Robert Loggia, an Oscar-nominated actor who had a durable career in television and movies, notably in Brian De Palma’s gangster film “Scarface” and Penny Marshall’s comedy “Big,” died Friday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 85.
His wife, Audrey, said the cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease. “He struggled with Alzheimer’s disease for five years,” she said. “It just took its natural progression.”
Mr. Loggia’s career began on the New York stage in the 1950s and soon moved into film and television in its early years. His rugged looks and gravelly voice made him a natural for playing characters with a hard edge, like a drug lord in “Scarface” (1983), a Sicilian mobster in “Prizzi’s Honor” (1985) and a private detective in “Jagged Edge” (1985), a role that got him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. (Don Ameche won that year, for “Cocoon.”)
In four episodes of David Chase’s HBO series “The Sopranos” he played Michele (Feech) La Manna, who wants to rejoin the mob after his release from prison.
But Mr. Loggia could also break out of that mold to play a softhearted character, as he did memorably in “Big.”
He earned a reputation in Hollywood as a versatile performer and an energetic scene stealer.
“I’m a character actor in that I play many different roles, and I’m virtually unrecognizable from one role to another,” The Associated Press quoted him as saying in 1990. “So I never wear out my welcome.”
Among his most noteworthy credits was “Scarface,” in which he played Frank Lopez, a Florida gangster who befriends and is then betrayed by a rising Cuban-born mobster played by Al Pacino, who kills him and marries his mistress, played by Michelle Pfeiffer.
In the comic fantasy “Big” (1988), he played Macmillan, a toy company executive who befriends a child trapped in the body of an adult man, played by Tom Hanks.
Mr. Loggia had one of the signature scenes of that film: gleefully tapping out “Chopsticks” and “Heart and Soul” with Hanks on a giant piano built into the floor of the toy store F.A.O. Schwarz.
In “Jagged Edge,” which starred Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges, he was Sam Ransom, a private eye who is hired to investigate a murder.
A favorite of the director Blake Edwards, Mr. Loggia appeared in five of his films, including three in the “Pink Panther” franchise. In George Stevens’s sprawling biblical film “The Greatest Story Ever Told” he played Joseph.
He made his film debut in 1956 in “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” playing a mobster who tries to persuade boxer Rocky Graziano (Paul Newman) to throw a fight. Later in his career he was a presidential adviser in the science-fiction thriller “Independence Day” (1996).
On television, he had the starring role in the NBC television crime drama “T.H.E. Cat,” playing a former circus acrobat and cat burglar who hires himself out to clients in need of protection. The series was canceled after one season, 1966-67.
Mr. Loggia won an Emmy in 1989 for his work on the series “Mancuso FBI,” in which he played the title role, an FBI agent. He was nominated for an Emmy in 2000 for a guest appearance on “Malcolm in the Middle.”
On the New York stage, in a 1956 off-Broadway production of “The Man With the Golden Arm,” Mr. Loggia played the lead role, a drug addict, who had been portrayed in the 1955 film version by Frank Sinatra.
Reviewing that play in The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson wrote that it would appeal to “connoisseurs of the dope habit and of degradation in general” and described Mr. Loggia as “a handsome, swaggering hero.”
Mr. Loggia made his Broadway debut in a 1960 production of Lillian Hellman’s “Toys in the Attic,” filling a role that had previously been played by Jason Robards Jr.
His theater background served him well when he broke into television in the late 1950s, appearing on “Studio One,” “Playhouse 90” and other live dramatic anthology series.
He was born Salvatore Loggia on Staten Island on Jan. 3, 1930, a son of Sicilian immigrants, and grew up in the Little Italy section of Manhattan. He studied journalism for a time at the University of Missouri before deciding to pursue acting and joining the Actors Studio in New York.
Besides his wife, the former Audrey O’Brien, he is survived by three children: Tracy, John and Kristina, from a previous marriage, to Della Marjorie Sloan, and six grandchildren.