Paul Sorvino

Paul Sorvino

Sorvino at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival
Born Paul Anthony Sorvino
(1939-04-13) April 13, 1939
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1958present
Spouse(s) Lorraine Davis (1966–1988; divorced)
Vanessa Arico (1991–1996; divorced)
Dee Dee Benkie (2014–present)
Children 3

Paul Anthony Sorvino (born April 13, 1939) is an American actor. He often portrays authority figures on both sides of the law, and is possibly best known for his roles as Paulie Cicero, a portrayal of Paul Vario in the 1990 gangster film Goodfellas, and NYPD Sergeant Phil Cerreta on the police procedural and legal drama television series Law & Order. He is the father of actress Mira Sorvino and actor Michael Sorvino.

Early life

Sorvino was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City. His mother, Angela Maria Mattea (née Renzi), was a homemaker and piano teacher, who was born in Connecticut, of Italian (Molisan) descent. His father, Ford Sorvino, was an Italian (Neapolitan) immigrant who worked in a robe factory as a foreman.[1][2] He attended Lafayette High School, where he was classmates with painter Peter Max, and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.[3]


Paul Sorvino, 2008

He began his career as a copywriter in an advertising agency, where he worked with John Margeotes, founder of Margeotes, Fertitta, and Weiss. He took 18 years of voice lessons. While attending The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, he decided to go into the theatre. He made his Broadway debut in the 1964 musical Bajour, and six years later he appeared in his first film, Carl Reiner's Where's Poppa? starring George Segal and Ruth Gordon. In 1971, he played a supporting role in Jerry Schatzberg's critically acclaimed The Panic in Needle Park starring Al Pacino and Kitty Winn. He received an avalanche of critical praise for his performance as Phil Romano in Jason Miller's 1972 Broadway play That Championship Season, a role he repeated in the 1982 TCS film version. In a 1974 ABC Movie of the Week, he played Harry Walters, a stout real estate salesman, who is randomly picked up by a beautiful woman (JoAnna Cameron) and raped at gunpoint as a prank, and left to explain to his friend (Adam Arkin) and wife (Michael Learned) how "It Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy", a movie considered risqué, even for the '70s. He also appeared in the 1976 Elliott Gould/Diane Keaton vehicle I Will, I Will... for Now. He has starred in the weekly series We'll Get By (1975, as George Platt), Bert D'Angelo/Superstar (1976, in the title role) and The Oldest Rookie (1987, as Detective Ike Porter). He also directed Wheelbarrow Closers, a 1976 Broadway play by Louis La Russo II, which starred Danny Aiello.

In 1981, Sorvino played the role of Italian-American Communist Louis C. Fraina in Warren Beatty's epic film Reds. He appeared in Larry Cohen's 1985 science fiction horror film The Stuff as a reclusive militia leader, alongside his future Law & Order co-star Michael Moriarty. He helped found the American Stage Company, a group that launched several successful Off-Broadway shows, while living in Tenafly, New Jersey in 1986.[4]

In 1991, he took on the role of Sergeant Phil Cerreta (replacing actor George Dzundza in a new role) on the popular series Law & Order. Sorvino was initially excited about the role, but would leave after 29 episodes, citing the exhausting schedule demanded by the filming of the show, a need to broaden his horizons, and the desire to preserve his vocal cords for singing opera. Sorvino's exit from the series came in an episode in which Sgt. Cerreta was shot in the line of duty and transferred to an administrative position in another precinct.[5] He was replaced on the show by Jerry Orbach (as Detective Lennie Briscoe).

In 1993, Sorvino subbed for the late Raymond Burr in a Perry Mason TV movie. He earlier appeared as Bruce Willis' father in the weekly series Moonlighting, and the "Lamont" counterpart in the never-aired original pilot for Sanford and Son. Some of his most notable film roles were caporegime Paul Cicero in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990) and Henry Kissinger in Oliver Stone's Nixon (1995). In addition to Goodfellas, Sorvino also played mob bosses Eddie Valentine in The Rocketeer and Tony Morolto in The Firm.

Sorvino founded the Paul Sorvino Asthma Foundation, with the goal of building asthma centers for children and adults across the United States.[6] In 1998, he narrated the series "The Big House" for The History Channel. In 1999, he directed and again starred in (albeit playing a different role) a lower-budget TV version of That Championship Season, which was written by his friend Jason Miller.

He also lent his voice in Hey Arnold!: The Movie as the main antagonist, Mr. Scheck, the evil CEO of Future Tech Industries who wants to convert Arnold's neighborhood into a huge shopping mall.

From 2000 to 2002, he had a starring role as Frank DeLucca in the CBS television drama That's Life. He also starred in the CBS comedy Still Standing as Al Miller, father to Bill (Mark Addy).

He filmed The Trouble with Cali in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania. He is directing and starring in the film which is partially funded by Lackawanna County, of which the city of Scranton is the county seat. His daughter, Mira, also stars in the film. He co-ventured with Peter Margo, the founder of Palmer Video, to form to raise funds for his charity.

