The Sopranos is largely considered to be one of the best television shows to date. Its fandom remains strong even 14 years after the last episode aired; HBO has sold out of “Bada Bing!” T-shirts on its website, and the series’ controversial ending is still endlessly debated on Reddit threads.
A large part of the mob show’s success is undoubtedly owed to its original approach to a genre that can become trite in the wrong hands. However, it must be said that The Sopranos still owes a lot to its predecessors.
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A number of elements of the hit series can be traced back to Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal Godfather films (an all-time favourite of Tony Soprano and co.), while the black comedy and sudden turns to brutish violence have Goodfellas’s Tommy DeVito written all over. But The Sopranos also borrows from the Scorsese classic in a far more obvious way: its actors.
An astonishing 27 actors are shared between the two works. A few feature heavily, but most are blink-and-you-miss-it cameos. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Goodfellas (the film had its US release on 19 September), we’ve combed through to spot each and every one.
1) Lorraine Bracco as Karen Friedman Hill and Dr Jennifer Melfi
Of the 27 actors shared between the movie and series, Bracco enjoyed the most meaningful roles in both. The actor was equally phenomenal as Henry’s wife in Goodfellas as she was as Tony Soprano’s therapist Dr Jennifer Melfi. In a 2012 interview, Bracco said that when she auditioned for the HBO series she did not want the role of Carmela (Tony’s wife) to avoid being typecast. “After Goodfellas, I was offered every Mafia gal, girl, wife, mistress, daughter available. And I said to them, ‘No, I don’t want to do that. I did it. Can’t do it better.’”
2) Michael Imperioli as Spider and Christopher Moltisanti
While Imperioli didn’t get much screentime as low-level wiseguy Spider in Goodfellas, he still made his mark in one of the film’s most iconic scenes: After an unhinged Tommy (Joe Pesci) shoots Spider in the foot and proceeds to mock him for whining, Spider’s brave retort (“Why don’t you go f*** yourself, Tommy?”) are his famous last words. In The Sopranos, Imperioli plays a main role as Christopher, Tony’s cousin and protege. Moltisanti rises up in the ranks – from associate to caporegime – over the course of the series.
3) Tony Sirico as Tony Stacks and Paule Gualtieri
Before he made his name as the perpetually tracksuited Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri, one of Tony’s chief henchmen and a mainstay in The Sopranos, Sirico played the small part of Tony Stacks – a similarly flashy old-school mobster. The actor originally auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior in The Sopranos (played by Dominic Chianese) before being offered the part of Paulie. Sicario agreed under the one condition that his character would not “become a rat”. Before becoming an actor, Sirico had a peppered criminal record, having been arrested 28 times.
4) Tobin Bell as an unnamed parole officer and Major Zwingli
The American actor and singer – best known for his portrayal as Jigsaw in the Saw franchise – appeared as a parole officer in Goodfellas before starring in one episode of Sopranos 11 years later. Bell played Major Carl Zwingli who Tony and Carmela meet with to discuss enrolling Antony Junior in the major’s military school.
5) Frank Vincent as Billy Batts and Phil Leotardo
Frank Vincent appeared in Goodfellas as Billy Batts, a well-respected mobster who gets on the wrong side of infamous hothead Tommy DeVito. The film ends with Batts bleeding out in the trunk of DeVito’s car, but Vincent was later resurrected in The Sopranos as the longtime captain of the Lupertazzi crime family and eventual mob boss of New York, Phil Leotardo.
6) Vincent Pastore as “Man with Coatrack” and Salvatore Bonpensiero
Blink and you’ll miss Pastore’s appearance as the non-descript “man with coatrack” in Goodfellas, but the actor comes into his own as Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpenseiro in The Sopranos. Even after his death, Sal makes appearances in Tony’s dreams and the show’s various flashback episodes.
7) Suzanne Shepherd as Karen’s Mother and Carmela’s Mother
The actor is best known for her performance as Karen’s overbearing mother in Goodfellas, but she takes a more laid-back approach to parenting in The Sopranos as Carmela’s mother Mary De Angelis.
8) Frank Albanese as Mob Lawyer and Uncle Pat Blundetto
Albanese first appeared as a mob lawyer in a courthouse representing a young Henry Hill. The actor then featured as Tony’s Uncle Pat and Uncle Junior’s brother in the hit HBO series. He also appeared as Tattaglia’s Assassin in the 1972 film The Godfather and again as the Grand Marshal of the St Gennaro Feast in The Godfather: Part III in 1990.
9) Tony Darrow as Sonny Bruz and Larry Boy Barese
Borgese, better known by his stage name Tony Darrow, appears as a wiseguy in both features. The actor played the owner of the Bamboo Lounge Sonny in the Scorsese classic, before starring in The Sopranos as mobster Larry Barese for the entire series run between 1999 and 2007.
10) Tony Lip as Frankie the Wop and Carmine Lupertazzi Sr
Lip is a mob movie veteran. He is best known for his portrayal of crime boss Carmine Lupertazzi in The Sopranos, but before that he not only portrayed the real-life Lucchese mobster Franceso Manzo in Goodfellas, but also the Bonnano crime family mobster Philip Giaccone in Donnie Brasco. He also scored a small role in The Godfather after meeting Francis Ford Coppola at the Copacabana nightclub.
