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.
The New York-born 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.
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 the United States’ best character actors.
Schiavelli 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.
His books include “Many Beautiful Things,” which was published in 2002 and is a compilation of recipes and anecdotes about his visits to Polizzi Generosa, the small hilltop town that was his grandparents’ birthplace.
“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.