Vincent Schiavelli

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Vincent Schiavelli
Schiavelli and then-wife actress Allyce Beasley on September 20, 1987
Vincent Andrew Schiavelli

(1948-11-11)November 11, 1948
DiedDecember 26, 2005(2005-12-26) (aged 57)
Other namesVince Schiavelli
Education New York University (MFA)
OccupationActor, food writer
Years active1971–2005
1993−2005 (writing)
Allyce Beasley
(m. 1985;div. 1988)

Carol Mukhalian
(m. 1992;died 2005)

Vincent Andrew Schiavelli (November 11, 1948 – December 26, 2005) was an American character actor and food writer noted for his work on stage, screen and television, [1] often described as "the man with the sad eyes." He was notable for his numerous supporting roles. He often linked his unique facial appearance and tall stature to Marfan syndrome.[ citation needed ]

Food writing is a type of writing that focuses on food and includes works by food critics and food historians.

Theatre Collaborative form of performing art

Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers, typically actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music, and dance. Elements of art, such as painted scenery and stagecraft such as lighting are used to enhance the physicality, presence and immediacy of the experience. The specific place of the performance is also named by the word "theatre" as derived from the Ancient Greek θέατρον, itself from θεάομαι.

Film sequence of images that give the impression of movement

A film, also called a movie, motion picture, moving picture, or photoplay, is a series of still images that, when shown on a screen, create the illusion of moving images. This optical illusion causes the audience to perceive continuous motion between separate objects viewed in rapid succession. The process of filmmaking is both an art and an industry. A film is created by photographing actual scenes with a motion-picture camera, by photographing drawings or miniature models using traditional animation techniques, by means of CGI and computer animation, or by a combination of some or all of these techniques, and other visual effects.


Schiavelli gained fame as a character actor. His best-known roles include Fredrickson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Mr. Vargas in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), the Subway Ghost in Ghost (1990), Organ Grinder in Batman Returns (1992), Chester in The People vs Larry Flynt (1996), Dr. Kaufman in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and ABC executive Maynard Smith in Man on the Moon (1999).

<i>One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest</i> (film) 1975 drama film based on the novel by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a 1975 American comedy-drama film directed by Miloš Forman, based on the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. The film stars Jack Nicholson as Randle McMurphy, a new patient at a mental institution, and features a supporting cast of Louise Fletcher, Danny DeVito, William Redfield, Will Sampson, Sydney Lassick, Brad Dourif, and Christopher Lloyd in their film debuts.

<i>Fast Times at Ridgemont High</i> 1982 American coming-of-age teen comedy film by Amy Heckerling

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a 1982 American coming-of-age comedy film directed by Amy Heckerling and written by Cameron Crowe, adapted from his 1981 book of the same title. Crowe went undercover at Clairemont High School in San Diego and wrote about his experiences.

<i>Ghost</i> (1990 film) 1990 American romantic fantasy film directed by Jerry Zucker

Ghost is a 1990 American romantic fantasy thriller film directed by Jerry Zucker, written by Bruce Joel Rubin, and starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Goldwyn, and Rick Aviles. The plot centers on a young woman in jeopardy (Moore), the ghost of her murdered lover (Swayze), and a reluctant psychic (Goldberg) who assists him in saving her.

Before his death in 2005, Vincent Schiavelli was considered by many as one of Hollywood's best character actors. Roger Ebert stated "Schiavelli had a way of slipping into films without people knowing his name, but they remembered his great performances as unique characters."

Hollywood Neighborhood of Los Angeles in California, United States

Hollywood is a neighborhood in the central region of Los Angeles, California, notable as the home of the U.S. film industry, including several of its historic studios. Its name has come to be a shorthand reference for the industry and the people associated with it.

Character actor actor who predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters

A character actor is a supporting actor who plays unusual, interesting, or eccentric characters. The term, often contrasted with that of leading actor, is somewhat abstract and open to interpretation. In a literal sense, all actors can be considered character actors since they all play "characters", but in the usual sense it is an actor who plays a distinctive and important supporting role.

Roger Ebert American film critic, author, journalist, and TV presenter

Roger Joseph Ebert was an American film critic, historian, journalist, screenwriter, and author. He was a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, Ebert became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

Early life

Schiavelli was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Sicilian-American family, John Schiavelli and Katherine Coco. He attended Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School as a teen. He studied acting through the theatre programme at New York University. He began performing on stage in the 1960s.

Sicily Island in the Mediterranean and region of Italy

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.

Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School

Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School is a co-educational, college-preparatory, Roman Catholic high school located at 357 Clermont Avenue in the Ft. Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. The school serves students in grades 9 through 12. Loughlin was founded in 1851 and was the first high school in the Diocese (1853), but today is run independently by the Christian Brothers in the Lasallian educational tradition, which holds central the appreciation of each student's uniqueness.

New York University private research university in New York, NY, United States

New York University (NYU) is a private research university originally founded in New York City but now with campuses and locations throughout the world. Founded in 1831, NYU's historical campus is in Greenwich Village, New York City. As a global university, students can graduate from its degree-granting campuses in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, as well as study at its 12 academic centers in Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Washington, D.C.


Schiavelli's first film role occurred in Miloš Forman's 1971 production Taking Off , [1] in which he played a counselor who taught parents of runaway teens to smoke marijuana in order to better understand their children's experiences. Schiavelli's aptitude and distinctive angular appearance soon provided him with a steady stream of supporting roles, often in Miloš Forman films, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , Amadeus , The People vs. Larry Flynt , Valmont , and the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon .

