Joseph Frank "Joe" Pesci (born February 9, 1943) is an Italian-American actor, comedian and musician, known for playing tough, volatile characters, in a variety of genres. He is best known for a trio of Martin Scorsese films in which he co-starred with Robert De Niro: Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), and Casino (1995).
Pesci was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Raging Bull, and later won the award for his role as psychopathic mobster Tommy DeVito (based on Thomas DeSimone) in Goodfellas.
Pesci has starred in a number of other high-profile films, including Easy Money (1983), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), Home Alone (1990), JFK (1991), My Cousin Vinny (1992), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), A Bronx Tale (1993), and Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). He announced his retirement from acting in 1999, and since then he has appeared only occasionally in films, including a cameo appearance in the 2006 spy thriller The Good Shepherd, directed by De Niro.
Pesci was born on February 9, 1943, in Newark, New Jersey. His mother, Mary (née Mesce), worked part-time as a barber, and his father, Angelo Pesci, was a forklift driver for General Motors, and a bartender. Pesci, of Italian descent, was raised in Belleville, New Jersey, and attended Belleville High School. By the time Pesci was five years old, he was appearing in plays in New York. At age 10, he was a regular on a television variety show called Startime Kids which also featured Connie Francis.
Pesci was childhood friends with singers Frankie Valli and Tommy DeVito, and in 1959, at age 16, he helped introduce them to singer and songwriter Bob Gaudio, which led to the formation of the band The Four Seasons.
In the 1960s, Pesci began working as a barber, following in his mother's footsteps. At the same time, he tried to start a musical career, playing guitar with several bands, including Joey Dee and the Starliters. (The position of guitarist in that band was taken several years later by Jimi Hendrix.) In 1968, he released the album Little Joe Sure Can Sing! (billed as Joe Ritchie), on which he sang covers of contemporary pop hits.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Pesci teamed up with fellow actor Frank Vincent, performing in local clubs like the Arlington Lounge and other venues around North Jersey as Vincent and Pesci. The comedy duo's material was a play on Martin and Lewis and Abbott and Costello. In 1975, they appeared in the Broadway show The New Vaudevillians, which only lasted one week.
The first film Pesci starred in was the 1976 low-budget crime film The Death Collector alongside Frank Vincent. After the film Pesci returned to The Bronx and lived above Amici's Restaurant, where he was an employee.
In 1979, Pesci got a telephone call from Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, who were impressed with his performance in The Death Collector and asked him to co-star in Scorsese's Raging Bull as Joey LaMotta. Pesci won the BAFTA Film Award for Newcomer to Leading Film Roles in 1981 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Over the next few years, Pesci appeared in several smaller films, including Dear Mr. Wonderful (1982), Easy Money (1983) and Eureka (1983).
In 1984, he was cast in Once Upon a Time in America, again appearing alongside De Niro. Next year he starred as private detective Rocky Nelson in the short-lived television comedy series Half Nelson.
In 1988, Pesci appeared in the Michael Jackson musical anthology film Moonwalker, in the film's sixth and longest segment, "Smooth Criminal". He played the antagonist, crime boss Frankie "Mr. Big" LiDeo (an anagram for one of the film's producers and longtime Jackson manager Frank DiLeo, with whom Pesci would later act in Goodfellas).
He appeared as Leo Getz in the Lethal Weapon sequels, released in 1989, 1992 and 1998.
In 1990, he reunited with Scorsese and De Niro for Goodfellas, where he played mobster Tommy DeVito, based on real-life mobster Thomas DeSimone. (Tommy DeVito is also the name of Pesci's old acquaintance from Belleville, New Jersey and a member of The Four Seasons, but, contrary to popular belief, the naming is coincidental.) Old friend Frank Vincent also appears in the film; Pesci's character kills Vincent's character in a rage in one of the most well-remembered scenes in the film after the Vincent character contemptuously tells him to "go home and get your [shoe] shine box." Pesci received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role, which he accepted with one of the shortest speeches in Oscar history, saying simply, "It's my privilege. Thank you," before leaving the stage.
Pesci also co-starred in the blockbuster Home Alone in 1990, playing Harry Lime, one of two bumbling burglars (along with good friend Daniel Stern) who attempt to burgle the house of the young character played by Macaulay Culkin. In the film's climactic scene, Pesci accidentally bit one of Culkin's fingers, giving him a scar. Two years later, Pesci reprised his role in the sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
Pesci is a character in the 2005 musical Jersey Boys, which tells the story of The Four Seasons, due to his involvement in the band's formation. He is similarly a character in the musical's 2014 film adaptation. In the film, the Joe Pesci character asks "Funny how?", a quote from a famous line of dialogue Pesci had in Goodfellas.
Pesci has been married and divorced three times. His first marriage was in 1964. His third was from 1988 to 1992, to Claudia Haro, a model and actress with whom he has a daughter named Tiffany. In 2007 Pesci was engaged to Angie Everhart, but the couple broke up in 2008.
While filming scenes in two of Martin Scorsese's films (Raging Bull and Casino), Pesci broke the same rib, 15 years apart.