Richard S. Castellano

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Richard S. Castellano
Richard S. Castellano (seated) as Joe Girelli in The Super in 1972. Standing left to right are cast members Margaret Castellano (his real-life daughter) as Joanne Girelli, Ardell Sheridan as Francesca Girelli, and Bruno Kirby as Anthony Girelli.
Born Richard Salvatore Castellano
(1933-09-04)September 4, 1933
The Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
Died December 10, 1988(1988-12-10) (aged 55)
North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Occupation Actor
Notable work The Godfather
Relatives Paul Castellano (uncle)

Richard Salvatore Castellano (September 4, 1933 – December 10, 1988) was an American actor who is best remembered for his Oscar-nominated role in Lovers and Other Strangers and his subsequent role as Peter Clemenza in The Godfather.[1][2][3]


Richard Salvatore Castellano was born in the Bronx, New York to an Italian Catholic family. According to Castellano's widow, he was the nephew of Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano.[3][4]


Castellano gained worldwide fame for his role in Lovers and Other Strangers (1970), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. He achieved further stardom in 1972 for playing the part of Peter Clemenza, in The Godfather. The Godfather became the highest-grossing film up to that time. Castellano, along with several other cast members, became widely known from the popular film. He spoke one of the film's most famous lines, "Leave the gun, take the cannoli," which he partially ad-libbed.[3][5] He also had the line: "It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes." This is spoken in response to Sal Tessio, played by Abe Vigoda, bringing in a dead fish wrapped in Luca Brasi's bulletproof vest.[citation needed]

Castellano also appeared on television, playing the lead roles of Joe Girelli in the television situation comedy The Super (10 episodes in 1972). His real-life daughter Margaret Castellano portrayed his character's daughter Joanne. He also portrayed the lead Joe Vitale in Joe and Sons (1975-1976).[citation needed]

Castellano did not reprise his role as Clemenza in The Godfather Part II (1974). He was reportedly excluded because Castellano and his agent insisted on having control over the character's dialogue. Director Francis Ford Coppola said that this was untenable, and wrote Castellano out of the movie.[citation needed] This account was disputed by Castellano's widow in a 1991 letter to People magazine.[6] Castellano said he did not have a part in the sequel because he did not believe that the character of Clemenza would become a traitor. He had other disagreements with Coppola, including confusion over how much weight he was expected to lose for the role.[3] Bruno Kirby portrayed Clemenza as a younger man in The Godfather Part II. He had played the son of Castellano's character in The Super.


Castellano died from a heart attack in 1988 at age 55.[3]


  1. Canby, Vincent (March 16, 1972). "REVIEW 'THE GODFATHER' Moving and Brutal 'Godfather' Bows". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Sheridan-Castellano, Ardell (2003). Divine Intervention and a Dash of Magic... Unraveling The Mystery of "The Method" + Behind the Scenes of the original Godfather film. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 1-55369-866-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Lou Lumenick (March 15, 2012). "Leave the gun-Take my career". New York Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Sheridan-Castellano, pp. 183-184
  5. Seal, Mark (March 2009). "The Godfather Wars". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2009-03-03. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Sheridan-Castellano, pp. 227–229

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