10 July, 2008

Vincent Schiavelli

Vincent Andrew Schiavelli was an American character actor noted for his work in film, stage, and television. He was often described as "the man with the sad eyes".

Schiavelli's first movie role occurred in Miloš Forman's 1971 production Taking Off, 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 angular appearance soon provided him with a steady stream of supporting roles, often in Milos Forman films, namely One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Valmont, and the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon.

Schiavelli also played Mr. Vargas the biology teacher in the 1982 hit 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 the cult hit Better Off Dead in which he played Mr. Kerber, a strangely popular geometry teacher.

In 1987, he starred alongside Tim Conway in the short film comedy, Dorf on Golf, and Dorf and the First Games of Mount Olympus in 1988. Schiavelli's role as a subway spirit in the 1990 drama Ghost won him much critical acclaim. 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 the 1984 cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. In 1997, he was named one of America's best character actors by Vanity Fair magazine.

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 Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Taxi as the priest who marries Latka and Simka. He also appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Arsenal of Freedom" as a holographic salesman. Schiavelli also wrote a number of cookbooks and food articles for various magazines and newspapers. He received a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in 2001 and was nominated on several other occasions.

On December 26, 2005, Schiavelli succumbed to lung cancer, aged 57.

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