Jon Polito

Jon Raymond Polito (December 29, 1950 – September 1, 2016) was an American character actor.[1] In a film and television career spanning 35 years, he amassed over 220 credits.[2] Notable television roles included Detective Steve Crosetti in the first two seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street and as Phil Bartoli on the first season of Crime Story. He also appeared in several films including The Rocketeer, The Crow and Gangster Squad, as well as his work with the Coen brothers. He appeared in five of their films, including Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski. Polito also portrayed legendary "hungry i" nightclub impresario Enrico Banducci in a large supporting role in Tim Burton's 2014 film Big Eyes starring Amy Adams.

Jon Polito
Jon Raymond Polito

(1950-12-29)December 29, 1950
Died(2016-09-01)September 1, 2016 (aged 65)
Years active1981–2016
Darryl Armbruster (m. 2015)
RelativesJack Polito (brother)
AwardsCinequest Film Festival:
Maverick Spirit Event Award
Best Actor in a Short Film

Homicide: Life on the Street

Polito was initially reluctant to audition for Homicide as he didn't want to move to Baltimore for the series, having just relocated from New York City to Los Angeles. His agents sent him the script anyway, featuring a dialogue scene between a Polish-American and an Irish-American detective. Polito preferred the Irish detective role, but was told that he could only do the Polish one. After reading for the part Polito added a message on his audition tape saying that if the producers wanted to call him back he would only be interested if he could take the part of the Irish detective. Series co-creators Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana rewrote the character as an Italian named Steve Crosetti and cast him in the role. The Polish detective was also rewritten, becoming Detective Meldrick Lewis, and was played by African-American actor Clark Johnson.[3]

The show was rating poorly and the producers were under pressure from NBC to include a new female character (Megan Russert) in the hope of gaining broader appeal. As a result, they decided to write out Polito's character at the end of Season 2. Fontana assured him that he would be brought back later in the season, but Polito was unhappy and criticized the producers publicly, an action he later regretted.[3] The outburst caused a rift with Fontana[1] and the Crosetti character was killed off early in Season 3, with the explanation that the detective had committed suicide. This further infuriated Polito, who again complained to the media, triggering a public slanging match between him and Fontana. Interviewed about the situation in 2005, Polito expressed regret for his handling of the matter. He noted that he and Fontana subsequently patched up their differences, and as a result the Crosetti character returned to make a farewell appearance as a spirit in Homicide: The Movie.[3][4]

Coen brothers collaboration

Polito was a regular in the Coen brothers movies appearing in five of their films. The Coens had seen Polito in the New York stage adaptation of Death of a Salesman in 1986 playing Howard Wagner. They approached him to play the part of The Dane in Miller's Crossing (1990), but after reading the script he turned them down saying he would only play the Italian gangster Johnny Caspar. The Coens auditioned several other actors but eventually used Polito after they made him read his entire role cold.[5]

He was offered the role of Lou Breeze in their next film Barton Fink (1991), in a role which was written especially for him. Again he turned down the Coens offer saying he wanted to play the part of movie producer Jack Lipnick. Actress Frances McDormand persuaded him to take the role saying it would change his career.[5] He later appeared in The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) as an eccentric businessman, The Big Lebowski (1998) as a private detective and finally in 2001 as a flirtatious salesman in The Man Who Wasn't There.[5]


Polito won an Obie Award in 1980 for his theater performances off Broadway and for his lifetime of work in film and television he received the Maverick Spirit Event Award at Cinequest Film Festival in 2005.[6] In 2012, he won the award for "Best Actor in a Short Film" at Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival.[7]

Personal life

Polito was born on December 29, 1950 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to John and Delaida "Dee" (née Pompei) Polito. He had an older brother and sister, Rosemary Simpson and Jack Polito, an animator.[8] After acting at the West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys, he studied theater at Villanova University.[8] Polito was openly gay.[9][10] He married fellow actor Darryl Armbruster on October 16, 2015, fifteen years after they first met.[8]

He died from multiple myeloma on September 1, 2016,[11] at the City of Hope Hospital, where he was being treated. Polito was 65 years old.


