Frank Vincent was one of the great character actors of Hollywood and a man adored by his peers.
When news of his death at the age of 78 broke, former co-stars and directors alike were quick to pay tribute to the star, who passed away during open-heart surgery in New Jersey.
Vincent Pastore, who played Pussy on The Sopranos and appeared alongside Vincent in countless movies over the years, praised his late friend and one-time colleague over email.
“We lost a great character actor and great man … May he always stay in our memory,” Pastore wrote in an email reported by The Blast.
Filmmaker John Gallagher was similarly glowing: “I could write a book about my times with Frank, all beautiful joyous memories … Requiescat in pace FV, see ya on the other side, love always JG.”
Vincent was a man that meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people. He may have been primarily known for his roles on The Sopranos and several notable Martin Scorsese movies, but it was what he brought to those roles that made him so special.
Here are just seven of his most memorable roles from over the years. R.I.P. Frank.
Salvy Batts – Raging Bull
Vincent’s penchant for playing sleazy gangsters began with this memorable turn in the Martin Scorsese classic. Playing the part of Joey LaMotta’s Mafia connection, Salvy Batts, he soon takes a liking to Jake LaMotta’s wife, Vickie, with violent consequences.
Mike Tucci – Jungle Fever
Arguably the most underrated of all Spike Lee’s movies, Jungle Fever dealt with the racially-charged fallout of an extra-marital affair between a black architect and his white, Italian American, female colleague. Vincent, appearing in his second Lee movie after Do The Right Thing, played the father of Angie Tucci. Though a small role, he still had to be at his violent, menacing, best when doling out a racist beating to his daughter, after finding out about her affair with Wesley Snipes’ Flipper Purify.
William “Billy Batts” Bentvena – Goodfellas
Arguably Vincent’s most famous movie role came with this brief but memorable turn in Goodfellas. Once again cast in sleazy gangster mode, Vincent’s Billy Batts spends much of his screen time goading Joe Pesci’s Tommy with persistent remarks about his time as a shoeshine boy in his younger days, knowing he is protected by his links to the Gambino Crime Family. Tommy does eventually snap though, with bloody mayhem ensuing.
Frankie Marino – Casino
Vincent finally found himself on the right side of Joe Pesci as mob enforcer Frankie Marino, who is dispatched by the Mob, alongside Pesci’s Nicky Santoro to protect the burgeoning casino operation being run by Robert De Niro’s Sam “Ace” Rothstein. Things spiral out of control soon enough though, with Nicky and Frankie teaming up to wreak havoc across the Vegas Strip. It doesn’t end well for either of them.
Phil Leotardo – The Sopranos
The central antagonist during the seventh and final season of The Sopranos, the role of Phil Leotardo gave Vincent a chance to shine on the small screen and he took it with both hands. Leotardo may have been a thoroughly unpleasant force within the Lupertazzi crime family, with 27 hits to his name but he was a complex one nonetheless.
Among the many hits Leotardo orchestrates on the series, the most harrowing comes with the way he dispatches one-time ally, Vito Spatafore. Having been exposed as a homosexual, Vito is ambushed by Phil and his men in a hotel room. Phil calmly sits on the bed and watches as his men beat his former friend to death – though not before he tells Vito how much he disgusts him. Leotardo gets his comeuppance eventually though.
Jon Gabagoolie – Mr Pickles
Vincent also found time to poke fun at his Mafioso screen persona on the adult animated comedy series Mr. Pickles, which centres on the antics of a six-year-old boy and his demonic border collie.
Vincent’s character, Jon Gabagoolie was your classic clichéd mafia crime boss who goes up against the canine Mr. Pickles, but comes off the worse of the two on several occasions.
Salvatore Leone – Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto’s switch to a 3D gaming universe from the previous bird’s eye view perspective was a moment of some significance in the world of gaming. GTA III also ushered in the era of truly cinematic gaming, with players increasingly immersed in detailed, plot-driven gaming.
Vincent played his part in that, voicing the recurring character of Salvatore Leone and adding a sense of authenticity to proceedings in the process as a memorable supporting character and antagonist.