Richard Foronjy dead: Convicted criminal-turned-actor known for roles in Serpico & Midnight Run dies aged 86

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Actor Richard Foronjy has died at the age of 86

Richard Foronjy, who spent more than eight years in prison before pursuing an acting career and featuring in films such as Serpico, Midnight Run, Repo Man, and Carlito’s Way, died on Sunday at the age of 86, according to his family.

In a 1987 interview with UPI’s Vernon Scott, Foronjy mentioned he had been arrested more than 20 times for various crimes including forgery, bank robbery, credit card fraud, and other illegal activities, but not for drug-related offenses or murder.

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Born in Brooklyn, Foronjy was only convicted once, which resulted in an eight-and-a-half year sentence served in Sing Sing and Attica prisons in New York. He was released at the age of 32.

In Hollywood, Foronjy often played roles of policemen and criminals. He debuted in Serpico (1973) as a cop killer, and portrayed police officers in The Morning After (1986) and Prince of the City (1981), all directed by Sidney Lumet. He said: “I was especially good at playing cops, no doubt because I got to know them so well when they were busting me every other week.”

Richard Foronjy (second from left) in "Raging Housekeeper" that was aired on February 10, 1987.Richard Foronjy (second from left) in "Raging Housekeeper" that was aired on February 10, 1987.
Richard Foronjy (second from left) in "Raging Housekeeper" that was aired on February 10, 1987. | Disney General Entertainment Con

He played mobsters Tony Darvo and Peter Amadesso in Midnight Run (1988) and Carlito’s Way (1993) respectively, and took on the dual role of a corrupt cop in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984).

Born Richard Edward Salerno on August 3, 1937, Foronjy described himself as an angry youth from Brooklyn who didn't attend high school, got married, and had four children. He began his criminal activities by forging checks and stealing credit cards before escalating to robbing banks. His first bank robbery netted him $170,000, which he spent extravagantly before travelling to Europe.

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His criminal activities eventually led to his arrest after he robbed an attorney at gunpoint and was caught by the police as he fled.

After working as a butcher and taking acting classes, he found an agent and secured the role of Corsaro in Serpico, a moment that brought him to tears. He relocated to Hollywood in 1975.

Foronjy also appeared in the Serpico NBC series, played a con man in The Jerk (1979), portrayed Murray the Torch in Hill Street Blues (1982), and was Arnold Plettschner in Repo Man (1984).

His film credits include The Gambler (1974), Fun With Dick and Jane (1977), The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh (1979), True Confessions (1981), Ghostbusters II (1989), and Man of the House (1995). He also appeared in TV shows like Police Story, MASH*, The Streets of San Francisco, Taxi, Cagney & Lacy, and Hunter.

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His memoir, From the Mob to the Movies, was published in 2020. He is survived by his partner Wendy, his children Charles, Susan, Christine, and Richard, his brothers Charles, Frank, and William, and 17 grandchildren.

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