Bruno Kirby, 57; Character Actor on TV and in Films

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bruno Kirby, 57, an esteemed film and television character actor who often exuded an engaging New York knowingness in roles as a friend, sidekick, lawyer or lawbreaker, died Aug. 14 in Los Angeles.

In a statement, his wife, Lynn Sellers, attributed his death to complications of leukemia.

In "When Harry Met Sally," Mr. Kirby, as Harry's best friend, married Carrie Fisher, who played Sally's best friend.

As one of Billy Crystal's urban buddies, Mr. Kirby ventured out West with him in "City Slickers."

He also played an impassioned chauffeur in the cult classic "This Is Spinal Tap," participated in a Mafia power struggle as a member of the mob in "Donnie Brasco" and was also on the wrong side of the law as the young Clemenza in "The Godfather: Part II."

Another shady character to whom he lent his rasping voice was a disreputable mouse in the 1999 film version of "Stuart Little," the E.B. White children's classic.

As Vincent Bugliosi in the made-for-TV movie "Helter Skelter," he prosecuted Charles Manson in a grisly 1969 California mass killing.

He also played defense lawyer Barry Scheck, a DNA specialist, in a 2000 in a miniseries about the defense team in the O.J. Simpson trial. In "Good Morning Vietnam," he portrayed an Army lieutenant with an inflated idea of his comic talents.

As a former Internal Revenue Service aide in a TV movie called "Mastergate," which parodied Washington scandals and investigations, he delivered this line, which was imbued with a certain cliché-ridden resonance:

"Looking back in hindsight, there are many things I would have done differently in the past."

"This is Spinal Tap" purported to be a documentary about a heavy-metal band that was attempting a comeback. Mr. Kirby, as chauffeur Tommy Pischedda, deflates the band's morale with an unfavorable comparison to Frank Sinatra.

"When you've loved and lost, the way Frank has, then you, uh, you know what life's about," he says, a line remembered for the open-faced innocence of its delivery.

He appeared in Barry Levinson's movie "Tin Men," about Baltimore scammers, and also acted in a Baltimore setting in television's "Homicide" series.

Mr. Kirby, whose full name was Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu Jr., was born April 28, 1949, in New York to a father who was also an actor.

He attended Los Angeles City College and trained with Peggy Feury at the Loft Studio and in New York with noted acting coach Stella Adler.

"We are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from Bruno's fans and colleagues who have admired and respected his work over the past 30 years," his wife said. "Bruno's spirit will continue to live on, not only in his rich body of film and television work but also through the lives of individuals he has touched throughout his life."

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