Pantoliano plays Ralph Cifaretto, a psychotic mobster who maintains an uneasy truce with Tony Soprano after challenging his authority. Last season, he beat his stripper girlfriend to death and this season, the actor says, this self-described 'Shakespearean villain' will continue to shock and surprise.
"I get a kick out of playing someone so diabolical," Pantoliano says, adding that women love the "bad guys."
Though this is only season four for "The Sopranos," executive producer David Chase has said it may be its last. The popular HBO Original series was cable's highest rated series ever.
Pantoliano offered few details on what will happen to his character this season, but an offshore gambling company has listed Ralphies Cifaretto as most likely to be whacked during the upcoming season.
Cifaretto is listed at 5/6 odds by BetWWTS.com, an Antigua-based oddsmaker. That means bettors have to put up $6 to win $5.
He even beats Uncle Junior, whose has cancer and is listed at 8/5 odds. A bettor would win if the character dies of natural causes, not that it happens too often in a mob family.
Next on the list is Furio Giunta, the pony-tailed muscleman, at 2/1 odds. Paulie Walnuts and Christopher Moltisanti are listed at 3/1 and 4/1, respectively.
How about the boss himself? The company says there are 10/1 odds that Tony Soprano will swim with the fishes.
While working on the this season's TV show, Pantoliano also filmed "Daredevil" a movie with Ben Affleck in which he plays a New York Post reporter, Ben Urich. Pantoliano says, "I was going back and forth between being Ralphie Cifaretto and Ben Urich - changing characters that quickly is difficult - I fell into the Ralphie character while filming."
Pantoliano has also recently released his memoirs, "Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-up Guy," about growing up in Hoboken, N.J. The book traces his early real-life wise guy influences; his father worked in a funeral parlor and his mother was a part-time seamstress, part-time bookie.
He is also producing and directing an independent feature film called "Second Best" as well as opening a "Soprano" themed restaurant in Connecticut where he lives with his wife, Nancy, and his 15-year old step-daughter, Melody.
"The Sopranos" premieres Sunday on HBO.
Facts About Joe Pantoliano
- 1954: Born Joseph Pantoliano in Hoboken, N. J., on Sept. 12.
- 1968: First professional stage appearance in New York and at age 17.
- 1972: Portrayed Billy Bibbit in a stage production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
- 1976: Moved to Los Angeles.
- 1977: TV acting debut, "McNamara's Band", a sitcom pilot.
- 1978: Recurring role in the summer replacement series "Free Country", a period sitcom about the immigrant experience from co-producer, co-writer and star Rob Reiner.
- 1978: Worked with Rob Reiner again in the TV-movie romantic comedy "More Than Friends."
- 1979: Gained notice for his interpretation of Angelo Maggio - Frank Sinatra's role in the original movie - in the NBC miniseries version of "From Here to Eternity."
- 1980: Feature acting debut, "The Idolmaker."
- 1982: Portrayed Tommy MacMillan in "Brothers" at the South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa, Calif.
- 1983: Originated the lead role of Philip in "Orphans" at the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles.
- 1983: Breakthrough feature supporting role as Guido "The Killer Pimp" in the surprise hit "Risky Business." Acted off-Broadway in "The Death Star" and "Visions of Kerouac."
- 1985: First role in a Steven Spielberg production, "The Gooonies."
- 1987: Portrayed anti-Communist attorney Roy Cohn in the CBS miniseries biopic "Robert Kennedy and His Times."
- 1990-1991: Cast as a regular in the short-lived sitcom "The Fanelli Boys."
- 1993: Portrayed Cosmo Renfro in "The Fugitive."
- 1994: Provided a voice for the CBS animated version of the children's movie "Beethoven."
- 1995: Played the recurring role of stoolie Vinnie Greco on the ABC cop drama "NYPD Blue."
- 1996: Cast as a regular on the CBS crime drama "EZ Streets."
- 1996: Was Jennifer Tilly's gangster lover in "Bound", directed by the Wachowski brothers.
- 1998: Reprised role of Cosmo Renfro in "U.S. Marshals."
- 1999: Cast as the renegade Cypher in the blockbuster "The Matrix."
- 2000: Played an oddball, slightly mysterious figure shadowing a man who cannot form new memories in the stylish thriller "Memento."
- 2001: Joined the cast of the HBO series "The Sopranos", playing Ralph Cifaretto. Made feature directorial debut with "Just Like Mona" (released 2001)