You think I'm fat? Pesci to sue after piling on 30lb for film – then losing the part


Los Angeles

Fans of Joe Pesci, who was never renowned for being long and lean, might not have noticed the difference. But for the Goodfellas star, putting on 30lb for a role worth $3m (£1.8m) that was then abruptly withdrawn was sufficiently infuriating to prompt him to file a lawsuit against the film-production company who he says reneged on their deal.

The often-reclusive actor filed the suit in Los Angeles this week. Legal papers made public on Wednesday claim that Pesci sacrificed his dignity and his personal health to gain weight for a movie about the Gambino Mafia family, in which he was to play Angelo Ruggiero, an associate of the late New York mob boss John Gotti Jnr.

"[Pesci] ended his very strict and healthy diet, and has so far gained approximately 30lb in anticipation of playing Ruggiero, who was well known for his heavy and stocky build," it reads.

But shortly after he was cast, Pesci alleges that the movie's producers, Fiore Films, attempted to sideline him from the project. He claims to have been moved to a more minor role than was originally agreed, and told that his fee would be reduced from $3m to $1m.

Pesci now argues that the film company used his name to attract investors to the movie Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father, but had no intention of ever honouring their original deal. They also leveraged him for PR purposes, holding a press conference earlier this year in which he was named in an all-star cast alongside John Travolta and Al Pacino. Fiore Films "secretly planned to use [Pesci's] name and likeness to promote the film and then to later concoct some pretext for terminating the contract so as to avoid paying the plaintiff anything for the substantial publicity and 'buzz' that was generated," the lawsuit alleges.

The film's producer, Mark Fiore, disputes that version of events, saying the actor never signed a contract and walked away from the film when its original director, Nick Cassavetes, withdrew. Pesci has so far refused to co-operate with the replacement director, Oscar-winner Barry Levinson, he added.

"Mr Pesci is going to embarrass himself," Mr Fiore said. "If this is what Joe wants to do, we'll see him in court.... He's not getting a penny from me."

Pesci, 68, achieved fame and his first Oscar nomination in Martin Scorsese's 1980 film Raging Bull. He was then in Scorsese's Goodfellas, for which he won an Oscar, Casino, and several of the Lethal Weapon films. The Gotti project – an ambitious biopic which is due out in 2013 and has the support of John "Junior" Gotti III, Gotti Jnr's son – was to mark Pesci's return to the genre that made him famous. But this dispute leaves him without any upcoming roles.

Big roles – and small

Robert De Niro The Oscar-winning actor bulked up by 60lbs to play Italian middleweight boxer Jake La Motta in the 1980 film Raging Bull. De Niro enlisted La Motta to help him train for the role. He was so convincing, the boxer claimed De Niro could have become a professional fighter.

Marlon Brando The Hollywood heartthrob wasn't asked to gain weight for his role as Colonel Kurtz in the 1979 epic Apocalypse Now, but that didn't stop him. Director Francis Ford Coppola was not best pleased and tried to hide his star's excess bulk on screen by dressing him in black, using close-ups of his face, and using a body double for full-length shots.

Renée Zellweger Zellweger yo-yoed to a size 14 and back down again for her starring role in the two Bridget Jones films, gaining and losing almost 30lbs each time. She is less than enthusiastic about overeating to gain weight for a third film: "For two days it's bliss and then you're full, OK?"

Christian Bale Existing on a diet of coffee, water and either a can of tuna or an apple each day, Bale dropped from 185lbs to a skeletal 121lbs for 2004 thriller The Machinist. Six months after filming, he bulked up to a muscular 190lbs to play Bruce Wayne and Batman in Batman Begins.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas