To understand the full picture of Joe Pesci's biography, you have to look outside the tough-guy roles that made him famous. Behind the short-tempered characters we see onscreen in mob movies is a complex, talented man who has found himself involved in some strange and important stories during his life. From the early rock scene of 1960s New York to an ongoing attempted homicide case, Pesci never fails to make an impression.
Joe Pesci now is quite a different figure from the Joe Pesci of the past; while he occasionally returns to movies, such as Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, he has largely backed away from the limelight. But what drove him away from making classic rewatchable movies? Did he ever even want to be an actor? These Joe Pesci facts and stories will provide fascinating insights into pivotal questions about his life and legacy.
- Photo: Sony
He Recorded An Entire Album As His 'My Cousin Vinny' Character
Pesci's friends and costars insist he can carry a tune. My Cousin Vinny costar Marisa Tomei said, "He actually has a really beautiful voice. And one of the things that we did a lot is that he would play the guitar and we would sing standards on the set."
Pesci even recorded a 1998 album as his My Cousin Vinny character, called Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just For You. Unfortunately, the album has a poor critical reputation, and it was far from a best-seller.
- Photo: Raging Bull/United Artists
He Broke The Same Rib On Two Different Movie Sets
While filming a fight scene for Raging Bull in 1980, Robert De Niro punished Pesci so badly that he broke his costar's rib. Fifteen years later, while filming Casino, Pesci broke the same rib.
Pesci held no grudges, though - he made light of the incidents while honoring Martin Scorsese at an AFI event: "I've come to the conclusion that great movies mean cracked ribs - with The Super and Jimmy Hollywood, I came through virtually unscathed."
He Was A Child Actor, Starring On A Variety Show At Age 10
Pesci's father, Angelo, did not want his son to live a life of labor as he did. In fact, he actively pushed for Joe and his other children to become entertainers to forge a path out of poverty. Pesci was appearing in plays by the age of 5 and was on a TV variety show called Startime Kids when he was 10 years old.
The lifestyle didn't necessarily gel with Pesci, however, who later told The New York Times, "I don't know if it's the right thing to do - push your kids into something and then stay on them until they do it."
Pesci also said he would have chosen a different career if he'd had the freedom, perhaps something "more calming, in a different area where I did not have to use my emotions."
- Photo: Goodfellas/Warner Bros.
He Was Part Of A Comedy Duo With Frank Vincent
Early in his adventures in the entertainment business, Pesci went on the New York nightclub circuit. He put together a musical comedy act with friend Frank Vincent. Among their early efforts was a goofy novelty record called Can You Fix The Way I Talk For Christmas? The duo continued to play together even into the 1990s.
Pesci and Vincent also teamed up onscreen in much more dramatic contexts, including Raging Bull and Goodfellas - in which Vincent delivers the classic "shine box" line.