Sorvino played GeneCo founder Rotti Largo in the 2008 musical film Repo! The Genetic Opera. Working with Repo! director Darren Lynn Bousman again, Sorvino plays God [7] in The Devil's Carnival, a short film screened on tour beginning in April, 2012.[8]

Personal life

Sorvino lives between Los Angeles and Gilbert, Pennsylvania, (in the Pocono Mountains). He has three children: Mira, Michael, and Amanda from his first marriage with Lorraine Davis.

On January 17, 2007, news reports detailed that he displayed a gun in front of Daniel Snee, ex-boyfriend of his daughter Amanda, after the man pounded on her hotel door and made threats. Amanda testified that Snee threatened to kill her at a hotel on January 3 in Stowe, Vermont. She said she locked herself in the bathroom and called both police and her father. Her 67-year-old father showed up before police, she testified. When police arrived, the young man was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, she said. As a deputy sheriff in Pennsylvania, Sorvino was legally authorized to carry a gun in different states. He did not point the gun at Snee or threaten him.[9]

In March 2008, Sorvino and his daughter Amanda lobbied with the Americans Against Horse Slaughter in Washington, D.C., for Congress and the Senate to Pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S311/HR503). The Sorvinos run a private horse rescue in Gilbert, Pennsylvania.[10]

He is also an accomplished sculptor, specializing in cast bronze. In December 2008 his sculpture of his friend, the late playwright Jason Miller, was unveiled in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In addition, he guest starred on the 2008 album of Neapolitan singer Eddy Napoli, Napulitanata, performing a duet of the song "Luna Rossa."[11]

In 2007, Sorvino launched "Paul Sorvino Foods", to market a range of pasta sauces. Based on his mother's recipe, product began appearing in supermarkets in the northeastern United States in late 2009.[12] Three years later, Sorvino became part owner in Janson-Beckett Cosmeceuticals.[13]

In December 2014, Sorvino married political pundit Denessa Purvis "Dee Dee" Benkie after meeting her on Neil Cavuto's Fox News program.[14]


In 2005, Sorvino partnered with Lackawanna County to film The Trouble with Cali in Scranton, Pennsylvania. An initial investment by the county of $250,000 was followed by a second $250,000 in 2006.[15] The project drew criticism and media attention over the long production time and apparent lack of progress,[16] and the fact that the county did not protect its investment, which was carried out by county commissioners that were under indictment for corruption, with a completion bond.[17] The Trouble with Cali debuted February 21, 2012, at the Sedona Film Festival, with former Lackawanna County commissioner Robert Cordaro listed as a producer only four weeks after his 11-year sentencing on public corruption charges.[18]

By March 2015, Sorvino had yet to strike a deal with a distributor for the film. He told local reporters that Lackawanna County would receive the first payouts if the film made money. "I'd like to see that money back myself, but first I want to see (Lackawanna County) paid," he said. "If it makes money, (Lackawanna County) makes money."[19] At that time, he said a Canadian company was interested in distributing the film, but would not give the name of the company. Days later he claimed the deal with this company fell through after negative publicity from the local paper.[20]



  1. "Paul Sorvino Biography (1939-)". Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  2. Julia Szabo (2003-06-01). "Partying With the Pets". New York Post. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  3. "Paul Sorvino Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
  4. Klein, Alvin (March 19, 2000). "JERSEY FOOTLIGHTS; Executive Producer Search Is On". The New York Times. By contrast, the theater was founded with a flourish in 1986, mostly because the actor Paul Sorvino, its first artistic head, lived in Teaneck at the time, opened his home to fund-raising parties, starred in the opening play (All The King's Men) and directed The Diary of Anne Frank, in which his daughter, Amanda Sorvino, played the title role.
  5. Courrier, Kevin; Green, Susan (November 20, 1999). Law & Order: The Unofficial Companion (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Renaissance Books. ISBN 1-58063-108-8, pp. 123-125.
  6. "Paul Sorvino Roles". Movie Info. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  7. ""The Devil's Carnival". Retrieved 2012-11-05.
  8. "Two Tickets To 'The Devil's Carnival' Please". FEARnet. 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2012-04-11.
  9. "'Goodfellas' actor, as deputy sheriff, was entitled to weapon". 2007-01-17. Archived from the original on March 25, 2007.
  10. "Horse Lovers Ask Congress To Stop Horse Slaughter". 2008-03-05.
  11. eddynapolispa (2008-09-01). "Eddy Napoli SpA & Paul Sorvino - Luna Rossa". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  12. "'Goodfella' Paul Sorvino dishes up own pasta sauce based mom's recipe", New York Daily News, January 9, 2010
  13. "Brand News". GCI. June 2010. p. 6.
  14. "Paul Sorvino, Dee Dee Benkie Wed". Fox News. 2015-01-08. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  15. Lynne Slack Shedlock (2006-05-20). "County invests $500G in film". Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  16. Rubinkam, Michael (2008-02-18). "Pennsylvania county to Sorvino: Where's the film?". Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  17. Kelly, Chris (2008-02-17). "The Trouble with 'Kelly'". Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  18. Chris Kelly (2012-02-21). "Early reviews are in and Cali is indeed in trouble". Retrieved 2012-02-22.
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