Richard Romanus, the actor famous for playing loan shark Michael Longo in Martin Scorcese’s 1973 crime film Mean Streets, has passed away. On December 23, the actor passed away at a private hospital in Volos, Greece, as confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter. He was 80 years old.
After graduating from Xavier University in 1964, Romanus pursued a legal education but later decided to abandon it. He embarked on a journey to New York City, where he enrolled in drama classes with the esteemed Lee Strasberg at the renowned Actors Studio. In 1968, he debuted on the silver screen in the horror film The Ghastly Ones with actors Veronica Rayburn, Hal Borske, and Maggie Rogers.
In the 1973 film Mean Streets, directed and co-written by Martin Scorsese, Romanus played Michael. The character was the loan shark who clashed with the troubled Johnny Boy, played by Robert De Niro. Scorcese recalled the memorable profanity-laced back and forth between De Niro and Romanus as tense behind the scenes.
“Something had happened between Bobby and Richard. The animosity between them in that scene is real, and I played on it,” Scorcese said, per THR. “They had gotten on each other’s nerves to the point where I think they really wanted to kill each other. I kept shooting take after take of Bobby yelling all these insults while the crew was getting very upset.”
Richard Romanus had a Prolific TV Career
Twenty-five years later, Romanus returned to the crime drama genre. He appeared in HBO’s The Sopranos as Richard La Penna, Jennifer Melfi’s (Lorraine Bracco) ex-husband.
Romanus had a prolific television career, gracing the screens of several popular shows. His talents were showcased on iconic series such as Mission: Impossible, Kojak, Charlie’s Angels, Starsky & Hutch, Hawaii Five-O, The Rockford Files, Fame, Hill Street Blues, MacGyver, The A-Team, Chicago Hope, Diagnosis Murder, Cagney & Lacey, and NYPD Blue.
In addition to his on-screen appearances, Romanus also contributed his voice to several animated films. He portrayed the character of Harry Canyon, a cab driver, in the 1981 film Heavy Metal. He also lent his voice to the character of Weehawk in Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards and Vinnie in Bakshi’s Hey Good Lookin’. Romanus’ final film, The Young Black Stallion, was released in 2003.
Romanus wed his second spouse, Anthea Sylbert, an Academy Award-nominated costume designer, in 1985. They subsequently collaborated on two Lifetime films: 1998’s Giving Up the Ghost and 1999’s If You Believe, the latter of which earned a nomination from the Writers Guild of America. In 2004, the couple relocated to the Greek island of Skiathos. Here, Romanus penned several notable books, including Chrysalis (2011), Sketches of Skiathos (2013), and Matoula’s Echo (2014). Additionally, he authored a memoir entitled Act III in 2012.
Romanus is survived by his son from his first marriage to actress and singer Tina Bohlmann. He is also survived by his younger brother Robert Romanus, known for his role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and his second wife Anthea Sylbert.