Family & Companions
Prolific, Emmy-winning character actor Alex Rocco lent boisterous joie de vivre to numerous figures on both sides of the law in a four-decade career that included such projects as "The Godfather" (1972), "The Friends of Eddie Coyle" (1973), "The Famous Teddy Z" (CBS, 1989-1990), "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ) and countless others. Born Alessandro Federico Petricone, Jr., on February 29, 1936 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he was raised in the Boston suburb of Somerville by Italian immigrant parents. Rocco was locally infamous before he became famous: he orbited the city's organized crime scene, and began accumulating an arrest record in the late 1950s. In the early 1960s, he was associated with the notorious Winter Hill Gang, and his involvement in a 1961 assault that led to the six-year Irish Mob Wars prompted him to flee Boston for California. There, while tending bar in Santa Monica, he decided to explore acting, and studied with fellow Boston native Leonard Nimoy, who suggested he take speech lessons in order to rid himself of his thick Massachusetts accent. He also shed his last name, adopting Rocco from a company name on a bread truck; under his new moniker, he landed his first role, as a crazed biker in sexploitation legend Russ Meyer's "Motorpsycho!" in 1965. He soon settled into steady work as hoods or cops in projects ranging from Roger Corman's "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" (1967) to Richard Fleischer's "The Boston Strangler" (1968), before earning his breakout role as veteran gangster Moe Green in "The Godfather." Rocco's show-stopping turn as Green, who was based on Bugsy Siegel, among other organized crime figures, boosted his profile from bit player to character actor and occasional star in both studio and independent projects like "Slither" (1972) and the cult favorite "Detroit 9000" (1973). He was still the go-to player for criminal types, most notably in Boston-set "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," where he played bank-robbing gangster Jimmy Scalise. Rocco also acted as the behind-the-scenes connection between star Robert Mitchum and members of the Winter Hill Gang, from whom he wanted to gain perspective on his character. Rocco also worked frequently with actor Alan Arkin, who admired his talent and cast him in several of his projects, including "Hearts of the West" (1975) and Arkin's second directorial effort, "Fire Sale" (1977). The 1980s found Rocco settled into a regular routine of character roles in features and on television series, including repeat turns as Nancy McKeon's father on several episodes of "The Facts of Life" (NBC, 1979-1988). The close of the decade saw Rocco earn an Emmy for his rich turn as fast-talking Hollywood agent Al Floss on Hugh Wilson's short-lived but critically-acclaimed sitcom "The Famous Teddy Z." The win led to a shift in Rocco's career - having spent much of his professional career playing thugs, he now essayed comic roles in films like "Get Shorty" (1996), Tom Hanks' "That Thing You Do" (1997), and in numerous guest shots on TV, including a recurring gig as Roger Meyers, Jr., the boorish creator of the "Itchy & Scratchy" cartoons, on "The Simpsons." Rocco continued to work regularly throughout the 1990s and 2000s, playing boisterous, working-class guys in "The Wedding Planner" (2001) and Sidney Lumet's "Find Me Guilty" (2006) and in recurring roles on "The Division" (Lifetime, 2001-2004) and "Magic City" (Starz, 2012-2013). His final screen role, as an aging Hollywood agent, came on an episode of the cable sitcom "Maron" (IFC 2013-16). Rocco died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 79 on July 18, 2015 in Studio City, California.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Moved to Los Angeles
Feature acting debut in Russ Meyer's "Motor Psycho"
Professional acting debut as a thug on an episode of "Batman" (date approximate)
Cast as Moe Green in "The Godfather"
TV-movie debut, "Portrait: Legend in Granite: The Vince Lombardi Story"
Starred in the short-lived TV series "Three For the Road"
TV miniseries debut, "Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue"
Co-starred in the acclaimed short-lived sitcom, "The Famous Teddy Z"; earned Emmy Award
Cast in the short-lived series "Sibs"
Played a regular on the fleeting Fox sitcom "The George Carlin Show"
Offered a deadpan turn as the Chief of the Kumquat Nation in "Dudley Do-Right"
Played vicious crime boss co-defendant Nick Calabrese in Sidney Lumet's "Find Me Guilty" starring Vin Diesel