This past Monday, actor Bruno Kirby died from complications related to leukemia. He was 57. Kirby will always be remembered for his supporting roles in such films as When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, and The Freshman. And you wanted to wring his neck as Lt. Hauk in Good Morning, Vietnam. Of course Kirby (born Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu) got his big break playing the young Peter Clemenza (originally played by Richard Castellano) in The Godfather Part II. In The Godfather Companion, Peter Biskind explains how Kirby landed the role--or almost didn't:
Kirby never read for the role, probably because the part was in Sicilian, which he couldn't speak. "All the Italians in show business" showed up at the office where Coppola was casting, says Kirby.... He was a young man at the time and came with his father, Bruce Kirby, also an actor. Coppola and Kirby Sr. started to speak in Italian. Coppola asked him if his son spoke Italian. "My father, who was from the 'Say Yes' school of acting, said 'Yes,' even though I didn't speak a word. Francis started to speak to me, and he couldn't understand anything I said. 'I thought he spoke Italian,' Francis said. My father answered, 'Street Italian, a word here, a word there,' and asked if Francis had a part for me. Francis said, 'I got lots of parts. Don't worry about it.' It was a terrible interview; I thought it was all over." But it wasn't. Kirby had played Richard Castellano's son on a TV series called "The Super," where he'd had the opportunity to study his mannerisms. This, he thinks, is what got him the role.
32 minutes ago