‘Analyze This’ Actor Joe Viterelli Dies
LOS ANGELES – Joe Viterelli, a stocky actor whose pug-face helped him land a series of roles as lovable mugs in mob flicks that included “Analyze This” and its sequel, has died. He was 66.
Viterelli, of Los Angeles, died of complications from heart surgery at Valley Hospital in Las Vegas on Jan. 29, his son, film composer Joseph Vitarelli, who spells his last name differently than his father, told The Associated Press Monday.
A jack-of-all-trades before embarking on an acting career in his 50s, Viterelli said in interviews that he once operated a string of music schools started by his family in Queens. He later ran bars, drove a truck, owned a cleaning service and had a job drilling bowling-ball holes, he said.
A New York City native, Viterelli moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s. He became friends with director Leo Penn, who thought Viterelli’s tough-guy features would play well in movies and television.
Viterelli declined, but years later, the director’s son, Sean Penn, called about his 1990 gangster tale “State of Grace.”
“He said, ‘Joe, we’re looking for a character that’s from your neighborhood,” Viterelli recalled in an interview. “We’ve seen about 50 to 60 people, and nobody’s right.’ He said the key words, ‘Would you do me a favor?'”
Viterelli accepted the role and established himself as a dependable character actor, appearing in several dozen movies, including “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Mobsters” and “Shallow Hal.”
He originated his best-known role as Robert De Niro’s ominously likable henchman Jelly in 1999’s “Analyze This,” reprising the part in the 2002 follow-up “Analyze That.”
Viterelli is survived by his wife, Catherine, and their five children.