Hey guys. Quint here, taking a little break from SXSW to put some thoughts down about one of our great character actors, Leonardo Cimino. Cimino passed away last week at the age of 94. The news about his death hit just as SXSW started and I’ve been looking for a spare moment to give the man his due.
Cimino came to film rather late in life, but was a well known and respected stage actor starting in the late ‘40s. He might have come to the stage even earlier had he not enlisted and fought on the European front during WW2. In fact, Cimino was at Normandy. Pretty hardcore.
He’s performed with Jose Ferrer, Brando, Schell and a million amazing people, but for me he will always be Scary German Guy. I don’t mean that as an insult to the man’s legacy, but as a genuine loving compliment to the energy and weight he brought to his mentor role in The Monster Squad.
That look above is one of the many touches he brought to the role. Like any great character actor, he milked his moments, relishing the red herring fake-out of the creepy old dude on the block in The Monster Squad.
I reached out to Monster Squad director Fred Dekker for a comment on Cimino’s passing and got this in return:
The least you can ask of an actor is that they know their lines, take direction, and (as Spencer Tracy famously said) don't bump into the furniture. The best you can hope is all that PLUS being friendly, untiringly flexible, and bringing something unique and memorable to a role. Leonardo was the latter.
Had I been born a few years earlier, my first exposure to Cimino would have likely been on V, where he played Abraham Bernstein.
Cimino made me smile whenever I’d see him pop up in a film. And he kept working well into his twilight years. I remember awkwardly applauding when he popped up in Sidney Lumet’s great BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD. Sue me, arthouse audience.
Whether the role was big or small, Cimino was always a welcome addition to the frame. He turned in memorable performances in Jon Favreau’s MADE, David Lynch’s DUNE, Waterworld, The Freshman (opposite Brando), Moonstruck and Cotton Comes to Harlem, a rather fun blaxploitation flick from the early ‘70s.
He also won awards for performing Robert Shaw’s THE MAN IN THE GLASS BOOTH on the stage.
Cimino was a working class actor who clearly took great care and pride in his work. These guys are a dying breed and his passing inches us one step closer to the end of an era dominated by character actors.
Horace was right. Scary German Guy was absolutely bitchin’. Thank you very much for the joy you brought to my life and the lives of so many movie fans, Leonardo. Your legacy will endure.
For the rest of the fest my thoughts will be with Mr. Cimino’s friends, family and fans.