Dirty Harry Actor Reni Santoni, Who Also Played Poppie in Seinfeld, Passed Away At 81

Aug 04, 2020 by apost team

Reni Santoni was well known for his roles as Inspector Chico Gonzalez in Dirty Harry and Poppie the pizza chef in Seinfeld. After staying in hospice care for several months, the beloved actor died in Los Angeles at the age of 81 last Saturday, August 1st.

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Born in 1939, Santoni was of mixed French and Spanish heritage. His first time in front of the camera was an appearance in the 1964 movie The Pawnbroker, one of the first American movies to feature a confirmed queer character, nudity and fully naked breasts and still get Production Code approval to be shown.

Although only a small role with only few voiced lines and uncredited as well, Santoni went on to have quite an industrious acting career. His first leading role was in the 1967 comedy Enter Laughing, where he played a young Jewish man trying and succeeding in becoming an actor.


Following his humble beginnings, Santoni went on to have a prolific career. IMDb credits him with over 100 movies and series he participated in. He played roles in such iconic films as Dirty Harry (1971), Cobra (1986), or Doctor Dolittle (1998).

The range of Hollywood greats he co-acted with includes names like Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy, and Clint Eastwood. The New Yorker was also a familiar face to many TV enthusiasts, appearing in small roles in series such as Seinfeld, Grey's Anatomy, CSI: Las Vegas, Walker, Texas RangerMiami Vice and many more.

The actor's death was announced by his long-time friend and TV producer and singer-songwriter, Tracy Newman, on facebook. In her post, she shared that Santoni had passed away after a prolonged illness. She went on to add:

"Those of you who knew him know how funny he was, what a terrific actor, improviser, performer, etc. So brilliant. I loved him very much and will miss him terribly. Another great one is gone. I have a lot of wonderful pictures of him, and will post them over the next week. My heart goes out to his son, Nick, who has been such a comfort to Reni over that past five years or more."

Newman told the Hollywood Reporter that Santoni had suffered from several health problems over the last years, including cancer. He had been in hospice care in Los Angeles for quite some time previous to his death. Santoni is survived by his son Nick, who spent a lot of time at his father's side during Santoni's last years. Hollywood lost one its great actors on August 1st.

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Our thoughts and prayers go out to Reni Santoni's surviving family. May he rest in peace. Do you have a favorite movie or TV moment starring Santoni? Tell us about it and let us remember this wonderful actor together.