Pantoliano, Joe 1951-

views updated



Born Joseph Pantoliano, September 12, 1951, in Hoboken, NJ; son of Dominic (a factory worker and hearse driver) and Mary (a seamstress) Pantoliano; married Morgan Kester (an actress), 1979 (divorced, 1985); married Nancy Sheppard (an artist), February 18, 1994; children: (first marriage) Marco, (second marriage) Melody (stepdaughter), Daniella, Isabella Grace. Education: Studied acting under Herbert Bergoff at HB Studio, New York, NY.


Agent—United Talent Agency, 9560 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.


Actor on stage, in films, and television. Stage roles include One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest; Italian-American Reconciliation; The Death Star; The Off-Season; Visions of Kerouac; Brothers, 1982; and Orphans, 1983. Television appearances include McNamara's Band, ABC, 1973; Free Country, ABC, 1978; More than Friends, ABC, 1978; From Here to Eternity, NBC, 1979; Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story, NCB, 1980; Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1984; Robert Kennedy and His Times, CBS, 1985; L.A. Law (pilot), NBC, 1987; Destination: America, ABC, 1987; The Hitchhiker, HBO, 1987; Rock 'n' Roll Mom, ABC, 1988; Nighbreaker, TNT, 1989; El Diablo, HBO, 1990; The Fanelli Boys, NBC, 1990-91; One Special Victory, NBC, 1991; Civil Wars, ABC, 1991; Highlander, syndicated, 1992; Through the Eyes of a Killer, CBS, 1992; Dangerous Heart, USA Network, 1994; The Immortals, HBO, 1995; The Last Word, Showtime, 1995; NYPD Blue, ABC, 1995; The Marshall, ABC, 1995; Ed McBain's 87th Precinct: Ice, NBC, 1996; EZ Streets, CBS, 1996; Natural Enemy, HBO, 1997; Top of the World, HBO, 1998; Sugar Hill, 1999; and The Sopranos, HBO, 1999-2002. Voiced roles for animated television series, including Godzilla, Fox, 1998-99; Beethoven, CBS, 1994; The Lionhearts, syndicated, 1998; and Disney's Hercules, ABC and syndicated, 1998. Appeared in television specials, including Mr. Roberts, NCB, 1984; Dig That Cat …He's Real Gone!, HBO, 1989; and Super Bloopers and New Practical Jokes, NBC, 1991.

Film roles include The Godfather, Part II, Paramount, 1974; The Idol Maker, United Artists, 1980; The Final Terror, Comworld/Watershed, 1981; Monsignor, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1982; Risky Business, Warner Bros., 1983; Eddie and the Cruisers, Avco Embassy, 1983; The Mean Season, Orion, 1985; Goonies, Warner Bros., 1985; Running Scared, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1986; The Squeeze, TriStar, 1987; Scenes from the Goldmine, Hemdale, 1987; La Bamba, Columbia, 1987; Empire of the Sun, Warner Bros., 1987; Amazon Women on the Moon, Universal, 1987; The In Crowd, Orion, 1988; Midnight Run, Universal, 1988; Short Time, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1990; Downtown, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1990; Backstreet Dreams, Vidmark Entertainment, 1990; The Last of the Finest, Orion, 1990; Zandalee, Live Home Video, 1991; Used People, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1992; Calendar Girl, Columbia, 1993; Me and the Kid, Orion, 1993; The Fugitive, Warner Bros., 1993; Three of Hearts, New Line Cinema, 1993; Baby's Day Out, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1994; Robot in the Family, 1994; Teresa's Tattoo, Vidmark Entertainment, 1994; The Flight of the Dove, New Horizons Home Video, 1994; Steal Big, Steal Little, Savoy Pictures, 1995; Scenes from Everyday Life, 1995; Bad Boys, Columbia, 1995; Bound, Gramercy, 1996; Taxman, Conterclock Pictures, 1998; U.S. Marshals, Warner Bros., 1998; The Matrix, Warner Bros., 1999; The Life before This, Alliance Atlantis, 1999; Black and White, Grey Productions, 1999; Tinseltown, Samuel Goldwyn, 1999; Ready to Rumble, 2000; Memento, 2000; Pray for the Cardinal, 2000; The Adventures of Pluto Nash, 2002; A Piece of My Heart, 2002; Daredevil, 2003; and Bad Boys II.