TV miniseries1981The Gangster ChroniclesThomas "Three Finger Brown" Lucchese13 episodes
Film1981Gangster WarsThomas "Three Finger Brown" Lucchese
Film1982The Clairvoyant[12]Detective Sporacoa.k.a. The Killing Hour
TV film1983Running OutJoe Poswalsky
TV film1984A Good SportMan in Taxi
TV film1985Death of a Salesman[12]Howard
Film1985Compromising Positions[12]Cop #1
Film1985Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins[12]Zack
Film1986Dream Lover[12]Doctor James
Film1986Highlander[12]Detective Walter Bedsoe
TV film1986A Deadly Business[12]Vitola
Film1986Fire with Fire[12]Boss
Film1986The Princess and the Call GirlPrivate Detective
TV series1986-1989The Equalizer[12]David Pfieffer / Gene Carmack / Carmack / Gianni4 episodes
TV series1986–1988Crime Story[12]Phil Bartoli16 episodes
Film1987Critical Condition[13]Kline
TV series1987OharaCaptain Ross11 episodes
TV film1988Alone in the Neon Jungle[12]Brad Stakowski
Film1988Homeboy[12]Moe Fingers
TV series1988Miami Vice[5]El Gato2 episodes
TV series1988WiseguyEddie Van PlattEpisode: "Player to Be Named Now"
TV series1989The Equalizer[12]David PfiefferEpisode: "Silent Fury"
TV film1989Livin' LargeSal
TV film1989Memories of ManonCarmack
TV series1989Trying TimesAgent CaponelloEpisode: "Death and Taxes"
Film1990The Freshman[12]Chuck Greenwald
Film1990Miller's Crossing[12]Johnny Caspar
Film1991Barton Fink[12]Lou Breeze
Film1991The Rocketeer[12]Bigelow
TV series1991Empty NestSlocumEpisode: "Harry's Got a Gun"
TV series1991Tales from the Crypt[12]Nikos StanoEpisode: "Deadline"
Film1992Leather Jackets[13]Fat Jack
Film1992Flodder in Amerika!Larry Rosenbaum
TV series1992Hearts Are Wild[12]Leon 'Pepe' Pepperman3 episodes
TV series1992-1994Murder, She Wrote[13]Lieutenant Peter DiMartini2 episodes
TV series1993DinosaursTy Warner (voice)Episode: "Swamp Music"
TV series1993Fallen Angels[13]Al ReseckEpisode: "I'll Be Waiting"
TV series1993The UntouchablesTommy PalumboEpisode: "Railroaded"
Film1993The ContendersPedro Perusia
TV series1993-1994Homicide: Life on the Street[12]Detective Steve Crosetti13 episodes
Film1994The Hudsucker Proxy[12]Mr. Bumstead
Film1994The Crow[12]Gideon
Film1994Blankman[12]Michael 'The Suit' Minelli
TV film1994Girls in Prison[12]Boss Johnson
TV film1994The Shaggy Dog[12]Detective Al
TV series1994ViperCouncilman StrandEpisode: "Pilot"
TV series1995Burke's LawEpisode: "Who Killed Cock-a-Doodle Dooley?"
Film1995Bushwhacked[12]Agent Palmer
TV series1995Chicago HopeDetective Bill RanfordEpisode: "Life Support"
TV series1995High SocietyAlvin SpaldingEpisode: "We Ought to Be in Pictures"
Film1995The InvadersWhitley, Metro HQUncredited
TV series1995Mad About You[13]RalphyEpisode: "My Boyfriend's Back!"
TV series1995NYPD Blue[13]Paul BiaggiEpisode: "One Big Happy Family"
TV series1995-1996Dream OnLouie4 episodes
Film1996Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco[13] [14]Ashcan (voice)
Film1996Just Your LuckNick
TV series1996-1998New York UndercoverJohn Dennis2 episodes
TV series1996The PretenderBen HanselEpisode: "A Virus Among Us"
TV series1996RoseanneMr. RussoEpisode: "Millions from Heaven"
TV series1996Swift JusticeTom LuddyEpisode: "Supernote"
Film1997The Corporate LadderMr. Deacon
TV series1997-2000Early EditionCliff Mourning / Louie DeFozio2 episodes
TV series1997Fired UpSam HarrisEpisode: "Domestic Bliss"
Short film1997Inside Out[12]Paparazzi27 minutes; included in the compilation film Boys Life 3
