and a situation that Vincent's friends protest.
"People typecast you because they're not very imaginative," says Pesci. "They need a certain kind of actor and they know you did that part before and so they come to you. And Frank can do a lot of things. He's very natural, and he's got a good sense of humor and a quick wit."