Miloš Forman Czech American director, screenwriter, and professor

Jan Tomáš "Miloš" Forman was a Czech American film director, screenwriter, actor and professor who, until 1968, lived and worked primarily in the former Czechoslovakia.

<i>Taking Off</i> (film) 1971 film by Miloš Forman

Taking Off is a 1971 American comedy film, the first made in the United States by Czech director Miloš Forman. It tells a story of an average couple in the suburbs of New York City who, when their teenage daughter runs away from home, link up with other parents of vanished children and learn something of youth culture.

Cannabis (drug) A psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical or recreational purposes

Cannabis, also known as marijuana among other names, is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical or recreational purposes. The main psychoactive part of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 65 other cannabinoids. Cannabis can be used by smoking, vaporizing, within food, or as an extract.

He played Mr. Vargas, the biology teacher, in the 1982 comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High , a role he reprised in the 1986 television spin-off Fast Times . He was cast in a similar role in Better Off Dead in which he played Mr. Kerber, a geometry teacher.

<i>Better Off Dead</i> (film) 1985 film by Savage Steve Holland

Better Off Dead is a 1985 American dark teen romantic comedy film starring John Cusack and written and directed by Savage Steve Holland. It tells the story of high school student Lane Myer who is suicidal after his girlfriend breaks up with him shortly before Christmas.

In 1987, he starred alongside Tim Conway in the short film comedy Dorf on Golf , and then Dorf and the First Games of Mount Olympus in 1988. In 1990, he played the Subway Ghost in Ghost and in 1992, he played in Tim Burton's Batman Returns as the "Organ Grinder", one of the Penguin's henchmen. He appeared as another villain in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), as a silent monk in The Frisco Kid (1979), and as John O'Connor, one of the evil Red Lectroids in 1984's The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension . In 1994 he appeared in the music video for ZZ Top's song "Breakaway", alongside Fairuza Balk and in 1997, he was named one of America's best character actors by Vanity Fair magazine. He also made several voice appearances in the animated television show Hey Arnold! . In 2002, he played a children's television show host turned heroin addict named Buggy Ding Dong in Death to Smoochy . [2]

His first television role came in 1972 as Peter Panama in The Corner Bar , the first sustained portrayal of a gay character on American television. His other television credits include The Moneychangers , Buffy the Vampire Slayer , WKRP in Cincinnati and Taxi as the priest who marries Latka and Simka. He appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Arsenal of Freedom" as a holographic salesman, on Miami Vice as a research scientist who conspires to steal a top-secret prototype weapon from his employer, and in an uncredited role in an episode of Punky Brewster . In 1987 he appeared as Lyle, a gangster, in the MacGyver season 2 episode "Soft Touch". In Highlander: The Series , he played Leo Atkins, a homeless Vietnam War veteran accused of murder in the Season 1 episode "Innocent Man". In The X-Files , he played Lanny, man with an underdeveloped conjoined twin in the Season 2 episode "Humbug".

He wrote a number of cookbooks and food articles for various magazines and newspapers, notably Gourmet, Saveur and the Los Angeles Times. In 1999, Schiavelli starred in a 26-episode Italian cooking show called Chefs of Cucina Amore that aired on PBS periodically for the next couple of years. He received a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in 2001 and was nominated on several other occasions. [ citation needed ]

Vincent Schiavelli's three cookbooks are memoirs, with recipes related to personal history and anecdotes:

Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table: Recipes from a Sicilian Chef As Remembered by His Grandson, 1993

Bruculinu, America: Remembrances of Sicilian-American Brooklyn, Told in Stories and Recipes, 1998

Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa, 2002

Vincent Schiavelli's tombstone in Polizzi Generosa graveyard Vincent Schiavelli tumbstone in Polizzi Generosa Sicily small.jpg
Vincent Schiavelli's tombstone in Polizzi Generosa graveyard

Schiavelli served as honorary co-chair of the National Marfan Foundation, an organization which serves those affected by Marfan syndrome, from which Schiavelli suffered. [3]

Schiavelli also performed in a few video games, including Emperor: Battle for Dune (as Harkonnen Mentat Yanich Kobal) and as Dr. Hellman in the video game Corpse Killer .

Personal life

Schiavelli was married to actress Allyce Beasley from 1985 until their 1988 divorce. He guest-starred as the love interest of Beasley's character on one episode of Moonlighting . Their son, Andrea Schiavelli, was born in 1987.

In 1992, Schiavelli married American harpist Carol Mukhalian.


Schiavelli died of lung cancer on December 26, 2005, aged 57, at his home in Polizzi Generosa, the Sicilian town where his grandfather, Andrea Coco, was born, and about which he wrote in his 2002 book Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa ( ISBN   0-7432-1528-1). [4] Schiavelli was buried at Polizzi Generosa Cemetery, near Palermo, Sicily.

Two documentaries were made about Schiavelli's Sicilian life.[ citation needed ] The first, Once Upon a Time in Polizzi, was released on October 11, 2005 (two months before his death) and the second, Many Beautiful Things (Tanti Beddi Cosi is the Sicilian title), was produced by Aurelio Gambadoro and released in 2014. The film Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie is dedicated to his memory. (Schiavelli provided a guest voice appearance as the Pigeon Man in the original series.)


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