Vincent Schiavelli

Vincent Andrew Schiavelli (/ˌskəˈvɛli/; November 11, 1948 – December 26, 2005) was an American character actor and food writer noted for his work on stage, screen, and television.[1] Described as an "instantly recognizable sad-faced actor", Schiavelli was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome in childhood.[2]

Vincent Schiavelli
Vincent Schiavelli, 1987 (cropped).jpg
Schiavelli in 1987
Vincent Andrew Schiavelli

(1948-11-11)November 11, 1948
DiedDecember 26, 2005(2005-12-26) (aged 57)
EducationNew York University (MFA)
OccupationActor, food writer
Years active1971–2005
1993−2005 (writing)

Schiavelli gained fame as a character actor, mainly in supporting roles. His better-known roles include Fredrickson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Mr. Vargas in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), the Subway Ghost in Ghost (1990), Organ Grinder in Batman Returns (1992), Chester in The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Dr. Kaufman in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and ABC executive Maynard Smith in Man on the Moon (1999).

Early lifeEdit

Schiavelli was born in Brooklyn to a Sicilian-American family, the son of John Schiavelli and Katherine Coco. He attended Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn. He studied acting through the theatre program at New York University and began performing on stage in the 1960s.


Schiavelli's first film role occurred in Miloš Forman's 1971 production Taking Off,[1] in which he played a counselor who taught parents of runaway teens to smoke marijuana in order to better understand their children's experiences. Schiavelli's aptitude and distinctive appearance soon provided him with a steady stream of supporting roles, often in Forman's films, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Valmont, and the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon.

He played Mr. Vargas, the biology teacher, in the 1982 comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a role he reprised in the 1986 television spin-off Fast Times. He was cast in a similar role in Better Off Dead in which he played Mr. Kerber, a geometry teacher.

In 1987, he starred alongside Tim Conway in the short film comedy Dorf on Golf, and then Dorf and the First Games of Mount Olympus in 1988. In 1990, he played the Subway Ghost in Ghost and in 1992, he played in Tim Burton's Batman Returns as the "Organ Grinder", one of the Penguin's henchmen. He appeared as another villain in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), as a silent monk in The Frisco Kid (1979), and as John O'Connor, one of the evil Red Lectroids in 1984's The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. In 1994 he appeared in the music video for ZZ Top's "Breakaway", alongside Fairuza Balk and in 1997, was named one of America's best character actors by Vanity Fair magazine. He also made several voice appearances in the animated television show Hey Arnold!. In 2002, he played a children's television show host turned heroin addict named Buggy Ding Dong in Death to Smoochy.[3]

His first television role came in 1972 as Peter Panama in The Corner Bar, the first sustained portrayal of a gay character on American television. His other television credits include The Moneychangers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, WKRP in Cincinnati and Taxi as the priest who marries Latka and Simka. He appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Arsenal of Freedom" as a holographic salesman, on Miami Vice as a research scientist who conspires to steal a top-secret prototype weapon from his employer, and in an uncredited role in an episode of Punky Brewster. In 1987 he appeared as Lyle, a gangster, in the MacGyver season 2 episode "Soft Touch". In Highlander: The Series, he played Leo Atkins, a homeless Vietnam War veteran accused of murder in the Season 1 episode "Innocent Man". In The X-Files, he played Lanny, a man with an underdeveloped conjoined twin in the Season 2 episode "Humbug".

Schiavelli's tombstone in Polizzi Generosa graveyard

Schiavelli served as honorary co-chair of the National Marfan Foundation, an organization which serves those affected by Marfan syndrome, from which Schiavelli suffered.[4]

Schiavelli also performed in a few video games, including Emperor: Battle for Dune (as Harkonnen Mentat Yanich Kobal) and as Dr. Hellman in the video game Corpse Killer.


Schiavelli died of lung cancer on December 26, 2005, aged 57, at his home in Polizzi Generosa, the Sicilian town where his grandfather Andrea Coco was born, and about which he wrote in his 2002 book Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa (ISBN 0-7432-1528-1).[5] Schiavelli was buried at Polizzi Generosa Cemetery, near Palermo, Sicily.



  1. ^ a b Hal Erickson (2015). "Vincent Schiavelli". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 9, 2014.
  2. ^ Tom Jacobs (08 September 1991). [ACTOR SCHIAVELLI DECLARES VICTORY OVER MARFAN'S]. The Chicago Tribune, accessed 27 November 2019
  3. ^ Inskeep, Steve (December 27, 2005). "Character Actor Vincent Schiavelli Dies". Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  4. ^ "NMF Mourns the Loss of its Honorary Co-Chair, Vincent Schiavelli" Archived 2013-06-16 at the Wayback Machine, National Marfan Foundation. Retrieved April 10, 2011
  5. ^ "Character actor Schiavelli dies". December 26, 2005. Retrieved April 14, 2009.
  6. ^ a b c "Vincent Schiavelli Filmography". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. April 28, 2022.[dead link]

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