11) Frank Pellegrino as Johnny Dio and FBI Chief Frank Cubitoso
Pelligrino famously played notorious mobster and member of the Lucchese crime family Johnny Dio before he became Tony Soprano’s nemesis, the FBI New Jersey bureau chief Frank Cubitoso.
12) Chuck Low as Morris Kessler and Shlomo Teittleman
Before he was assaulted by Tony Soprano, Low was strangled with a telephone cord by Jimmy Conway. In real-life, Low was De Niro’s landlord and a New York City property developer; you’ll recognise the actor in many of De Niro’s films. Most notably he starred as Morrie in Goodfellas, a hopeless gambler and the bigmouthed wig salesman.
13) Paul Hernan as Dealer and Beansie Gaeta
Hernan appeared in two of Scorsese’s most famous gangster movies. In GoodFellas he was The Pittsburgh Connection, and in Casino, he played an unnamed gambler. Later the actor starred in five episodes of The Sopranos, as the slimy Beansie Gaeta, a former pizza-chain owner who ends up in hospital after being hit over the head with a pot of coffee. Finally, Beansie bids the New Jersey mob world farewell to open a supper club in Miami. Most recently he played Whisper DiTullio in Scorsese’s 2019 crime epicThe Irishman.
14) Nicole Burdette as Carbone’s Girlfriend and Barbara Soprano Giglione
The actor had a cameo as Carbone’s girlfriend in Scorsese’s 1990 classic before going on to star as one of Tony’s sisters in The Sopranos. Burdette appeared in 14 episodes across the series’ run as the youngest Soprano sibling, who chooses to be less involved in the mobster lifestyle than her brother and older sister Janice.
15) Marriane Leonne as Tuddy’s Wife and Joanne Moltisanti
Leonne had a cameo as Tuddy’s wife in Goodfellas, but enjoyed her longest stint on-screen as Christopher Moltisanti’s not-so doting mother on The Sopranos.
16) Daniel P Conte as Dr Dan and Faustino ‘Doc’ Santoro
After a brief appearance as Dr Dan in Scorsese’s classic, Conte made his name getting “whacked” on The Sopranos, courtesy of Phil Leotardo. In fact, the prosthetic mask used to fake his death scene now hangs in Conte’s aptly named Goodfellas Ristorante in honour of the iconic scene.
17) Angela Pietropinto as Cicero’s wife and Helen Barone
Pietropinto briefly appeared as Cicero’s wife in Goodfellas before she guest-starred in The Sopranos as Helen Barone.
18) Susan Varon as Susan and Joan Gillespie
Varon took on a slightly role in The Sopranos as Joan Gillespie, a realtor showing Christopher and his new wife Kelli around a new home.
19) Frank Adonis as Anthony Stabile and Guest #1
While most of the actors on this list enjoyed bigger roles in their later features, Adonis went from playing real-life Anthony Stabile in Goodfellas to portraying Guest #1 in The Sopranos. Adonis did, however, star in other Scorsese films including Casino and Raging Bull.
20) Nancy Cassaro as Joe Buddha’s wife and Joanne Moltisanti
Cassaro played Christopher’s mother in the second series of The Sopranos, appearing in the episode “From Where to Eternity” before the part was taken over by Marianne Leone Cooper.
21) Victor Collichio as part of Henry’s 60s crew and Joe
The actor played a member of Henry’s 60’s crew in Goodfellas before he appeared as a mechanic at Salvatore Bonpensiero’s body shop named Joe.
22) Anthony Alessandro as part of Henry’s 60s crew and a waiter
Small parts count too – and despite unnamed roles in both features, Alessandro can take pride in knowing he appeared in two key moments of cinematic history.
23) Gaetano LoGiudice as part of Henry’s 60s crew and a Bada Bing! customer
LoGiudice traded one crew for another, later becoming a regular patron of Tony’s famed strip club “Ba Da Bing!”
24) Vito Antufermo as Prizefighter and Bobby Zanone
The actor and retired professional boxer played a Prizefighter in Goodfellas before taking on his Sopranos role of Bobby Zazone, the owner of a garbage transfer station used as a front for the Aprile crew to sell drugs.
25) Gene Canfield as prison guard and police officer
Canfield stepped out of one uniform and into another, playing the lawful adversary to our favourite anti-heroes. The actor also became a familiar face on television crime favourite Law & Order.
26) Antony Caso as a truck hijacker and Martin Scorsese
It was quite the turn around for Caso who went from playing an unnamed hijacker in Scorsese’s classic to portraying the iconic director himself in an episode of The Sopranos nine years later. While Brendan, Adrianna and film-making hopeful Christopher are waiting in line to get into a nightclub, Scorsese arrives in a limo and bypasses the queue.
27) John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia as a member of Batts’s crew and Albie Cianflone
Ciarcia might have gone from one crew to the next but both were headed up by fellow actor Frank Vincent. Ciarcia played a member of Batts’s crew in Goodfellas before he followed Vincent over to his role as Phil Leotardo in The Sopranos and later became his consigliere.