Chazz Palminteri

Birth Name: 
Calogero Lorenzo Palminteri
Thursday, May 15, 1952
Birth Place: 
New York City, New York, USA

New York-born and raised Chazz Palminteri was a natural choice to continue the Italianate torch in film. In the tradition set forth in the 1970s by such icons as director Martin Scorsese and actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, John Cazale and Joe Pesci, Palminteri brought grit, muscle and an evocative realism to the sidewalks of his New York neighborhood, violent as they were. Born in 1952, Palmintieri grew up in a tough area of the Bronx and it gave young Calogero (Palminteri's given first name) the life lessons that would later prove very useful. He graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School and started out pursuing his craft in 1973 studying with Lee Strasberg at the Actor's Studio. He appeared off-Broadway in the early 1980s while paying his dues as a bouncer and doorman in nightclubs, among other jobs. In 1986 he headed west and found that his ethnic qualifications helped tremendously. Slick attorneys, tough hoods and hard-nosed cops were all part of his "tough guy" persona in such TV shows as "Wiseguy" (1987), "Matlock" (1986) and "Hill Street Blues" (1981). In films he started off playing a 1930s-style gangster in Sylvester Stallone's _Oscar (1991/I)_ . Although his roles were sharp, well-acted and with a distinct edge to them, there was nothing in them to show that he was capable of stronger leading parts. Then in 1988 he wrote himself a play entitled "A Bronx Tale," a powerful one-man stage commentary in which he depicted his bruising childhood in great detail, which included witnessing gangland slayings. Palminteri brought each and every character to life (18 in all) in this autobiographical piece -- his friends, enemies, even his own family. He showcased for years in both Los Angeles and New York, finally sparking the interest of his film idol, Robert De Niro. DeNiro, wanting to direct for the first time, saw the potential of this project and brought both it and the actor/writer to the screen. Palminteri played one of the flashier roles, Sonny, a gangster, in the movie version. An unknown film commodity at the time, he had stubbornly refused to sell his stage property (the offers went into the seven figures) unless he was part of the package as both actor and screenwriter. DeNiro, who became his mentor, backed him up all the way, and the rest is history. A Bronx Tale (1993) was a major crowd pleaser as well as a critical hit, and, at age 41 Palminteri became an "overnight" star. Other important projects quickly fell his way. He received a well-deserved Oscar nomination the following year for his portrayal in Woody Allen's hilarious jazz-era comedy Bullets Over Broadway (1994) of a Runyonesque-type hit man. He was on the right side of the law in both The Perez Family (1995) - his first romantic lead--and The Usual Suspects (1995). He was the ill-fated brute in Diabolique (1996) and wrote a second screenplay, Faithful (1996), in which he again plays a hit man, terrorizing both Cher and Ryan O'Neal. Though finding himself invariably caught in a rather tight-fitting typecast, it has been a secure and flashy one that continues to run strong into the millennium. Surprisingly, the one obvious show he has yet to be featured in is HBO's "The Sopranos" (1999), but it's probably just a matter of time. (IMDb)

Awards and Nominations

1995 - Nominated - Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Bullets Over Broadwday)


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