Actor Alex Rocco, best known for playing mobster Moe Green in the 1972 classic The Godfather, passed away on Saturday in his Studio City, California home at the age of 79. The actor's stepson, Sean Doyle, confirmed to The Los Angeles Times that the actor passed away after losing his battle with pancreatic cancer. The actor's long career spanned 50 years, with over 150 TV and film credits.
Alex Rocco was born Alessandro Federico Petricone Jr. in Boston, who caught the acting bug at the age of 30, when he took an acting class to meet women. After moving to Los Angeles, he took a class taught by Leonard Nimoy, who promptly kicked him out because he couldn't understand his thick Boston accent. He then enrolled in a speech class which transformed his Boston accent with a New York accent, which Leonard Nimoy said he could work with. He made his acting debut with the 1965 Russ Meyer film Motorpsycho!, and he also guest starred on the original Batman TV series and Get Smart.
Alex Rocco's big break came when he landed the role of mobster Moe Greene in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. The role was based on real-life mobster Bugsy Siegel, a Las Vegas casino owner who suffers a particularly gruesome death at the end of the film. During a recent interview, Alex Rocco revealed what that role did for his career.
"I had no idea what Moe Greene was gonna do for me. There was an off-Broadway play, 'Who Shot Moe Greene?' There was a Moe Greene's Bakery. Alec Baldwin did Moe Greene on Saturday Night Live. Billy Crystal opened up the Academy Awards once, saying, 'I just ran into Moe Greene outside.' It just doesn't die down."
The Godfather paved the way for roles in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Three the Hard Way, Cannonball Run II and Dream a Little Dream. He still regularly worked in television throughout his career, with arcs on CHiPs, Starsky and Hutch, The Rockford Files and a recurring role on The Facts of Life as Charlie Polniaczek, the father of Nancy McKeon's Jo Polniaczek. He won an Emmy Award for his role as Al Floss in The Famous Teddy Z.
In recent years, he starred in Get Shorty, That Thing You Do!, The Wedding Planner, Find Me Guilty, Smokin' Aces and he voiced Carmine Falcone in the animated superhero movie, Batman: Year One. He also had a recurring role on the Starz TV series Magic City and guest starring roles on Episodes and Maron. He is survived by his children Jennifer Rocco and Lucien Rocco; stepchildren Sean Doyle and Kelli Williams; a sister, Vivian De Simone; and four grandchildren.