Robert Loggia, the gravelly voiced character actor who danced with Tom Hanks on a giant floor keyboard in Big, fought aliens in Independence Day and trafficked in drugs in Scarface, died on Friday at age 85, his widow said.
Loggia, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the 1985 thriller Jagged Edge, died at his home in Los Angeles after battling Alzheimer’s disease for five years, Audrey O’Brien Loggia told Reuters.
“He loved being an actor — he was a wonderful actor — and loved his profession and his life,” she said, adding that he died with her and their two daughters at his side. “We’ve been together 41 years. He is going be terribly missed.”
Loggia had been a journeyman actor on stage, TV and films until he made an impression playing Richard Gere’s abusive and alcoholic father in the 1982 blockbuster An Officer and a Gentleman. That performance led to meaty roles in other box-office hits.
In director Brian De Palma’s hit 1983 crime drama Scarface, Loggia played drug lord Frank Lopez alongside Al Pacino in the violent tale of Miami mobsters.
Two years later, Loggia was a seedy private detective in Jagged Edge, starring Jeff Bridges and Glenn Close. He lost the best supporting actor Oscar to Don Ameche of Cocoon.
Also in 1985, he starred alongside Jack Nicholson in director John Huston’s black comedy Prizzi’s Honor, which was nominated for a best picture Oscar.
His most famous role was in director Penny Marshall’s bittersweet comedy Big (1988) starring Hanks as a boy whose wish to become an adult magically comes true. Hanks’ character — a boy in an adult body — ends up working for a toy company headed by Loggia.
Together they danced to the songs Heart and Soul and Chopsticks on the jumbo floor keyboard at New York’s fabled FAO Schwarz toy store in what was one of the famous cinematic scenes of the 1980s.
Loggia said Marshall allowed him and Hanks a lot of freedom in deciding how the scene would unfold, giving them a cardboard mock-up of the keyboard a few weeks before the scene was shot.
“She very cleverly said, ‘I don’t want you to look like trained dancers, but you do the melody and you … and Tom, you work it out for yourself. There will be no rehearsal and we’ll be at FAO Schwarz about a month down the line and we’re going to do it, and let’s see what happens,'” Loggia told the Miami Herald in 2006.
“And that’s why it’s a movie-magic scene,” Loggia said.
Big became one of the year’s top-grossing films, earned Hanks his first Oscar nomination, and was the first movie directed by a woman to top US$100 million at the box office.
Loggia also had a key supporting role in Independence Day, the top-grossing film of 1996. He played a general who advises the president of the United States, played by Bill Pullman, as tentacled aliens in huge spaceships devastate cities worldwide.
The Italian-American actor was born as Salvatore Loggia on Jan 3, 1930, in New York City. He set aside his plans for a journalism career to go into acting.