Frank Vallelonga Jr., an actor whose credits include “The Sopranos” and 2019 Best Picture winner “Green Book,” was found dead outside a sheet metal manufacturing facility in the Bronx, New York, on Monday, the New York Police Department confirmed in a statement. He was 60.
“Upon arrival, police observed an unidentified adult male, unconscious and unresponsive, on the ground at the location,” police told HuffPost. “The male had no obvious signs of trauma observed. EMS responded to the location and pronounced the male deceased at the scene.”
Police said a cause of death has yet to be determined, but they have arrested and charged 35-year-old Bronx local Steven Smith with concealment of a human corpse, per the Los Angeles Times. Smith, the actor’s driver, said Vallelonga had overdosed.
“That dude was dead already,” Smith told police, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the New York Daily News. “He overdosed. I didn’t have anything to do with that.”
Citing witnesses and surveillance footage, police say a car with New Jersey license plates stopped outside a Hunts Point factory at 1243 Oak Point. Someone pulled Vallelonga’s body from the passenger seat and left him on the sidewalk, per the Daily News. Vallelonga’s body was found at 3:51 a.m. Monday.
“I got the body out by pulling him out of the car on the floor,” Smith told police, according to the criminal complaint.
Vallelonga portrayed his real-life uncle, Rudy Vallelonga, in “Green Book,” which was written by his brother Nick and based on the life of their father, Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga — an Italian American bouncer hired to escort Don Shirley, a Black pianist, on a tour through the Jim Crow South.
Vallelonga Sr. appeared in classic mob shows like “The Sopranos” and movies like “The Godfather,” “Goodfellas” and “Donnie Brasco,” according to People. Friends of Vallelonga Jr., who owned Tony Lip’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria in New Jersey, remembered him fondly.
“He was a nice guy. He was a very fun guy,” Lydia Pagano, who lives on Vallelonga’s former block, told the Daily News. “He loved being with people. He would sing all the Frank Sinatras and all the old songs at the restaurant.”
“I loved the guy,” Vincent Pastore, Vallelonga’s “Sopranos” co-star, told the outlet. “The last time I saw Frankie, he came to one of my acting classes in the city about six months ago.”
Vallelonga is survived by his wife, Angela, his son, Frank, and his brother, Nick, according to Deadline.