Actor Richard Castellano; Clemenza in ‘Godfather’

Actor Richard Castellano, who played a mobster in “The Godfather” and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in “Lovers and Other Strangers,” died of heart failure at his home in North Bergen, N.J., his family said Sunday. He was 55.

Castellano, a native of New York City, died Saturday.

His role in “Lovers and Other Strangers” as a soup-slurping, lower-middle-classItalian father who lived in a world of pasta and plastic furniture coverings, won him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor in 1970. He won a Tony in the stage version of the work in 1968.

His 1972 role as the Mafia lieutenant Clemenza in “The Godfather” strengthened his identification as an Italian-American with filmgoers. But he did a lot of soul-searching before accepting the role.

“I decided that crime will always exist,” he told an interviewer in 1971, “and that it is better to have organized crime than disorganized crime.”

He also appeared on Broadway in Peter Weiss’ “The Investigation,” Frank Gilroy’s “That Summer, That Fall,” and in Art Buchwald’s “Sheep on the Runway.”


A statement issued by his wife, actress and writer Ardell Sheridan, 45, said the couple had been working on a book titled “History of the Method,” which chronicles the genesis of method acting.

“It mas Mr. Castellano’s dream to pass on his acting legacy to aspiring actors, writers and directors in an easily understood and applied formula,” she said.

Castellano also is survived by his daughter, Margaret Castellano Moller, 34; his sister and an aunt. A funeral service is scheduled Wednesday.