ByKarly Rayner, writer at
Movie Pilot's celebrity savant
Karly Rayner

Abe Vigoda, the actor who played Sal Tessio in the legendary Godfather film series, has died in his sleep at his daughter's home. He was 94 years old.

His daughter, Carol Vigoda Fuchs, has officially confirmed her father's death to the Associated Press giving the cause as simply "old age."

Vigoda is best known for his portrayal of Sal Tessio, a friend of patriarch Vito Corleone who tried to take over Corleone's crime family after he died. His attempts to overthrow the family structure were famously thwarted by Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, leading to Tessio's violent death.

Vigoda landed the role of Tessio in an "open call," which allowed aspiring actors without agents to try their luck at an audition.

The older generation will also remember Vigoda for his long-running role as Detective Sgt. Phil Fish on Barney Miller and the spinoff show, Fish. A role that he also landed in an unusual fashion after being summoned to the interview straight after a strenuous jog. In Vigoda's own words:

While living in Los Angeles, I'd jog three to five miles a day. One morning jogging, my agent calls about a new series called Barney Miller, saying, "Go there at once."

Well, I was tired and exhausted ... I must have run five miles that morning. I said. "I have to go home and take a shower."

"No, no, no. Go right now to Studio City, you're very right for it, they know you from The Godfather, they want to see you."

"With my shorts?"


Danny Arnold and Ted Flicker, the producers, look at me, I look at them, they look at me again. "You look tired."

"Of course I'm tired, I jogged five miles this morning, I'm exhausted."

"Yeah, yeah, tell me, you look like you have hemorrhoids."

"What are you, a doctor or a producer?"

Vigoda as Phil Fish
Vigoda as Phil Fish

Famous for stumbling into the spotlight later in life, Vigido had a heartening message for anyone who feels like they should have accomplished success during their youth, he explained:

"When I was a young man, I was told success had to come in my youth. I found this to be a myth. My experiences have taught me that if you deeply believe in what you are doing, success can come at any age."

Along with his acting career, Vigoda gained notoriety for being the subject of a large amount of death hoaxes that stretched all the way back to 1988 as you can see in this vintage clip from the David Letterman show:

Social media has been ringing out messages of condolences and tribute to the vintage character actor:

Vigoda is survived by his daughter, Carol.

(Source: Variety)


Latest from our Creators