Joe Pantoliano originally caught my eye when he portrayed Cypher in "The Matrix". While viewing the movie, I recognized his voice from another movie . . . 'Risky Business'. The 'whine' in Mr. Pantoliano's voice has earned him somewhat of a cult following over the years; however his superb acting is what has garnered him his most acclaim. Acting in roles ranging from a futuristic freedom fighter turned traitor to a pimp to a made man under Tony Soprano to even portraying an evil wrestling promoter, Joe is certainly not a type-cast actor. His versatility in accents, appearances, and overall persona have made him one of the best (if not the best) character actor in Hollywood. A role that he has become familiar with over the years has been that of the all around local sleaze ball, low level criminal, or lackey to a higher up goon. With over one hundred credits on both the silver and small screens, Joe has carved a niche for himself that only he could fill.

Born on September 12th, 1951 in the infamous town of Hoboken, New Jersey to Dominic and Mary Pantoliano. His father a hearse driver and mother a seamstress with a side job as a bookie. A rough childhood was in the works for a young Joe as he was brought up in a household that was described by him as 'Bohemian'. He soon discovered that his father was 'mobbed up' and that his mother was anything less than a normal 1950s housewife. When Joe turned 12, he was to discover that his parents were separating with his mother running away with her distant cousin, Florio (even though his mother and father never officially divorced). Preteen Joe and his younger sister Maryann were to live with their mother and unofficial stepfather in and around northern New Jersey. At 17, he was reading at a third grade reading level due to his severe dyslexia. It was upon this realization that he decided the only way out his self professed 'dead end road of a life of crime' was to become an actor in the city next door; New York City.

With his stepfather's urging, Joe moved to Manhattan to pursue a life of acting. It was this time in Manhattan that Joe improved his reading level, earned stage credits, and more importantly gained confidence in himself. In 1976, Joe moved to Los Angeles to pursue a more full time acting career. It was there that he earned his first big break by appearing in TV sitcoms; most noticeably 'McNamara's Band' and 'Free Country' by Rob Reiner. Joe bounced around from sitcom to sitcom developing a reputation as a strong, dependable actor for any role. This reputation would help him into his biggest breakout role of his career . . . somebody get out the sunglasses and turn up the Bob Seger . . .

In 'Risky Business' as Guido 'The Killer Pimp', Joe antagonized a young Tom Cruise. This role was what catapulted Joe into the limelight as a legit actor of serious talent. After this movie, roles came looking for Joe, not vice versa. Working with such actors as Harrison Ford, Gregory Hines, Tommy Lee Jones, Rebecca DeMornay, and Billy Crystal in such films as 'Empire of the Sun', 'La Bamba', 'Running Scared', and 'Midnight Run';Joe had now established himself as a grade A supporting actor if not ready for the jump into lead man territory.

Now established, Joe ventured in various TV roles as well as continuing to stun and surprise in movie roles year after year. Joe received much critical acclaim for his portrayal of Ralph Cifaretto in the HBO drama 'The Sopranos'. It was here that Joe was once again thrust into mainstream role as one of the best acted and well received characters by fans of the show, by critics and peers alike. For the tenure of his character on the show, Ralphie was my favorite character, and mostly due to the superb acting that was behind Ralphie. Played perfectly by Joe; perhaps due to his 'Bohemian' upbringing; he seems to know a little too well how to play a made man in an organized crime ring.

Recently, his autobiography 'Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-Up Guy' was released. Not exactly a feel good book, the story tells his upbringing, his struggles to cope with the past, as well as his learning disability that caused him much frustration in his early years. He also mentions how he was very close to giving up on being an actor and turning to a life of crime to survive. Upon reading this book, I would suggest it to any Pantoliano fan, as well as anybody who enjoys reading about a person overcoming the odds to become successful and happy.

Joe is one of my favorite actors and it is clear to me why he is as successful as he is. Not letting a less than favorable youth keep him down, or ever using it as an excuse, Joe has risen above all the negatives in his life to achieve what he set his mind to so many years ago. Also to note, is the actor's widely known nickname 'Joey Pants'; discussions on the internet relating to Mr. P seem to revolve around is nickname. Joey Pants; a fitting name for this actor.

I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill??