NEW YORK (CBS SF/AP) — Alex Rocco, the Emmy-winning character actor best known for taking a bullet through the eye as the Las Vegas casino boss Moe Greene in “The Godfather,” has died. He was 79.
Rocco’s daughter, Jennifer, announced his death Saturday, July 18th. Details were not immediately available, until she posted on Facebook Sunday afternoon that the cause of death was due to cancer.
Rocco’s career spanned five decades, and he remained active up until his death, including a recurring role on the Starz series “Magic City.” His distinctively gravelly voice made him a frequent tough-guy presence in both hardboiled tales (“The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” ”St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” ”Get Shorty”) and comedic sitcoms (“The Simpsons,” ”The Facts of Life”).
WATCH: Alex Rocco in “The Godfather”
His most famous role came in 1972’s “The Godfather,” where he played the humbled casino owner who meets his fate on a massage table, with a bullet through his thick eyeglass lenses. His confrontation with Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone — in which he condescended to the new boss: “I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!” — was among the movie’s many indelible scenes.
“Without a doubt, my biggest ticket anywhere,” Rocco told the AV Club in 2012. “I went for. I dunno, one of the Italian parts. Maybe the Richard Bright part. But Coppola goes, ‘I got my Jew!’ And I went, ‘Oh no, Mr. Coppola, I’m Italian. I wouldn’t know how to play a Jew.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, shut up.'”
The Boston-born Rocco also memorably voiced the cigar-smoking studio head of “Itchy and Scratchy” on “The Simpsons.” And he played Charlie Polniaczek on the 1980s sitcom “The Facts of Life.” In 2001, Rocco played Salvatore Fiore, Jennifer Lopez’ father in ‘The Wedding Planner’ set in San Francisco.
He won an Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy series in 1990 for the short-lived Jon Cryer sitcom “The Famous Teddy Z.”
Born on Feb. 29, 1936, as Alessandro Federico Petricone Jr. in Cambridge, Mass., Rocco studied acting under Leonard Nimoy on his arrival to Los Angeles. His first role was in a Russ Meyer film, 1965’s “Motor Psycho.”
Nimoy helped rid Rocco of his thick Boston accent, and the actor would forever after find consistent work — from Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” to “Family Guy” — for his singular voice.
Rocco is survived by his wife, actress Shannon Wilcox, his daughter Jennifer, son Lucien and a grandson.
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