Legendary character actor Abe Vigoda has died at the age of 94.
Vigoda, famous for playing detective Phil Fish in Barney Miller, died in his sleep Tuesday morning at his daughter Carol Vigoda Fuchs’ home in Woodland Park, New Jersey, she confirmed to the Associated Press. Fuchs reports the cause of death as old age, saying, “This man was never sick.”
In addition to his role on Barney Miller, Vigoda is best known for playing the traitorous Corleone henchman Sal Tessio in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II.
Vigoda’s death has been erroneously reported numerous times in the past, with Vigoda once telling The New York Times, “People have known for some time that I’m alive. People don’t seem to stop and ask me anymore.”
The New York City native was born in 1921, and attended the Theater School of Dramatic Arts at Carnegie Hall. After playing the role of straight man for the Jimmy Durante and Ed Wynn TV comedies in the 1950s, Vigoda would spend the next 30 years working in theater.
While he rose to some notoriety with his role in The Godfather films, he did not become a household name until scoring the part of Detective Fish in Barney Miller. Speaking on finding fame later in life, AP reports Vigoda once said, “When I was a young man, I was told success had to come in my youth. I found this to be a myth. My experiences have taught me that if you deeply believe in what you are doing, success can come at any age.”
Vigoda continued acting well into his 80s, lending his distinctive voice to several video game spin-offs of The Godfather and spoofing himself, alongside Betty White, in a Snickers commercial for the 2010 Super Bowl.
“I’m the same Abe Vigoda,” AP reports he said of his success. “I have the same friends, but the difference now is that I can buy the things I never could afford before. I have never had a house before, so now I would like a house with a nice garden and a pool. Hollywood has been very kind to me.”
He married twice, first to Sonja Gohlke, with whom he had his daughter, and later to Beatrice Schy, who died in 1992. He is survived by his daughter, grandchildren Jamie, Paul and Steven, and a great-grandson, AP reports.