Vincent Schiavelli, the droopy-eyed character actor who appeared in scores of movies, including “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Ghost,” died Monday at his home in Sicily. He was 57.
He died of lung cancer, said Salvatore Glorioso, mayor of Polizzi Generosa, the Sicilian village where Schiavelli resided.
Schiavelli, whose gloomy look made him perfect to play creepy or eccentric characters, made appearances in some 150 film and television productions, according to the Internet Movie Database.
In “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” he played the science teacher Mr. Vargas, who was married to the character portrayed by Lana Clarkson. (Rock producer Phil Spector is accused of killing Clarkson at his mansion in 2003.)
Schiavelli also appeared as Salieri’s valet in “Amadeus,” as “Cuckoo’s Nest” patient Frederickson, the subway ghost in “Ghost,” the organ grinder in “Batman Returns,” and as Chester in “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” He was selected in 1997 by Vanity Fair as one of America’s best character actors.
Schiavelli, who was born and raised in New York, studied acting at New York University’s School of the Arts.
He also wrote three cookbooks and many food articles for magazines and newspapers, possibly inheriting his love for cooking from his grandfather, who had been a cook for an Italian baron before moving to the United States, according to IMDB.
“He was a great friend, a great chef and a great talker,” Glorioso, who has known Schiavelli for almost four years, said in a telephone interview.
“With a smooth, witty conversation, he would make everything look more colorful. I’ve lost a brother,” he said.
Schiavelli also had worked in Italy, including in 2001 when he directed a theater piece in Sicily based on nine fables.
A funeral service will be held Tuesday in Polizzi Generosa, Glorioso said.