TV film1997Invasion[12]Detective Kemper
Animated TV series1997Life with LouieRed Meat (voice)Episode: "Louie's Harrowing Halloween"
TV series1997Night ManAl CaponeEpisode: "That Ol' Gang of Mine"
TV series1997Over the TopMr. HamsteadEpisode: "The Bee Story"
Film1998Nowhere Land[12]Frank
Film1998The Big Lebowski[12]Da Fino
Film1998Tale of the MummyParsons
Film1998Music from Another RoomLorenzo Palmieri
Film1998With Friends Like These...[13]Rudy Ptak
TV film1998The Defenders: Choice of Evils[12]D.A. Al Orsini
TV series1998Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV ShowMarv FishlandEpisode: "Honey, She's Like a Fish Out of Water"
TV series1998JennySid BouchieEpisode: "A Girl's Gotta Get It"
TV series1998MillenniumEddie Scarpino GianniniEpisode: "Omerta"
TV film1998Money Play$Lou Spano
TV series1998New York UndercoverRinaldiEpisode: "Drop Dead Gorgeous"
TV series1998PlayersPappasEpisode: "Mint Condition"
TV series1998Seinfeld[13]SilvioEpisode: "The Reverse Peephole"
TV series1998Veronica's ClosetMr. LehmanEpisode: "Veronica's Dog Day Afternoon"
TV film1999The Apartment Complex[12]Dr. Caligari
Film1999Angel's Dance[12]Uncle Vinnie
Film1999Road Kill[12]Jelly
Film1999Stuart Little[12]Detective Sherman
Film1999Carlo's Wake[12]Uncle Gus
TV series1999Good vs. EvilHowardEpisode: "Sunday Night Evil"
Video game1999Lands of Lore IIIDark Army Orc / Elliott the Guard / Viscosa (voices)
TV series1999Nash BridgesRoland MargolisEpisode: "Truth and Consequences"
Film1999The Green Mile"D" Block Prison GuardUncredited
Short film1999Surgeon General's WarningThe Other Guy8 minutes
Film2000After SexNaldo
Film2000The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle[12]Schoentell
Film2000Boys Life 3Paparazzi(segment "Inside Out")
Short TV film2000Nature BoyMort Ruby29 minutes; directed by Kari Skogland
Film2000Flies on CupidGiorgio Gagantano
Animated TV series2000Batman Beyond[14]The Major (voice)Episode: "Betrayal"
TV film2000Homicide: The Movie[12]Steve Crosetti
TV series2000The Invisible ManEddie the MammothEpisode: "Pilot"
TV series2000PopularCaesar CroutonsEpisode: "Hard on the Outside, Soft in the Middle"
TV series2000The PretenderConstantin FalzoneEpisode: "Cold Dick"
Animated film2000The Tangerine Bear: Home in Time for Christmas![14]Virgil (voice)Direct-to-video
Short film2001Frank's Last DanceFrank18 minutes
Film2001The Tailor of Panama[12]Ramón Rudd, the Banker
Film2001The Shrink Is In[12]Judge Bob
Film2001The Man Who Wasn't There[12]Creighton Tolliver
TV series2001The Chris Isaak ShowRhonda ParksEpisode: "Our Place"
TV series2001-2002The ChronicleDonald Stern22 episodes
TV series2001The Drew Carey Show[13]The BabyVoice, 3 episodes
TV series2001Gideon's CrossingLou PedaEpisode: "The Race"
Film2001Mimic 2[12]Morrie Deaver
Animated TV series2002Time SquadAl Capone (voice)Episode: "The Clownfather"
TV series2002BeckerLeonard NagleEpisode: "Piece Talks"
Film200229 Palms[13]The Security Guard
TV series2002The Drew Carey ShowStansfield3 episodes
TV series2002Gilmore GirlsPete / 'Father' in Kirk's Film2 episodes
TV series2002Push, Nevada[12]Silas BodnickEpisode: "The Amount"
TV series2002She SpiesEdward MalloyEpisode: "Ice Man"
TV film2002Women vs. MenDesk Sergeant
Film2002Black Mask 2: City of MasksKing
Film2003The Singing Detective[12]Second Hood
Film2003View from the TopRoy Roby
Film2003The BoxMichael Dickerson
