Worked With:

Ray Liotta


Billy Bob Thornton


Bryan Greenberg


Peter Facinelli


James Marsden


Logan Lerman


Ron Perlman


Sean Patrick Flanery


Jason Biggs


Dan Castellaneta


Marcia Gay Harden


Iris Bahr

Joe Pantoliano Biography


Home > Actors > P > Pantoliano, Joe > Biography


Birth Name: Joe Pantoliano
Born: 09/12/1951
Birth Place: Hoboken, New Jersey, USA


Born on Sept. 12, 1954 in Hoboken, NJ, Pantoliano grew up on welfare in a public housing project and was raised by his father, Dominic, a hearse driver, and his mother, Mary, a bookie. Reading at a third grade level at age 17, Pantoliano decided that acting was a way out of a life that seemed destined to lead to criminal behavior. Because of his limited comprehension skills, he had to memorize his scenes just to audition. But his resilience paid off, as both his literacy and confidence increased. Pantoliano soon moved to Manhattan where he waited tables while studying acting under Herbert Bergoff at the HB Studio. He eventually switched over to study under John Lehne, with whom he stayed for 10 years. Meanwhile, Pantoliano made his stage debut in 1968 and was noted for a performance as Billy Bibbit in a production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1972). In 1976, he made his way to Los Angeles, where he began to find work on television sitcoms, starting with an appearance as band member Frankie in the failed pilot for "McNamara's Band" (ABC, 1977).

Pantoliano first started to gain attention following his performance in the television miniseries version of "From Here to Eternity" (NBC, 1979), in which he played Angelo Maggio, the role essayed by fellow Hoboken native Frank Sinatra in the 1953 film. After appearing as a guest star on shows like "Hart to Hart" (ABC, 1979-1984) and "M*A*S*H" (CBS, 1972-1983), while having supporting roles in movies such as "The Final Terror" (1983), Pantoliano finally made himself known in "Risky Business" (1983) as the comical, but menacing Guido the Pimp who threatens teenager Joel Goodson (Tom Cruise) after being crossed by him. The actor balanced regular work in film and on television, mainly in strong supporting roles as wisecracking detectives and criminals. Following a role as Francis, the bumbling criminal outwitted by a bunch of kids in "The Goonies" (1985), Pantoliano delivered a solid performance as the ruthless anti-Communist attorney and RFK nemesis Roy Cohn in the miniseries "Robert Kennedy and His Times" (CBS, 1987). He was John Malkovich's long-suffering sidekick in Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun" (1987), while turning in a memorable performance as the slippery bail bondsman, Eddie Moscone, in "Midnight Run" (1988).

As the 1980s began to wind down, Pantoliano appeared as a supporting player in a series of rather forgettable movies that included "The In Crowd" (1988), "Downtown" (1989) and "Short Time" (1990). Following a co-starring role in "The Fanellis Boys" (ABC, 1990-91), a short-lived sitcom about a widowed Italian-American matriarch (Ann Morgan Guilbert) living with her four adult sons, Pantoliano took part in a critical and commercial hit as Cosmo, one of Tommy Lee Jones' U.S. marshals in "The Fugitive" (1993). He once again played a pimp in "Three of Hearts" (1993), only this time to a male prostitute (William Baldwin), which he followed with a turn as one of three bumbling would-be kidnappers in "Baby's Day Out" (1994). Back on television, he appeared on "The Marshal" (ABC, 1994-96) and played the double-crossing snitch Vinnie Greco in several season two episodes of "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005). In the fall of 1996, he played the shady Jimmy Murtha in the gritty crime drama, "EZ Streets" (CBS, 1996-97), created by Paul Haggis.

Returning to the big screen, Pantoliano played a frightening money launderer for the mob whose mistress (Jennifer Tilly) hatches a plot with her new lesbian lover (Gina Gershon) to rob him of $2 million in the cult favorite, "Bound" (1996). After reprising his role of Deputy Marshal Renfro in the sequel "U.S. Marshals" (1998), Pantoliano had his biggest box-office hit as the traitorous renegade Cypher in the blockbuster "The Matrix" (1999), which starred Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishbourne and Carrie-Ann Moss. The busy actor reunited with Moss on his next film, "Memento" (2000), playing a seedy cop who manipulates Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a former insurance fraud investigator who suffers from anterograde amnesia. In 2001, he joined the cast of "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1999-2007), playing the hotheaded, loudmouthed mob lieutenant Ralph Cifaretto, who becomes a major thorn in the side of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). Pantoliano's adroit portrayal made Ralphie a love-to-hate-him character and at last had audiences connecting that well-known face to a now recognizable name. Meanwhile, he ventured into the video game world, voicing Luigi Goterelli in "Grand Theft Auto III" (2001).

After his "Sopranos" tenure came to a memorable end in 2002, Pantoliano next essayed Ben Urich, the dogged reporter on the trail of the secret identity of the super hero "Daredevil" (2003), before reprising his previous role as police captain Howard, comic foil to Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the sequel "Bad Boys 2." That same year, after winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for "The Sopranos," Pantoliano held down a starring role as an FBI agent tasked with training fresh-faced undercover officers on the short-lived drama series, "The Handler" (CBS, 2003-04). Following a co-starring role on the equally brief series "Dr. Vegas" (CBS, 2004), he voiced Goose in "Racing Stripes" (2005) and played a mayor duped into allowing a reckless restaurant health inspector (Larry the Cable Guy) to take on an important case in "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector" (2006). The ever-busy actor joined "Sopranos" co-star Michael Imperioli to voice characters on a season 18 episode of "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ). Following a supporting turn in the made-for-television movie "Deceit" (Lifetime, 2006), he starred as a struggling construction worker raising his son (Devon Gearhart) with his schizophrenic wife (Marcia Gay Harden) in the low-budget indie, "Canvas" (2007). After some time spent out of the spotlight, Pantoliano returned to voice a character in the sequel, "Cats & Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore" (2010).