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Dominic Chianese

Dominic Chianese

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: February 24, 1931 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Bronx, New York, USA Profession: actor, singer, bricklayer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

After nearly a half century as a working actor with credits on Broadway and TV as well as in features, Dominic Chianese finally achieved prominence as the embittered and ambitious would-be don Corrado 'Junior' Soprano, the uncle to mob boss Tony, on HBO's popular series "The Sopranos" (1999- ). The Bronx native began acting onstage in 1952 amassing credits in musicals and plays in regional theaters and on and off-Broadway, mostly in character parts. Chianese didn't start appearing in films until the 70s beginning with a small role as a panhandler in "Fuzz" (1972). He cites Al Pacino, with whom he has acted in four films, as "a very big influence on my life", and also worked on three films with director Sidney Lumet. Between appearing in such blockbusters as "The Godfather, Part II" (1974), "All the President's Men" (1976) and "Fort Apache, The Bronx" (1981), the actor squeezed in gigs as a singer and soap opera actor (on ABC's "Ryan's Hope"), often living the life of a struggling player. As he aged into character parts, he began to work with slightly more frequency, either playing figures of authority (i.e., judges on episodes of NBC's "Law & Order") or more likely, gangsters (e.g., the 1996 HBO...

After nearly a half century as a working actor with credits on Broadway and TV as well as in features, Dominic Chianese finally achieved prominence as the embittered and ambitious would-be don Corrado 'Junior' Soprano, the uncle to mob boss Tony, on HBO's popular series "The Sopranos" (1999- ).

The Bronx native began acting onstage in 1952 amassing credits in musicals and plays in regional theaters and on and off-Broadway, mostly in character parts. Chianese didn't start appearing in films until the 70s beginning with a small role as a panhandler in "Fuzz" (1972). He cites Al Pacino, with whom he has acted in four films, as "a very big influence on my life", and also worked on three films with director Sidney Lumet. Between appearing in such blockbusters as "The Godfather, Part II" (1974), "All the President's Men" (1976) and "Fort Apache, The Bronx" (1981), the actor squeezed in gigs as a singer and soap opera actor (on ABC's "Ryan's Hope"), often living the life of a struggling player. As he aged into character parts, he began to work with slightly more frequency, either playing figures of authority (i.e., judges on episodes of NBC's "Law & Order") or more likely, gangsters (e.g., the 1996 HBO biopic "Gotti").

It was in part because he had had so much experience essaying the latter that writer-producer David Chase hired him for what became his late-in-life breakthrough. Donning large prop glasses, the bald Chianese cut a fascinating figure as Junior Soprano. Jealous of his nephew's rise to power but shrewd enough not to cross him, Junior, in the actor's capable performance, sometimes came off as somewhat foolish. But underneath lay a petty man who demanded payment for any and all offenses. Walking the fine line of drama and comedy in each script, he etched a brilliant portrait of a relatively simple man with large ambitions. At an age when many of his contemporaries might consider retiring, Chianese became a familiar face and one that has a name.

Loving the recognition, he reported to People (September 13, 1999), "A construction crew in Times Square stopped working and said, 'There's Uncle Junior!' Before only people in theater knew who I was." He also received back-to-back Emmy nominations in 2000 and 2001 for his efforts in the series' second and third seasons. As a result of his late-life success, Chianese also appeared in the occasional big screen outing, including "Unfaithful" (2002) and, as an Italian count whose purchased the sexual services of Neve Campbell, writer-director James Toback's "When Will I Be Loved?" (2004).

