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With his gravelly voice and tough-as-nails exterior, it would have been easy for veteran actor Robert Loggia to be relegated exclusively to playing the heavy. And he might have, were it not for his dogged determination, innate onscreen gravitas, and a few lucky breaks. After studying under famed acting instructor Stella Adler in New York, he scored roles off- and on Broadway before making his film debut in the Paul Newman vehicle "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956), as well as beginning a steady career on television. However, after the failure of his first starring series, "T.H.E. Cat" (NBC, 1966-67), Loggia almost called it quits. He eventually resumed acting, but found little satisfaction playing mostly thugs on series like "The Rockford Files" (NBC, 1974-1980). Just as he was about to forgo acting in favor of becoming a director, Loggia landed a role that would change his life. In "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982), Loggia showed both audiences and filmmakers a whole new side of himself as Richard Gere's abusive father, suddenly making the transition from minor player to respected character actor. In 1983, he appeared with Al Pacino in the blood-soaked "Scarface," and was nominated for an Oscar...
With his gravelly voice and tough-as-nails exterior, it would have been easy for veteran actor Robert Loggia to be relegated exclusively to playing the heavy. And he might have, were it not for his dogged determination, innate onscreen gravitas, and a few lucky breaks. After studying under famed acting instructor Stella Adler in New York, he scored roles off- and on Broadway before making his film debut in the Paul Newman vehicle "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956), as well as beginning a steady career on television. However, after the failure of his first starring series, "T.H.E. Cat" (NBC, 1966-67), Loggia almost called it quits. He eventually resumed acting, but found little satisfaction playing mostly thugs on series like "The Rockford Files" (NBC, 1974-1980). Just as he was about to forgo acting in favor of becoming a director, Loggia landed a role that would change his life. In "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982), Loggia showed both audiences and filmmakers a whole new side of himself as Richard Gere's abusive father, suddenly making the transition from minor player to respected character actor. In 1983, he appeared with Al Pacino in the blood-soaked "Scarface," and was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a rumpled investigator in "Jagged Edge" (1985). Loggia scored roles in blockbusters like "Independence Day" (1996), while at the same time amazing audiences with performances like his recurring role of Tony Soprano's recently sprung enemy on "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1998-2007). While not one to open a movie on the strength of his name, Robert Loggia instead remained one of the prolific, recognizable faces for generations in both film and on television.
Loggia was born on Jan. 3, 1930 in Staten Island, NY to Sicilian immigrants Benjamin, a shoemaker, and his wife, Elena. Robert graduated from New Dorp High School in 1947 as a promising athlete with the intention of pursuing a career in journalism, a goal his parents had instilled in him from an early age. But it was while attending New York's Wagner College that Loggia was first bitten by the acting bug when a professor tapped him for a role in Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." While the experience did spark a creative interest in young Robert, he was not deterred from his original pursuit, graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in Journalism in 1951. Shortly thereafter, Robert enlisted in the Army where he served as a reporter for the Caribbean Forces Network. However, upon his return to New York City the lure of the stage called once more, and Loggia began studying with famed acting coach Stella Adler. His course newly set, Robert soon made his off-Broadway debut in "The Man with the Golden Arm" (1955) as well as his first feature film role in 1956's boxing biopic "Somebody Up There Likes Me," alongside Paul Newman.
A flurry of projects on stage, television and screen soon came Loggia's way. The young actor acquitted himself nicely as a union zealot in 1957's "The Garment Jungle," followed by his first leading role in the sci-fi thriller "The Lost Missile" (1958). Around this time Robert was also landing roles on some of television's most revered series, such as "Studio One in Hollywood" (CBS, 1948-1958) and "Playhouse 90" (CBS, 1956-1960). But it was the title role in the 10-part series "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color: The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca" (ABC, 1958-1960) that finally brought Loggia major recognition. Robert returned to the stage in 1960 for a production of Lillian Hellman's "Toys in the Attic." Three years later, Loggia made his Broadway debut with Chekhov's "The Three Sisters." The next year he made his London stage debut with the same production and in 1966 reprised the same role on film. However, with the exception of his portrayal of Joseph in George Stevens' religious epic "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965), the remainder of the decade and into the next found Loggia working almost entirely in television.
After dozens of guest appearances on various programs, Robert took the starring role in the short-lived series "T.H.E. Cat" (NBC, 1966-67), a crime-drama featuring Loggia as a former cat burglar-turned-bodyguard. The show did not do well, and was cancelled after just one season. Robert's rising star seemed to lose momentum, and to a large extent, he stepped away from acting. By the early 1970s, Loggia returned to television, and at one point in 1972 even joined the cast of the CBS daytime soap "Search for Tomorrow" (1951-1987). Soon he fell into the unwelcome niche of playing the heavy on series like "The Rockford Files" (NBC, 1974-80), "Starsky & Hutch" (ABC, 1975-79), and "Charlie's Angels" (ABC, 1976-1981). Although there was a brief return to the Broadway stage in David Rabe's "In the Boom Boom Room" (1973), it was still television projects like the financial potboiler miniseries "Arthur Hailey's 'The Money Changers'" (1976) and 1977's NBC actioner "Raid on Entebbe" that made up the bulk of Loggia's résumé. In 1978, Robert appeared in Blake Edwards' "Revenge of the Pink Panther," a collaboration that would continue over four more films with the director. Tired of being pigeonholed playing the well-dressed gangster, Loggia decided to take a shot at the director's chair, and in 1980 helmed an episode of "Quincy, M.E." (NBC, 1976-1983) in addition to two early episodes of "Magnum, P.I." (CBS, 1980-88). It seemed like Robert Loggia was once again charting a new course for himself.
