Who is Joe Pantoliano?

An actor with over 150 acting credits to his name, Joe Pantoliano is perhaps still known best for his role as Ralph Cifaretto in the crime drama series “The Sopranos”, which earned him the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2003. However, Joe’s made some notable movie appearances that marked his acting career, such as his roles in “Memento”, “The Matrix”, and “Bad Boys”, among others.

Early life, family, and education

Born Joseph Peter Pantoliano under the zodiac sign of Virgo on 12 September 1951, which makes him today aged 71 (as of June 2023), hHe hails from Hoboken, New Jersey USA, holds American nationality, and comes from a family of Italian descent. Joe was raised by his parents, Mary (nee Centrella), an accountant, and Dominic Pantoliano, a factory foreman and truck driver, alongside his sister, Marry Ann.

When he was 12, his mother told Joe that his biological father is a man named Florio Isabella, who spent several years in prison. Joe’s parents separated and Florio moved in to live with Joe, his mother, and his sister. As Joe put it, he has never found out who of those two men was his real father.

Aged 17, Joe moved to Manhattan, New York City, to study to become a barber, however, it seems that fate had other plans for him. He enrolled at Herbert Berghof Studio, which offers professional training in the performing arts, where Joe studied acting with Herbert Berghof himself and John Lehne.

Roles in movies

Joe made his acting debut as Mugger in the 1973 drama “Road Movie”, written and directed by Joseph Strick, and Joe followed with his role as an Undercover Arresting Officer in the 1974 movie “For Pete’s Sake”, starring Barbra Streisand.

Three years later, he was cast to play Frankie Milano in the TV movie “McNamara’s Band”, returning to the big screen as Gino Pilato in the 1980 biographic musical drama “The Idolmaker”, based on the life of Bob Marcucci, a rock promoter who discovered Fabian and Frankie Avalon, among others.

Joe’s first lead role came in the 1983 comedy crime-drama “Risky Business”, in which he starred as Guido opposite Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay. The movie followed the story of a teenager whose parents are away from home, so he plans to have some fun, however, things quickly get out of hand; it was nominated for the TV Land Award- Movie Dance Sequence You Reenacted in Your Living Room, and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.

Since the list of Joe’s roles is too long, we’ll highlight some of his most significant, such as his role as Francis in the 1985 movie “The Goonies”, which was nominated for the Young Artist Award for Best Family Motion Picture – Adventure in 1986, and is listed into the National Film Preservation Board Registry, as of 2017.

The ‘90s saw Joe in “The Last of Finest” (1990), “Three of Hearts” (1993), and “The Spy Within” in 1995, among many others, and later in 1995, he portrayed Captain Howard in the hit action comedy “Bad Boys”, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

Joe followed with his role as Caesar in the 1996 thriller “Bound”, which earned him the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Film- Saturn Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Another of Joe’s significant roles is his portrayal of Cypher in the four-time Oscar-awarded “The Matrix”, an action science-fiction film from 1999, written and directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski. Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne, the movie had 52 award nominations and 42 wins, including four Oscars (Best Effects – Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Effects – Sound Effects Editing).

In 2000, Joe was seen as Teddy in the two-time Oscar-nominated mystery thriller “Memento”, also starring Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss, which followed the story of a man with short-term memory loss, who tries to find his wife’s killer. The movie had 60 award nominations, including two for Oscars (Best Film Editing, Best Writing – Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen), and 57 wins. Joe was nominated for the Golden Schmoes Award for Best Supporting Actor of the Year, and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor.

In the following years, Joe was seen in “Bad Boys II” (2003), “Second Best” (2004), and “The Amateurs” (2005), before his role as John Marino in the 2006 drama “Canvas”, which followed the story of a woman diagnosed with schizophrenia whose illness affects her relationship with her husband and son. In one of his interviews, Joe said that this role helped him come to terms with his depression, and he chose to speak publicly about his struggles.

