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Paul Sorvino, Paulie in Goodfellas, dies at 83

Veteran Hollywood actor Paul Sorvino, best known for his turn as Paulie Cicero in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, has died at 83

Sorvino made his acting debut with Carl Reiner's Where's Poppa? in 1970. 
Sorvino made his acting debut with Carl Reiner's Where's Poppa? in 1970.  (REUTERS)

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 Veteran actor Paul Sorvino, popular for his role in Martin Scorsese's gangster epic Goodfellas and the father of Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, has died. He was 83.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sorvino died on Monday of natural causes.

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"Our hearts are broken, there will never be another Paul Sorvino, he was the love of my life and one of the greatest performers to ever grace the screen and stage," his wife, Dee Dee said.

Mira took to Twitter to pay tributes to her father.

"My heart is rent asunder — a life of love and joy and wisdom with him is over. He was the most wonderful father. I love him so much. I'm sending you love in the stars Dad as you ascend," she wrote.

Publicist Roger Neal said Sorvino died at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

The actor, who made his debut with Carl Reiner's Where's Poppa? in 1970, starred in films such as The Gambler, The Brink’s Job, The Firm, Nixon, Romeo and Juliet, and The Cooler in his career spanning 50 years.

His on-screen partnership with actor-director Warren Beatty was especially of note as they collaborated on films such as Reds, Dick Tracy, Bulworth and Rules Don't Apply.

Sorvino also starred in one season of the NBC series Law & Order, on which he played the role of Detective Phil Cerretta, the partner of Detective Mike Logan (Chris Noth)

Also a tenor, the actor's dream came true when he performed for the New York Opera at Lincoln Center in 2006.

Back in 1973, Sorvino received a Tony nomination and a Drama Desk Award for his performance as the immoral Phil Romano in the original Broadway production of Jason Miller's That Championship Season, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Almost 10 years later, he reprised the role for a film.

He played the coach in a 1999 Showtime telefilm, which also marked his directorial debut. In 2012, Sorvino starred in and directed his only feature film The Trouble With Call, which he based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the setting of That Championship Season.

But, it was his role of Cicero from the 1990 biographical "Goodfellas", adapted by Nicholas Pileggi and Scorsese from Pileggi's 1986 non-fiction book, that earned him most recognition to the point that he once said people think "I'm actually a gangster or a mafioso".

Sorvino was born on April 13, 1939, in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, to his father who was an Italian immigrant working in a robe factory, and mother, a housewife and piano teacher.

The actor was always fascinated with the human voice and sang in Catskills hotels as a teenager. He even took lessons to realise his dream of becoming an opera singer, but an affliction with asthma forced him to focus on acting.

A student at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Sorvino cut his teeth with theatre roles making his Broadway debut in the musical comedy Bajour in 1964.

His first TV role came in 1975 with "We’ll Get By", a CBS show created by Alan Alda, which he followed up with "Bert D’Angelo, Superstar". He also starred with Ellen Burstyn and Kevin Dillon on the 2000-02 CBS dramedy "That’s Life".

More recently, he played Frank Costello on the Epix series "Godfather of Harlem".

Sorvino married his third wife, Dee Dee Benkie, a GOP strategist and former aide to President George W Bush, in 2014.

He is also survived by his other children, Amanda and Michael, and five grandchildren. 

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