The actor has also released two albums of traditional, popular and original Italian and American songs, the 2001 disc Hits and the 2003 follow-up Ungrateful Heart.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
3.
4.
 When Will I Be Loved? (2004) Count Tommaso Lupo
5.
 Unfaithful (2002) Frank Wilson
6.
 Under Hellgate Bridge (1999) Father Nichols
7.
 Cradle Will Rock (1999) Papa (Silvano)
9.
 Night Falls on Manhattan (1997) Judge Impelliteri
10.
 Gotti (1996) Joe Armone
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in the Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx
1952:
First professional job in a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore"
:
Spent 20 years acting on and off in theater, appearing on Broadway, off-Broadway and in regional and repertory companies
:
Refused to audition for a role in "The Godfather" because he was doing a play in Boston
1972:
Had a small role as a panhandler in "Fuzz," adapted from an Ed McBain's "87th Precinct" story
1974:
Performed the role of Johnny Ola in "The Godfather, Part II" opposite Al Pacino
1975:
Second film with Pacino, Sidney Lumet's "Dog Day Afternoon"
1976:
Acted in Alan J Pakula's "All the President's Men"
1977:
Played Arthur Fox in James Toback's "Fingers"
1979:
Third film with Pacino, "...And Justice for All"
1980:
Acted in ABC special "A Time for Miracles"
1981:
Appeared in "Fort Apache, The Bronx"
1981:
Had recurring role of a gangster on the ABC daytime serial "Ryan's Hope"
1985:
Acted in the short-lived Broadway production of "Requiem for a Heavyweight"
1990:
Reteamed with Lumet for "Q&A"
1990:
Portrayed Gabriel Capone, father of noted gangster Al Capone in the TNT movie "The Lost Capone"
1990:
First association with executive producer Dick Wolf, ABC series "H.E.L.P"
1991:
Made first of several appearances as guest actor on NBC's "Law & Order," created and executive produced by Wolf
1991:
Played Nicky Fish on unsold ABC pilot "Coconut Downs"
1995:
Had featured role in the revival of Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo"
1996:
Appeared in Eric Schaeffer's "If Lucy Fell"
1996:
Fourth film with Pacino, "Looking for Richard"
1996:
Portrayed capo Joseph 'Joe Piney' Armone in HBO movie "Gotti"
1997:
Third film with Lumet, "Night Falls on Manhattan"
1999:
First regular role on a series as Corrado 'Junior' Soprano, Tony's mentor and wily don, on the HBO drama "The Sopranos"; received Emmy nominations in 2000 and 2001
1999:
Acted in Tim Robbins' "Cradle Will Rock"
2000:
Released album of English and Italian standards titled <i>Hits</i>
2004:
Starred opposite Neve Campbell in "When Will I Be Loved?"
2004:
Starred as Lou Wolfe in the play "A Second Hand Memory," directed by Woody Allen
2007:
Co-starred in Alfredo de Villa's "Adrift in Manhattan"
2010:
Landed a recurring role on FX's "Damages"
2011:
Played lawyer Leander Cephas Whitlock on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Bronx High School of Science: Bronx , New York -
Brooklyn College: Brooklyn , New York -
Actors Studio: New York , New York -

Notes

"When I was a child I saw so many colorful characters in my neighborhood. There were doctors, there were lawyers, and there were bricklayers like my father. But there were racketeers too, and you could see them; they always wore hats back in the '30s. So, the superficial aspects of it haven't changed, but I'm not sure . . . about the emotions, I'm not too sure." --Dominic Chianese in a promotional interview for "The Sopranos" at hbo.com/sopranos

On why he was cast in "The Sopranos": ". . .because I have a record of doing a lot of Mafia figures. I think my age helped tremendously; I think had to grow into Uncle Junior. He's my age and that helped. I think also because of my theater training . . . I know that a funny line is not supposed to be funny to me. I know that; that's training. If you try to be funny you're not funny. And I trust the text. I trust the text a hundred percent . . . I don't like to add anything or take away anything, unless there's a very good reason. A couple of times I changed a word. Junior doesn't say "everyone," he says "everybody." "Everyone" is too literate for him. Everybody's here; not, everyone is here -- see there's a difference. That kind of stuff, my ear, it helps me. And the rhythm is wonderful. The writing is extraordinary."

--From a promotional interview at hbo.com/sopranos

On singing and playing his guitar in nursing homes: "It's a thrill, because I love the elderly. [The "Sopranos" money] is more money than I've ever made, but it's not a lot of money. If I was making a lot, I'd get a bigger apartment." --Dominic Chianese quoted in People, September 13, 1999

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Jane Pittson. United Nations program officer. Born c. 1947; engaged as of March 2003.

Family close complete family listing

son:
Dominic Chianese Jr. Actor, disc jockey.

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