In 2009, Joe wrote, directed, and starred in the documentary “No Kidding! Me 2!!” an empowering movie that raised awareness of depression through candid, humorous discussions. The film won the Hoboken International Film Festival Award for Best Documentary.

In the following years, Joe was seen in “Deadly Impact” (2010), “The Identical” (2014), “Random Tropical Paradise” (2017), and “The Brawler” (2019), among many others. In 2020, he reprised his role as Captain Howard in “Bad Boys for Life”, followed by his role as Collin Carmichael in the 2021 mystery thriller “Hide and Seek”, in which he starred opposite Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Joe’s completed the filming of his three upcoming movies, entitled “Man of War”, “Home Delivery”, and “Spring Break ‘83”, so his fans will soon enjoy watching him in the cinemas.

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Roles in series

Joe made his first television series appearance as Louis Peschi in the 1978 comedy-drama “Free Country”, starring Rob Reiner and Judith Kahan. In the following years, Joe mostly made appearances as a guest star in numerous series, including “Eischied” (1979), “Chicago Story” (1982), “Hill Street Blues” (1984), and “The Hitchhiker” (1989).

His first notable TV series role came in 1990 when he was cast to play Dominic Fanelli in “The Fanelli Boys”, which followed the story of a widow Teresa who moves from Brooklyn to Florida after her husband died, and her four adult sons, Frankie, Ronnie, Dominic and Anthony move back to live with her. This comedy, also starring Christopher Meloni, Ann Morgan Guilbert, Andy Hirsch and Ned Eisenberg, although having no nominations was well-rated by the audience.

Another of Joe’s notable TV series roles is his portrayal of Jimmy Murtha in the crime drama “EZ Streets”, which earned him the Television Critics Association Award for Individual Achievement in Drama, and a nomination for the Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Drama Series, in 1997.

Certainly, Joe’s most recognizable role is his performance as Ralph Cifaretto in “The Sopranos” – between 2001 and 2004, Joe was seen in 21 episodes of this world-popular crime drama, which besides his Primetime Emmy Award, brought him two Online Film & Television Association Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, in 2001 and ’03. He also shares with the rest of the cast two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.

Concurrently, Joe was seen as Joe Renato in “The Handler” (2003-2004), followed by his recurring role as Tommy Danko in the series “Dr. Vegas” (2004-2006). Joe was next seen as James ‘Jimmy’ Centrella in the 2006 series “Waterfront”, in which he starred opposite William Baldwin and Bruce MacVittie. This drama followed the story of corruption and scandal surrounding an ethically challenged Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island. Joe, who also produced this series, fought for the filming of the show to be on location in Providence; many assume that this is the reason why the show was canceled.

In the following years, Joe guest-starred in “How to Make It in America” (2011), “Deadbeat” (2015), “Sense8” (2017), and “MacGyver” (2020). Most recently, in 2021, he was seen as Eddie Penisi Senior in two episodes of the series “Tacoma FD”, a comedy about firefighters who instead against fire, fight their boredom.

Wife and children

Joe has been the subject of various speculations about his romantic life, and what is known is that in 1974, he became a father for the first time when his daughter Michelle was born; her mother’s name has stayed undisclosed to date.

Joe’s first wife was Morgan Kester, an actress who hasn’t gained much success – she had a few appearances in TV series, but none of those roles brought her fame, and she’s known best as Joe’s ex-wife. The two married in 1979 and divorced in 1985. They have one son together, named Marco, born in 1981.

In the early ‘90s, Joe’s friend and fellow actress Samantha Phillips, introduced him to his future second wife, Nancy Sheppard, an aspiring model. The two married in 1994, and they have four children together, namely Melody, Daniella, Bobby and Isabella, whose birthdates aren’t unrevealed, as Joe and Nancy prefer to keep their children’s lives away from the public eye.

As of June 2023, Joe is living with his second wife and children in their residence in Hollywood.

Net worth

During his nearly 50-year-long career, this renowned actor has appeared in numerous hit movies, and thanks to his talent, has earned a hefty sum of money. According to sources, his net worth has been estimated at over $8 million, as of early 2023.

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