Screen Actors Guild (member of board of directors), Creative Coalition.


DramaLogue awards, best actor, for Orphans and Italian American Reconciliation.


(With Travis Malloy, and director) Just like Mona (screenplay), 2001.

(With David Evanier) Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-up Guy, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.


Joe Pantoliano is best known for his many character roles on television and in films, most notably his recurring role as Ralph Cifaretto on The Sopranos. Born and raised in New Jersey, Pantoliano enjoys portraying villains and tries to infuse even his most evil characters with recognizable humanity. "The basic training for an actor is to get to know yourself and use yourself to tell the story—your own rage, humor, and history to make it real for what you're doing," Pantoliano told Luaine Lee in the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. "And I love it every day. It's a gift, getting a job and going to work."

Pantoliano recalls his childhood in Hoboken, New Jersey, in his memoir Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-up Guy, co-authored with David Evanier. In his book Pantoliano candidly recalls growing up poor with a mother who ran numbers and a father who drove a hearse for a funeral home. Also central in Pantoliano's life was an ex-convict named Florio Isabella, a small-time mobster who became Pantoliano's stepfather and mentor. It was Florio who encouraged Pantoliano to act in school plays and to perfect his reading skills in order to prepare for an acting career.

After graduating from high school, Pantolino moved first to Manhattan and then to Los Angeles, working his way up from Off-Broadway to national touring companies and guest appearances on television shows. His feature film work has brought him connection to some of the most important producers and directors in Hollywood, including Steven Spielberg, Taylor Hackford, Christopher Nolan, and Andy Davis. He was also approached early on about taking a starring role on The Sopranos, but he actually joined the cast for the second season, which began filming in 1999. His character, Ralphie, had few redeeming qualities, to say the least. Daily Variety correspondent Phil Gallo wrote: "Pantoliano has finessed Ralph into one of 'The Sopranos' darkest characters, rising from a violent and smarmy knucklehead to a thorn-in-the-ass who has so penetrated the Soprano-run world that his dismissal is next to impossible. There are signals that his demise is possible." Indeed, Pantoliano's character's violent death was one of the climactic moment of the show's fourth season in 2002.

In his memoir, Pantoliano concentrates on his unconventional boyhood rather than his more predictable career ascent. His days of petty juvenile crime and his parents' penchant for gambling also provide the grist for his film Just like Mona, which marked his directorial debut. In his Booklist review of Who's Sorry Now, David Pitt called the book "downright fascinating," while noting that Pantoliano "writes in a style that will be instantly familiar to his fans: tough, outspoken, but with a charming side, too." A Publishers Weekly contributor concluded: "The once-dyslexic 'Joey Pants' writes with energy, humor and honesty, and his passionate closing chapter …is icing on the cake."



Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 24, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.

Newsmakers, Issue 3, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.


Booklist, October 15, 2002, David Pitt, review of Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-up Guy, p. 374.

Boston Globe, April 1, 2001, p. M9.

Cape Cod Times, November 2, 2002, Frazier Moore, "'Joey Pants' Makes Good Playing Bad."

Christian Science Monitor, October 1, 1999, p. 20.

Daily Variety, September 12, 2002, Phil Gallo, review of The Sopranos, p. 7.

Entertainment Weekly, November 15, 1996, p. 55; October 4, 2002, Bruce Fretts, review of Who's Sorry Now, p. 148.

Hollywood Reporter, July 3, 2001, p. 12.

Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, July 2, 2001, Luaine Lee, interview with Pantoliano, p. K4954.

Los Angeles Times, February 15, 1991, p. 9.

People, November 19, 1990, p. 89; May 21, 2001, Michael A. Lipton, "All in the Family: Joe Pantoliano's Childhood Reads like a Script from the Sopranos," p. 75; July 30, 2001, p. 102. Publishers Weekly, September 9, 2002, review of Who's Sorry Now, p. 54.

USA Today, August 18, 1993, p. 2D; February 7, 2001, p. D4.


Joey Pants Web site, (May 22, 2003).*