TV series2003Crossing JordanDickEpisode: "Wild Card"
TV series2003Dragnet[12]Richard MaughmEpisode: "The Silver Slayer"
TV film2003Life on ParoleErnie
TV series2003The Lyon's DenMr. CarpeggiEpisode: "Trick or Treat"
Short film2003No Credits, No PeaceThe Network Executive6 minutes
TV series2003-2004Oliver BeeneMr. Rayfield2 episodes
TV series200410-8: Officers on DutyEnzo FontanaEpisode: "Wild and the Innocent"
TV film2004Gone, But Not ForgottenSam Oberhurstbased on the novel by Phillip Margolin
TV series2004It's All RelativeLeonardEpisode: "A Long Day's Journey Into Leonard's"
TV series2004Judging AmyD.A. Gerald Abner2 episodes
TV series2004The JuryJohnny PappasEpisode: "The Boxer"
Film2004Charlie the OxFreddy Boon
Film2004The Last Shot[12]Wally Kamin
TV series2004ScrubsMr. SummersEpisode: "My Female Trouble"
TV series2004My Wife and KidsMinisterEpisode: "The Wedding"
Animated TV series2005Avatar: The Last AirbenderChief Arnook (voice)2 episodes
Animated TV series2005The Buzz on MaggieNew Aldrin / New Pupert (voices)Episode: "Those Pesky Roaches"
Film2005Short Order[12]
TV series2005Desperate Housewives[12]Charles SkourasEpisode: "Love Is in the Air"
TV film2005Family Plan[12]Gold
TV series2005-2008Ghost WhispererJoe Grimaldi2 episodes
Film2005The Honeymooners[12]Kirby
TV series2005ThresholdNicky FrostEpisode: "The Order"
TV series2005Without a TraceJimmy 'The Tooth' FuscoEpisode: "Lone Star"
Film2006The AlibiJimmy the Photographera.k.a. Lies & Alibis
TV series2006Masters of HorrorMontesquinoEpisode: "Haeckel's Tale"
Film2006Cutting Room[13]Sandy
Film2006Grilled[12]Leon Waterman
Animated TV series2006Handy MannyJoe Bolotero (voice)Episode: "Supremoguy/Tool Talk"
Film2006Flags of Our Fathers[12]Borough President
Film2006Big Nothing[12]Agent Hymes
Animated film2006Happily N'Ever After[12][14]Wolf 1Voice
Short film2006Cleaners10 minutes
TV series2007MediumVincent DiscalaEpisode: "Better Off Dead"
Film2007Cougar Club[13]Mr. Archibald
Animated TV series2007-2008El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera[14]Don Bafi (voice)2 episodes
Video game2007Dead Head FredUlysses S. Pitt (voice)
Film2007American Gangster[12]Rossi
TV series2008Las VegasThe CleanerEpisode: "Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast"
Film2008The Marconi Bros.Lou Burns
TV film2008Rock MonsterThe Colonel
Animated TV series2008Chowder[14]Funjl / Guy (voices)Episode: "The Moldy Touch/The Heavy Sleeper"
Film2008Bart Got a Room[13]Bob
Short film2008Animated American[13]Max Rabbit15 minutes
TV series2008Do Not DisturbR.J.Episode: "Dosing"
TV series2008Chocolate NewsHarvey Silverstein"Episode #1.7"
TV series2008Two and a Half MenMr. SharipaEpisode: "He Smelled the Ham, He Got Excited"
TV series2008-2009Raising the BarJudge Dominick Ventimiglia10 episodes
TV series2009MonkGeorge GionopolisEpisode: "Mr. Monk Fights City Hall"
Film2009Super Capers: The Origins of Ed and the Missing Bullion[12]Captain Sludge
Short film2009Locker 13[13]Don Dillon15 minutes
TV film2009Citizen JaneDetective Romer
Animated TV series2009-2010Glenn Martin, DDSVito Renzuli (voice)2 episodes
Film2010Stiffs[13]John "The Prince" Monaco
Film2010Burning PalmsNed
Animated short film2010DC Showcase: The Spectre[14]Police Captain (voice)Direct-to-video
TV series2010The MentalistDuesterbergEpisode: "Red Herring"
TV series2010Burning PalmsNed
Film2010The GrindHIM
Film2010Venus & Vegas[13]Frank
Film2010The Last Godfather[13]Don Bonfante
