Vincent Andrew Schiavelli (November 11, 1948 – December 26, 2005) was an American character actor noted for his work on stage, screen and television, often described as "the man with the sad eyes." He was notable for his numerous and often critically acclaimed supporting roles. Schiavelli was also well known for his height, standing 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m).
Schiavelli was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Sicilian-American family. He attended Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School as a teen. He studied acting through the theatre programme at New York University. He began performing on stage in the 1960s.
Schiavelli's first film role occurred in Miloš Forman's 1971 production Taking Off, in which he played a counselor who taught parents of runaway teens to smoke marijuana in order to better understand their children's experiences. Schiavelli's aptitude and distinctive angular appearance soon provided him with a steady stream of supporting roles, often in Miloš Forman films, namely One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Valmont, and the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon.
He played Mr. Vargas, the biology teacher in the 1982 hit comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a role he reprised in the 1986 television spin-off Fast Times. He was cast in a similar role in the cult hit Better Off Dead in which he played Mr. Kerber, a geometry teacher.
In 1987, he starred alongside Tim Conway in the short film comedy, Dorf on Golf, and Dorf and the First Games of Mount Olympus in 1988. In 1990, he played the Subway Ghost in Ghost and in 1992, he played in Tim Burton's Batman Returns as the "Organ Grinder", one of the Penguin's henchmen. He appeared as another villain in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), as a silent monk in The Frisco Kid (1979), and as John O'Connor, one of the evil Red Lectroids in the 1984 cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. In 1997, he was named one of America's best character actors by Vanity Fair magazine. He also made several voice appearances in the animated television show Hey Arnold!. In 2002, he played a children's television show host turned heroin addict named Buggy Ding Dong in Death To Smoochy.
His first television role came in 1972 as Peter Panama in The Corner Bar, the first sustained portrayal of a gay character on American television. His other television credits include playing Jenny Calendar's Uncle Enyos Kalderash of tv classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Taxi as the priest who marries Latka and Simka. He appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "The Arsenal of Freedom", as a holographic salesman, on Miami Vice as a research scientist who conspires to steal a top-secret prototype weapon from his employer, and an uncredited role in an episode of Punky Brewster. In Highlander: The Series, he played Leo Atkins, a homeless Vietnam Vet accused of murder in the Season One episode "Innocent Man". He wrote a number of cookbooks and food articles for various magazines and newspapers.
He received a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in 2001 and was nominated on several other occasions.
Schiavelli served as honorary co-chair of the National Marfan Foundation, an organisation which serves those affected by Marfan syndrome, from which Schiavelli suffered
Schiavelli also played as Dr. Hellman in the video game, Corpse Killer.
Schiavelli was married to actress Allyce Beasley from 1985 until their 1988 divorce. He guest-starred as the love interest of Beasley's character on one episode of Moonlighting. Their son, Andrea Schiavelli was born in 1987. In 1992 Schiavelli married American harpist Carol Mukhalian and they remained together until his death in 2005.
Sadly Vincent Schiavelli succumbed to lung cancer on December 26, 2005, only aged 57, at his home in Polizzi Generosa, the Sicilian town where his grandfather was born, and about which he wrote in his 2002 book Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa.