What ‘Sopranos’ Actor Federico Castelluccio Did Before Playing ‘Furio’
When The Sopranos went to Italy, the episode (“Commendatori”) didn’t come off like creator David Chase wanted. Instead of highlighting the weirdness of New Jersey mob guys going to the Old Country for the first time, it focused a bit too much on business.
Still, there were some positives, like watching Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) get the cold shoulder from Neapolitans. (Even a local prostitute finds him tedious.) Viewers also got their first look at Furio Giunta in this episode from early in Season Two (February 2000).
Furio, played by the Italian-born Federico Castelluccio, would become a recurring character after getting traded in a deal between Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and the local mob boss.
For Castelluccio, the role represented his big break as an actor. Prior to that, he’d only had two small roles to his name. But Castelluccio had another career entirely before he worked on The Sopranos.
The Naples-born Castelluccio trained as a painter at SVA.
In a 2001 New York Times profile, Castelluccio explained how he created the accent he used as Furio. For starters, it may be surprising to learn he grew up in Paterson, New Jersey. (Castelluccio was born in Naples but his family moved to the U.S. when he was three.)
Like many New York-area kids, Castelluccio hoped to make it in the art world as a painter. After receiving a scholarship to attend the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in Manhattan, he went on to receive his BFA there.
Starting in the late ’80s, Castelluccio began working as an actor. Though he considers himself a painter first, he’d made it onto the screen in bit parts as a bouncer and guard in the ’90s. (He appeared in four episodes of the soap opera, Another World.)
After getting cast as Furio for the “Commendatori” episode, Castelluccio enjoyed a bit of luck. Chase was looking to add someone just like him to the cast.
When Chase needed a convincing thug, he turned to Castelluccio.
In several cases, actors came to The Sopranos via atypical routes. Vincent Curatola (“Johnny Sack”) had more success with his North Jersey masonry company than as an actor prior to landing his part. And Steven Van Zandt had his successful music career before playing Silvio Dante.
As for Castelluccio, Chase recalled needing a tough guy to enter the picture early in Season Two. After seeing Castelluccio on screen in “Commendatori,” he decided Tony’s crew could use a representative from the Old World.
Castelluccio didn’t squander his chance. Altogether, he’s appeared in nearly 50 projects as an actor and made a career as a director, too. (In 2016, he directed a feature starring Paul Sorvino.)
Of course, on The Sopranos, Furio got to go out on his own terms. So Castelluccio may be still be operating in Naples in Chase’s mind. Obviously, that leaves the possibility of that Sopranos spin-off open.