The 81-year-old actor proved himself as a character actor with roles in more than 100 movies and television series in his lifetime.
We all play certain roles in our lives and we also meet many different characters too. Our beloved actors portray these day-to-day people in the best way possible. While some just act, others live the characters. Reni Santoni was one such actor.
Best known for his work with Clint Eastwood as his maverick sidekick Inspector Chico Gonzalez in the 1971 movie Dirty Harry, the actor passed away at 81, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. His friend, Tracy Newman, who is a TV writer-producer and musician, informed that Santoni died in hospice care in Los Angeles after battling for years with health problems which also included cancer.
Santoni was exceptional at playing character roles. Born in New York, the actor started his career in the entertainment business as a comedy writer. It was not until the 60s that he got his shot in front of the camera through TV dramas like East Side/West Side, The Trials of O'Brien, and Hawk. He was also a part of the theatre when in 1964, he got his first movie, Rod Steiger’s The Pawnbroker.
Then one day out of the blue, he got the call which would change his anonymity status in Hollywood. Late American actor Carl Reiner was making an autobiographical film, Enter Laughing (1967), and thought Santoni's talents were perfect for playing David Kolowitz, as per IMDB, but the role did not receive him much appreciation from the audience.
Once again he got the chance of becoming a major movie star with a role as the lead in Canadian film A Great Big Thing (1968) but the audience didn't accept him as a hero. It's then when he decided to stick with what he was good with, playing supporting character roles.
R.I.P - Reni Santoni— Harris Dang (@FilmMomatic) August 4, 2020
Here is a scene with him (playing Poppy) arguing with Kramer over what constitutes as a pizza; which is an amusing parallel over the abortion issue. pic.twitter.com/981AbCTUW5
In his career which spanned for five decades, Santoni appeared in more than 100 films and TV series, according to Independent UK. More than the films, he's delighted his audience with his acting skills on the small screen. In the 70s he was always assisting crime fighters in shows like Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law, and Matt Houston. Later, he gained a younger fan base with his recurring role in Seinfeld. He will always be remembered as "Poppie," an unsanitary pizza guy who had bladder control issues, according to The Sun.
Santoni appeared in other television shows like The Odd Couple, The Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, Murder, She Wrote, NYPD Blue, and Murder One. His recent credits are memorable roles in Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, and Judging Amy. He also graced The Mad Show, an off-Broadway theatre with his presence, alongside David Steinberg, Jo Anne Worley, and Linda Lavin.
Santoni acted in a variety of roles which made him quite popular in the industry. His dedication towards the roles he played also got him the chance to work with A-listers. He played Sylvester Stallone's partner Sergeant Tony Gonzales in the film Cobra of 1986. He also played the role of a Mexican-Irish revolutionary Max in the film Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969).
Santoni reunited with Reiner in his 1982 film Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. A few other notable film appearances included roles in Anzio (1968), The Student Nurses (1970) and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977), Bad Boys (1983), Brewster's Millions (1985), Rain Man (1988), The Package (1989) and Gang Warz (2004).
He also worked in The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), The Late Shift which was a 1996 HBO made-for-television film, Howard Stern's film Private Parts (1997), 1998's Doctor Dolittle and also 2000 drama 28 days, where Sandra Bullock played the lead role.
Santoni worked alongside Betty Thomas in the film Only You (1992). Thomas is an actor turned director who was also a longtime romantic partner of Santoni. Before Thomas, Santoni was married to Lisa James who was an actress and stage director.
Remembering Santoni, Newman paid tribute to her friend through a Facebook Post. She penned, “Those of you who knew him know how funny he was, what a terrific actor, improviser, performer, etc." She continued, “So brilliant. I loved him very much and will miss him terribly. Another great one is gone. I have a lot of wonderful pictures of him, and will post them over the next week. My heart goes out to his son, Nick, who has been such a comfort to Reni over that past five years or more, ” as per Variety.
Fans also bombarded Twitter with tributes to the actor. While some remembered him as a terrific actor, others remembered the cool characters he played. He is survived by his son Nick.
SAD FAREWELL— James L Neibaur (@JimLNeibaur) August 3, 2020
Terrific character actor Reni Santoni has died. He was great in the movies Enter Laughing, Dirty Harry, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, and on TV in Owen Marshall, Hill Street Blues, Midnight Caller, Murder One, and Seinfeld (as Poppie), among others. RIP. pic.twitter.com/nbDoA2fmnq
Reni Santoni was one of those guys who saw a million times from the 60s through the 90s. he was ethic, but pretty much played any form of ethnic. His voice was incredibly distinct. Very likable and sadly, he is now gone. RIP pic.twitter.com/czMjkd3AWb— David “92 Days” Poland (@DavidPoland) August 4, 2020