Short film2010The Talking HeadMr. Opportunity19 minutes
TV series2011Funny or Die PresentsEddy"Episode #2.1"
segment United States Police Department
Film2011Son of MorningMr. Bordasche
Film2011Atlas Shrugged: Part I[13]Orren Boyle
Film2011From the Head[13]Vinnie
Animated TV series2011Ben 10: Ultimate AlienDN Alien Mizaru / Mizaru (voices)Episode: "Simian Says"
Animated film2011Batman: Year One[13][14]Commissioner Loeb (voice)Direct-to-video
TV series2011It's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaGinoEpisode: "Frank's Brother"
Animated TV series2011ThunderCats[14]Conquedor (voice)Episode: "Berbils"
Short film2011Jonny BoyJonny Boy7 minutes
TV series2012Franklin & BashLucky LouieEpisode: "Jango and Rossi"
Animated TV series2012Robot and Monster[14]Sir Cranklin (voice)Episode: "First Impressions"
TV series2012Mike & MollyFrankie MorantoEpisode: "Thanksgiving Is Canceled"
Short film2012Anti-MuseAnti-MuseDirected by John M Goodner
TV series2012-2013BunheadsSal Russano2 episodes
Film2013Gangster Squad[13]Jack Dragna
Video game2013Batman: Arkham OriginsG.C.P.D. Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb (voice)
Film2014Locker 13Don Dillan(segment "story #1")
TV series2014CastleHarold MetzgerEpisode: "That '70s Show"
Film2014Big Eyes[12]Enrico Banducci
TV series2014–2016Modern FamilyEarl Chambers3 episodes
Animated TV series2016American Dad!Dr. Kalgary (voice)Episode: "Roots"
Video game2016Batman: Arkham UnderworldCarmine Falcone (voice)
TV series2016Comedy Bang! Bang!Frank O'BrienEpisode: "Tony Hale Wears a Blue Flannel Shirt and Fuchsia Sneakers"
Animated TV series2016Ultimate Spider-Man[14]Hammerhead (voice)Episode: "Return to the Spider-Verse" (Part 3), posthumous
Film2017Monster TrucksThelonious (voice)Posthumous
Animated TV series2017Tangled: The Series[14]Griffin of Pittsford (voice)Episode: "Not in the Mood", posthumous
Film2018The MaestroHerbert Englehartfinal film role; posthumous


  1. "R.I.P. Jon Polito, a favorite of the Coen Brothers". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  2. "Jon Polito, Actor in Coen Brothers Films, Dies at 65". Variety. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  3. "Jon Polito interview". The Groucho Reviews. March 5, 2005. Retrieved March 22, 2013.
  4. Philadelphia Inquirer (December 2, 1994). "Character's Suicide Has Actor Steaming". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved March 22, 2013.
  5. "Jon Polito - Random Roles". A.V. Club. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  6. Crane, Pete (2005). "Maverick Spirit Event: Jon Polito: American Dynamo". Cinequest.
  7. "Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival - List of awards 2012". Retrieved August 29, 2014.
  8. Slotnik, Daniel E. (September 2, 2016). "Jon Polito, a Favorite in Coen Brothers Films, Dies at 65". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 5, 2016.
  9. "Name Dropping with Jason Stuart… Jon Polito". September 29, 2010.
  10. "Jon Polito Interview Pt 3". July 8, 2015.
  11. Nicole Bitette (September 2, 2016). "Jon Polito, known for roles in Coen brothers films, dead at 65". Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  12. "Jon Polito". British Film Institute. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  13. "Jon Polito Filmography". Retrieved September 4, 2016.
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