Actor Jon Polito, best known for his roles in numerous Coen Brothers’ films, has passed away age 65 due to complications from cancer.
The actor leaves behind an incredible legacy, with over 220 film and television credits to his name. He was particularly known for playing tough cops and gangsters, roles which suited his distinctive voice and penetrating stare very well. His career spanned an impressive 35 years, and he was never out of work. He once said of his readiness to take on projects – “I’ve accepted everything that was offered to me in my life. I’m a total whore. I have no standards. I do everything.”
He was born in southwest Philadelphia in 1950, the youngest of three children. After studying acting at Villanova University in Philadelphia he moved to New York City where he became heavily involved in the theatre scene, playing alongside other great actors such as Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway and John Malkovich. In 1980 he won an Obie for his work with the Dodger and BAM theatre companies.
His first onscreen appearance was in 1981’s The Gangster Chronicles; a TV series in which he played Thomas “Three Fingers Brown” Lucchese. He continued to work consistently throughtout the decade, both with more television spots such as his role as detective Steve Crosetti in Homicide: Life On The Street, and in movies like 1986’s Highlander and 1988’s Homeboy opposite Mickey Rourke.
His real breakthrough performance though came in the shape of mob boss Johnny Caspar in 1990’s Miller’s Crossing, which would also mark the beginning of his working relationship with the critically acclaimed Coen brothers. He also starred in Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski and The Man Who Wasn’t There. His other best-known roles were in films such as The Rocketeer, The Crow, Stuart Little and more recently Tim Burton’s Big Eyes.
Polito had been battling cancer, and he was taken off of life support on Thursday. He is survived by his husband, fellow actor Darryl Armbruster, whom he met in 1999 and married last year, as well as his sister Rosemary.