Dominic Chianese Biography

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Birth Name: Dominic Chianese
Born: 02/24/1931
Birth Place: Bronx, New York, USA


The Bronx native began acting onstage in 1952 amassing credits in musicals and plays in regional theaters and on and off-Broadway, mostly in character parts. Chianese didn't start appearing in films until the 70s beginning with a small role as a panhandler in "Fuzz" (1972). He cites Al Pacino, with whom he has acted in four films, as "a very big influence on my life", and also worked on three films with director Sidney Lumet. Between appearing in such blockbusters as "The Godfather, Part II" (1974), "All the President's Men" (1976) and "Fort Apache, The Bronx" (1981), the actor squeezed in gigs as a singer and soap opera actor (on ABC's "Ryan's Hope"), often living the life of a struggling player. As he aged into character parts, he began to work with slightly more frequency, either playing figures of authority (i.e., judges on episodes of NBC's "Law & Order") or more likely, gangsters (e.g., the 1996 HBO biopic "Gotti").

It was in part because he had had so much experience essaying the latter that writer-producer David Chase hired him for what became his late-in-life breakthrough. Donning large prop glasses, the bald Chianese cut a fascinating figure as Junior Soprano. Jealous of his nephew's rise to power but shrewd enough not to cross him, Junior, in the actor's capable performance, sometimes came off as somewhat foolish. But underneath lay a petty man who demanded payment for any and all offenses. Walking the fine line of drama and comedy in each script, he etched a brilliant portrait of a relatively simple man with large ambitions. At an age when many of his contemporaries might consider retiring, Chianese became a familiar face and one that has a name.

Loving the recognition, he reported to People (September 13, 1999), "A construction crew in Times Square stopped working and said, 'There's Uncle Junior!' Before only people in theater knew who I was." He also received back-to-back Emmy nominations in 2000 and 2001 for his efforts in the series' second and third seasons. As a result of his late-life success, Chianese also appeared in the occasional big screen outing, including "Unfaithful" (2002) and, as an Italian count whose purchased the sexual services of Neve Campbell, writer-director James Toback's "When Will I Be Loved?" (2004).

The actor has also released two albums of traditional, popular and original Italian and American songs, the 2001 disc Hits and the 2003 follow-up Ungrateful Heart.




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