Family & Companions
A talented actor with leading man appeal, Vincent Spano eschewed star-making vehicles in order to pursue more eclectic material with such filmmakers as John Sayles and Roger Vadim. Beginning his acting career while still in his teens, Spano took part in minor efforts like "Over the Edge" (1979) before becoming familiar to mainstream audiences in such films as "The Black Stallion Returns" (1983) and "Rumble Fish" (1983). He took the lead in Sayles' "Baby It's You" (1983), then followed with projects as diverse as the gritty crime drama "Alphabet City" (1984) and Vadim's remake of his own earlier Brigitte Bardot drama "And God Created Woman" (1988). A particular highlight came in the form of Sayles' explosive urban drama "City of Hope" (1991), followed by the powerful true tale of survival "Alive" (1993). Never predictable, always watchable, Spano continued to deliver convincing performances in a wide array of material, ranging from ensemble dramas to action-adventures.
Born Vincent M. Spano on Oct. 18, 1962 in Brooklyn, NY, he was the son of Italian-Americans. Spano began working professionally in the theater at the young age of 14 when he was cast in an off-Broadway production of "The Shadow Box." The show was successful enough to eventually move to Broadway, winning a Pulitzer and a Tony Award along the way. Although the inexperienced Spano was briefly persuaded by his first agent to take on the stage surname of Stewart - Spano was "too ethnic"- with success came confidence. The actor soon reverted to Spano and never looked back. He made his feature film debut in "The Double McGuffin" (1979), a family-friendly mystery featuring Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy and an ensemble cast of emerging young actors. Other early roles included a supporting turn alongside the likes of Matt Dillon in the juvenile delinquency drama "Over the Edge" (1979), in addition to small parts in TV fare like the Scott Biao teen comedy "Senior Trip" (CBS, 1981).
Two years later, things began to change significantly for Spano when he landed substantial roles in a string of notable feature films. He played Raj, a Moroccan horse race rider in the sequel "The Black Stallion Returns" (1983), and then worked with Dillon once more as the nerdy Steve in Francis Ford Coppola's stylistic drama "Rumble Fish" (1983), based on the novel by S.E. Hinton. It was also that same year that he landed his first starring role opposite Rosanna Arquette in writer-director John Sayles' romantic-drama "Baby, It's You" (1983), as an enigmatic misfit nicknamed "The Sheik." Strong notices led to more starring roles in such projects as the low-budget action-drama "Alphabet City" (1984), in which Spano played Johnny, a teenage drug dealer trying to get out of the business.
While it seemed as if Spano was being groomed for the type of heartthrob stardom being enjoyed by fellow actors like his "Rumble Fish" costar Dillon, he more often than not opted for less conventional roles in smaller films. A prime example was the quirky romantic-comedy "Creator" (1985) in which he played the assistant to an eccentric biologist (Peter O'Toole) obsessed with cloning his dead wife. The latter half of the decade saw Spano working in several European-produced films, such as the Taviani Brothers' ode to the early days of Hollywood, "Good Morning, Babylon" (1987) and Roger Vadim's remake of his own romantic-drama "And God Created Woman" (1988), starring Rebecca De Mornay. Spano impressed critics when he reteamed with John Sayles for the filmmaker's seething urban drama "City of Hope" (1991), starring as a lost-soul on a collision course with events beyond his control. "Alive" (1993), a visceral docudrama about the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes Mountains, allowed the actor to once again show his strength within an ensemble. Other offerings of the decade included the sentimental reunion drama "Indian Summer" (1993), the World War II prison escape adventure "The Ascent" (1994) and the thriller "The Tie That Binds" (1995), starring Keith Carradine and Daryl Hannah as a murderous husband and wife looking to take their daughter back from an unsuspecting adoptive couple (Spano and Moira Kelly).
With increased frequency, Spano appeared on television in projects like the made-for-cable espionage thriller "Downdraft" (Showtime, 1996), or the exceptionally short-lived police drama "Prince Street" (NBC, 1997). That same year, he fronted a cast that included Martin Sheen and Chris Noth for the apocalyptic thriller miniseries "Medusa's Child" (ABC, 1997) prior to returning to theaters in the inspirational AIDS drama "The Unknown Cyclist" (1998). The new millennium found Spano appearing in several made-for-TV thrillers boasting evocative titles like "The Rats" (Fox, 2002), "Deathlands" (Syfy, 2003) and "Grave Misconduct" (Lifetime, 2008). The actor also took on a recurring role as FBI Agent Dean Porter on several episodes of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ).
By Bryce Coleman
Cast (Feature Film)
Director (TV Mini-Series)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Stage debut at age 14 in "The Shadow Box" (Long Wharf and Broadway)
Film debut, "The Double McGuffin"
TV-movie debut, "Senior Trip!" (CBS)
Appeared in "Rumble Fish" with Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke
First film with writer-director John Sayles, "Baby It's You"
Played impressionable Boris Lafkin in "Creator", starring Peter O'Toole
Reteamed with Sayles for "City of Hope", playing Tony Lo Bianco's son
Portrayed Anthony Rossano in "Oscar", starring Sylvester Stallone
Acted in "Alive", the second movie telling of a rugby team's surviving a plane crash in the Andes by resporting to cannibalism
Made TV directorial debut with "In the Groove", an episode of HBO series "Tales From the Crypt"
Co-starred with Christopher Noth, Kevin Dillon and Martin Sheen in ABC miniseries "Medusa's Child"
Starred opposite Maria Grazia Cucinotta in "A Brooklyn State of Mind" (shown at the Cannes Film Festival)
Appeared in the ensemble cast of the NBC police drama "Prince Street"
Appeared in "The Unknown Cyclist"
Starred opposite Jordan Ladd in the Lifetime TV-movie "The Deadly Look of Love"
Had featured role in "Texas Rangers"