In 1990, Pesci won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the psychopathic mobster Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, ten years after receiving a nomination in the same category for Raging Bull.
Early lifePesci, an Italian-American, was born February 9, 1943 in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Mary, who worked part-time as a barber, and Angelo Pesci, a forklift driver for General Motors and bartender. By the time Pesci was five years old, he was appearing in plays in New York. A few years later, at age ten, he was a regular on a television variety show called Startime Kids, which also featured Connie Francis. He started out working as a barber in the 1960s, following in his mother's footsteps. He released an album entitled Little Joe Sure Can Sing, under the pseudonym "Joseph Richie," accompanied by a band that included good friend and future fellow actor Frank Vincent.
Pesci practiced judo all throughout his teens. He played guitar for Joey Dee and the Starliters. Other early famous members of The Starliters were Charles Neville (The Neville Brothers) and Jimmy James (Jimi Hendrix). Later on Pesci went solo under the name Joe Ritchie, but unlike the ones mentioned before, Joe Pesci was not very successful and started his acting career. He made his film debut as an extra in Dee's film Hey, Let's Twist!.
CareerHis breakthrough as an actor came in 1980 when he co-starred alongside Robert De Niro who played the lead role of boxer Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, for which he won the BAFTA Award for Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles in 1981 and was nominated an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Subsequently, he performed with De Niro in the films Once Upon a Time in America, and Goodfellas (for which he received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, in 1990,) and Casino. He also had a small role in 1993's A Bronx Tale, which De Niro directed.
The pairing became famous enough to inspire a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live, called, "The Joe Pesci Show". (The real Pesci and De Niro would eventually make a surprise appearance in one episode). Pesci hosted Saturday Night Live on October 10, 1992. During the monologue, he restored a picture of Pope John Paul II, which was torn by Sinéad O'Connor on the previous broadcast. He demonstrated this by tearing up a picture of Sinéad O'Connor to which was met with a huge applause.
Other workIn the late 1970s, Joe teamed up with Frankie Vincent, performing in local clubs like the Arlington Lounge and other venues around Northern NJ as "Vincent and Pesci." The comedy duo's material was a play on Martin and Lewis and Abbott and Costello.
In 1988, Pesci co-starred alongside pop singer Michael Jackson in the musical-fantasy film Moonwalker as the film's antagonist Mr. Big. The film was actually a collection of short films and Pesci was featured in the fifth and final segment which was an actual full-length movie called "Smooth Criminal" which was based on Michael Jackson's song by the same name.
He later co-starred in the blockbuster hit Home Alone (1990), playing one of two bumbling burglars (along with good friend Daniel Stern) who attempt to rob the house of the character played by Macaulay Culkin. Two years later, he reprised his role for the sequel.
Pesci also had roles in JFK (as David Ferrie) and the comedy My Cousin Vinny (as the title character) released in 1991 and 1992, respectively. He appeared as Leo Getz in three Lethal Weapon films.
He had starring roles in several other films including The Super (1991), Jimmy Hollywood (1994) and With Honors (also 1994).
Retirement from actingVincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You which spawned the single "Wise Guy". In 1999, Pesci announced his retirement from acting to pursue a musical career and to enjoy life away from the camera. He returned to acting when he did a cameo in De Niro's 2006 film The Good Shepherd. He is the star in the 2010 brothel drama Love Ranch, alongside Helen Mirren.
He is one of the producers of the hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys. The musical is based on the lives of the musical group, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Pesci was present during the formation of the group as a young man and is portrayed as a character in the play.