Fate, however, had other plans for Loggia when he was cast as Richard Gere's abusive and alcoholic father in "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982). The film was a massive success and Robert's gritty performance brought him to the attention of a whole new generation of filmmakers. As an actor, Loggia was suddenly busier than ever, appearing in two more Blake Edwards films, in addition to a recurring role on the CBS clunker "Emerald Point N.A.S." (1983-84). But it was his turn as crime boss Frank Lopez in Brian De Palma's bloody gangster film "Scarface" (1983) that cemented Loggia's status as an A-list character actor. Capitalizing on that success, Loggia next played a down-on-his-luck detective in the 1985 thriller "Jagged Edge," earning an Oscar nomination in the process. That same year he appeared in the John Huston-directed black comedy "Prizzi's Honor" alongside Jack Nicholson. Loggia kept busy over the next few years, appearing in a string of star-studded, albeit less successful, films. There was another Blake Edwards comedy, "That's Life!" (1986), as well as the Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling fiasco, "Over the Top" (1987), and the thriller "The Believers" (1988) with Martin Sheen. But it was in 1988's "Big," starring Tom Hanks, that Loggia gave perhaps his most endearing performance to date, as the amiable toy magnate dancing alongside Hanks to the tune of "Heart and Soul" on a giant piano keyboard.
Robert closed out the Eighties with another shot at episodic television, starring in "Mancuso: F.B.I." (1989-1990), a spin-off from the 1988 miniseries "Favorite Son." Although it did earn Loggia his first Emmy nomination, it failed to catch on and lasted only a single season. Never one to slow down, Robert continued to alternate between film and television work, with parts in 1991's "The Marrying Man," featuring Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, the lackluster sports romp, "Necessary Roughness" (1991), in addition to John Landis' "Innocent Blood" (1992), in which he played yet another mob boss. In 1993, he appeared as a mad politician in the bizarre futuristic miniseries "Wild Palms." And while it was not a large role, Loggia's turn as a general advising the president during an alien invasion in 1996's "Independence Day" once again placed the seasoned actor in a bona fide hit film. Robert followed up with appearances in the nearly unfathomable David Lynch psychological thriller "Lost Highway" (1997), the misguided Eddie Murphy comedy "Holy Man" (1998), as well as the romantic comedy "Return to Me" (2000), directed by Bonnie Hunt.
In 2000, Robert showed off his criminally underexploited comedic talent in an episode of NBC's "Frasier." Loggia followed that up with another hilarious turn as the demanding patriarch, Grandpa Victor, on Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle" in 2001. That episode would garner the actor his second Emmy nomination. Always willing to try something new, Loggia's distinctively raspy voice brought him a surprising line of side work in the form of voice acting for video games. Robert brought his substantial vocal presence to several highly anticipated games, such as "Grand Theft Auto III" (2001) and "Scarface: The World is Yours" (2006). However, it was his appearance in several episodes of the fifth season of "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1998-2006) that once again had both the critics and the public talking about Robert Loggia. His portrayal of Feech La Manna, a former mob boss recently released from prison and looking to get back in the game was considered by many to be one of Loggia's best, as well as a highlight of the acclaimed series. The latter part of the decade found Loggia still working, but for the most part in smaller roles in several low-budget, barely-seen films. The conspiracy thriller "The Deal" (2005) starring Christian Slater, and "Shrink" (2009) with Kevin Spacey exemplified the trend. In 2009, Loggia made a brief appearance in one of Apple Computer's ever-present "Get a Mac" ads, as a personal trainer trying without success to get the PC character back in shape. Loggia also guest starred in a 2009 episode of Ray Romano's mid-life crisis dramedy "Men of a Certain Age."
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CAST: (feature film)
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"I'm a character actor in that I play many different roles, and I'm virtually unrecognizable from one role to another, so I never wear out my welcome." --Robert Loggia quoted in press material for "Opportunity Knocks" (1990).
"Life is very Dante-esque. Everybody goes through their midlife crisis, with ailments, lost prowess, lost ability, loss of loved ones, loss of mother. That's a big one.
"Age brings grief, but also understanding. Acting however, is a continually rejuvenating experience." --Loggia to Kathy Gilbert, Times & Free Press (Chattanooga, Tennessee), October 2, 1999.
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