Reni Santoni, the American film and TV actor who played Clint Eastwood’s young partner in Dirty Harry and recurred as the pizza maker Poppie on Seinfeld, has died after a long illness. He was 81.
TV producer Tracy Newman, a close friend of Santoni, confirmed the news on Facebook.
“He had been sick for quite a while,” she wrote. “Those of you who knew him know how funny he was, what a terrific actor, improviser, performer, etc. So brilliant. I loved him very much and will miss him terribly. Another great one is gone. I have a lot of wonderful pictures of him, and will post them over the next week. My heart goes out to his son, Nick, who has been such a comfort to Reni over that past five years or more.”
Born in New York City in 1939, Santoni began his career in theater before securing his first uncredited film role in Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnnroker. In 1967, he landed a key role in Carl Reiner’s directorial debut Enter Laughing.
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He amassed more than 100 credits in film and TV during his 50-year career. His film roles also included Inspector “Chico” González in Dirty Harry, Reiner’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, 1983 pic Bad Boys and the Sylvester Stallone-starring actioner Cobra.
He also made numerous guest appearances on TV shows such as Hawaii Five-O, Hill Street Blues and NYPD BLue, before landing the role of sofa-soiling Poppie in four episodes of Seinfeld, including the finale. Santoni was a series regular on the short-lived 1983 NBC drama Manimal and on the 1986 USA Network comedy Sanchez of Bel-Air.
He also played a judge on Steven Bochco’s mid-’90s series Murder One and
Santoni is survived by his son Nick and wife Lisa James.
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