Joe Spinell

Joe Spinell

​Joe Spinell was born Joseph J. Spagnuolo in Manhattan, New York of Italian immigrant parents, and the last of six children. His father, Pelegrino Spagnuolo (b. 1892, d. 1950), died from liver and kidney disease. His mother Filomena Spagnuolo (b. 1903, d. 1987) was a bit-part actress who acted in a few movies, some of them alongside her son. Spinell stood 5 foot and 11 inches. He was born at his family's apartment in Manhattan's Little Italy on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. A few years after the death of his father, he moved with his mother and older siblings to Woodside, Queens, New York where he lived off-and-on for the remainder of his life. Spinell suffered most of his life from hemophilia as well as chronic asthma. Because of his large, heavyset frame and imposing looks, Spinell was often cast as criminals, thugs, or corrupt police officers. His most notable roles were as mafioso Willi Cicci in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, and as loan shark Tony Gazzo in Rocky and Rocky II. Although primarily known as a character actor, Spinell co-wrote and starred as a serial killer in the 1980 film, Maniac. Joe Spinell died in his apartment on January 13, 1989 at the age of 52. The cause of his untimely death is arguable to this day. Some say that his death was caused by sudden heart attack due to heavy drug use, drinking and emotional distress in light of his mother passing away two years earlier. It is also speculated that he may have died from asthma complications, or bled to death from hemophilia related causes. He was planning a sequel to Maniac before his death. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Queens near his home. He is the distant cousin of the American football team St. Louis Ram's Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo. Spinell was married to adult film star Jean Jennings from February 1977 to July 1979. Together they had one daughter, but they eventually divorced.

YearTitleCharacterRelease Date
2001

The Joe Spinell Story

Himself2001-08-21
1995

Thriller Zone

Vinny Durand (segment "Fanatical Extremes") (archive footage)1995-01-01
1989

Rapid Fire

Hansen1989-01-01
1988
Married to the Mob
Leonard 'Tiptoes' Mazzilli1988-08-19
1988
K.O. Kippers
Tony Larosa1988-08-13
1988

Operation Warzone

Brig. Gen. George Delevane1988-07-01
1988

The Undertaker

Uncle Roscoe1988-01-01
1986

Maniac 2: Mr. Robbie

Mr. Robbie1986-11-01
1986
Hollywood Harry
1986-10-03
1986
The Whoopee Boys
Guido Antonucci1986-08-22
1986
The Messenger
Rico1986-01-01
1983
National Lampoon's Movie Madness
Agent / M.C. ("Success Wanters")1983-11-02
1983
The Last Fight
Angelo1983-09-07
1983
Eureka
1983-05-01
1983
Losin' It
Border Patrolman1983-04-08
1983
The Big Score
Mayfield1983-03-17
1983
Vigilante
Eisenberg1983-01-04
1983
Walking The Edge
Brusstar1983-01-01
1982
One Down, Two to Go
Joe Spangler1982-11-19
1982
The Last Horror Film
Vinny Durand1982-10-09
1982
Night Shift
Manetti1982-07-30
1981
Nighthawks
Lt. Munafo1981-03-17
1980
Maniac
Frank Zito1980-12-26
1980
Cruising
Patrolman DiSimone1980-09-23
1980
The Little Dragons
Yancey1980-07-18
1980
Brubaker
Floyd Birdwell1980-06-20
1980
The Ninth Configuration
Lt. Spinell1980-02-29
1979
Rocky II
Tony Gazzo1979-06-15
1979
Winter Kills
Arthur Fletcher1979-05-11
1978
Starcrash
Count Zartharn1978-12-21
1978
The One Man Jury
Mike Abatino1978-09-29
1978
Paradise Alley
Burp1978-09-22
1978
Nunzio
Angelo1978-05-12
1978
Big Wednesday
Psychologist1978-05-02
1977
Sorcerer
Spider1977-06-24
1976
Rocky
Gazzo1976-11-21
1976
Stay Hungry
Jabo1976-04-23
1976
Taxi Driver
Personell Officer1976-02-07
1976
Next Stop, Greenwich Village
Cop at El Station1976-02-04
1975
Farewell, My Lovely
Nick1975-08-08
1975
Strike Force
Sol Terranova1975-04-12
1975
Rancho Deluxe
Mr. Colson1975-01-01
1974
The Godfather: Part II
Willi Cicci1974-12-20
1973
The Seven-Ups
Toredano1973-01-01
1972
The Godfather
Willi Cicci (uncredited)1972-03-14