When it comes to memorable movie lines, everyone has their favorite. But it’s not a stretch to assume that many people would cite Billy Batts’ fateful final utterance to Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas: “Now go home and get your f*ckin’ shinebox.” That keeper was delivered with equal parts disgust and flair by Frank Vincent, just before his character endured what must be the only onscreen murder set to Donovan’s “Atlantis.”
Vincent, who died today at 80, is being remembered as “the consummate NYC actor” and “a lovely man” by friends, colleagues and industry fans. His brief but key role in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 neo-classic hardly was the only memorable character he created. With a mug born to play wiseguys, he also was Phil Leotardo, the latter-series archnemesis of Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, and Frankie Marino, the gangster sidekick of Pesci’s Nicky Santoro in Scorsese’s Casino. Gamers know him as the voice of Salvatore Leone in multiple Grand Theft Auto titles.
Typecast? OK, sure. But Vincent put his mark on every part he played — right down to his cameo in Nas’ “Street Dreams” video. Here are some industry-specific remembrances and appreciations about Vincent today; you’ll note the recurring theme:
Martin Scorsese, who directed Vincent in Casino, Goodfellas and Raging Bull:
“Frank Vincent was someone I could count on. He was a natural who was at ease in front of the camera – on a set or on a stage. He made it look easy in all respects. He was genuine. We worked together on three pictures, each time with his old partner Joe Pesci, and I always marveled at his genius for improvisation. He was a hard-working actor, he understood the world we were portraying so well that he really didn’t appear to be acting at all. I will always marvel at his artistry, and consider myself lucky to have had the chance to work with him and to know him.”