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- From the sectionEntertainment & Arts
Alex Rocco, the US actor best known for his role in crime drama The Godfather, has died of cancer aged 79.
Rocco played Moe Greene, the casino boss who angrily resisted a takeover attempt from rising mafia boss Michael Corleone and paid for it with a bullet through his eye.
In a career spanning half a century, Rocco won an Emmy for his role in 1990s sitcom The Famous Teddy Z.
He also voiced the studio boss behind Itchy and Scratchy in The Simpsons.
More recently, he starred as Matt LeBlanc’s curmudgeonly father on BBC Two’s Episodes.
Born Alexander Federico Petricone in 1936 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Rocco was – according to a US organised crime informant – a young hanger-on of the Boston area’s Winter Hill Gang.
After he was arrested, but not charged, over a gang-related killing, he fled to California to work as a bartender.
Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, he studied acting under Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, a fellow Massachusetts native who advised Rocco to lose his Boston accent. “I wouldn’t spend five bucks to see Leonard in a film, but he was one of the greatest coaches I ever had,” he later said.
Rocco made his debut in cult director Russ Meyer’s 1965 film Motor Psycho.
Six years later, he won a part in what was to become regarded as one of the best films ever made.
He described his role as casino boss Moe Greene in The Godfather as “without a doubt, my biggest ticket anywhere” in an interview with the AV Club.
His character met a sticky end after a financial dispute with Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, which leads Rocco to utter the immortal phrase: “Don’t you know who I am?’ I’m Moe Greene!”
It was a line of dialogue which never left him. He later said: “People on the golf course will say, ‘Hey, Alex, would you call my dad and leave a line from The Godfather?’
“I say, ‘Okay. I buy you out, you don’t buy me out!… Don’t you know who I am?’
“But I enjoy doing it. It’s fun. I’ve been leaving Moe Greene messages for 40 years. People’s dads, girlfriends, whoever.”
Frequently cast as gangsters, his notable roles included appearances in The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Get Shorty. He also had a part in 1980s sitcom The Facts of Life.
He said in a 2011 interview: “Playing gangsters is great. They usually dress you sharp. And you have a license to pretty much bully anybody. I mean, I wouldn’t dare to that at home. My wife will give me a back hander.”
Aside from mobster movies, Rocco enjoyed a broad career in dramas, thrillers, comedies and even turned his hand to animation, working on projects like Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, Family Guy and Batman: Year One.
He described voiceover work as “like stealing money”.
The actor died on Saturday afternoon of cancer at his home in Studio City, his family said.
Jon Cryer, the star of The Famous Teddy Z, tweeted: “I am desolate. He was the sweetest man.”
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who starred alongside Rocco in the TV series Magic City said: “For those of us lucky enough to get to know Rocco, we were blessed.”
“He gave the best advice, told the best and dirtiest jokes and was the first to give you a hug and kiss when it was needed. To know Roc was to love Roc. He will be missed greatly. There is a little less magic in the world today. Rest in peace, ‘Pops.’ Love and miss you madly.”
British comedy actor Stephen Mangan said: “Extremely sad to hear of the death of the lovely Alex Rocco. Moe Green in The Godfather but I knew him as Matt’s dad in Episodes. Great guy.”
In a second tweet, he added: “Filming those scenes were the funniest days we had on set. RIP Alex Rocco.”