Prolific character actor Reni Santoni, who partnered with Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry” and Sylvester Stallone in “Cobra,” and who portrayed Poppie the pizza chef in “Seinfeld,” has died at 81.
Santoni died in hospice Saturday after a long illness, TV writer and producer Tracy Newman said of her longtime friend.
“Reni Santoni passed away yesterday morning,” Newman wrote in a Facebook tribute. “He had been sick for quite a while. Those of you who knew him know how funny he was, what a terrific actor, improviser, performer, etc. So brilliant. I loved him very much and will miss him terribly. Another great one is gone.”
The New York City native Santoni starred in 1971’s “Dirty Harry” as rookie detective and college sociology major Chico Martinez who gets paired up with Eastwood’s “Dirty” Harry Callahan. The cop collaboration came despite Callahan’s objections (“Just what I needed, a college boy”).
Santoni delivered the famous line about his violent partner, “No wonder they call him ‘Dirty Harry,’ (he) always gets the (expletive) end of the stick.”
Director Edgar Wright paid homage to the line and character on Twitter, writing “RIP Reni Santoni.”
In 1986’s “Cobra,” Santoni played Sgt. Tony Gonzales who is paired with Stallone’s Lt. Marion Cobretti to protect a model (Brigitte Nielsen) from the “Night Slasher” killer.