For an actor who mainly played bit parts, Mr. Schiavelli cut one of the most recognizable figures in Hollywood. The Brooklyn native stood 6 feet, 5 1/2 inches tall. Perhaps a foot of that stretch was a long, hangdog face that flowed in downward lines from an unkempt hairdo and high forehead, to deeply set, heavy-lidded eyes, a beakish nose and drooping mouth.
Due to this remarkable visage, he was often cast in odd roles. However, his resume boasted a high ratio of quality films. He played mental patient Frederickson in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," a loopy teacher in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," a disguised alien in "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension" (which also featured fellow acting oddity, Christopher Lloyd, a frequent co-star of Mr. Schiavelli), Salieri's valet in "Amadeus," an angry spirit riding the subway in "Ghost," as well as roles in "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and "Man on the Moon." Director Milos Forman hired him for several films.
Some of his final movies were shot in Italy. He was born of Sicilian-American partents. His grandparents were from Polizzi Generosa, the very town in Sicily where Mr. Schiavelli returned to late in life. He was featured in the 2005 documentary "Once Upon a Time in Polizzi."
In 2001, he directed a play in Sicily based on nine traditional fables, according to the Internet Movie Database. After the production, he and the actors were greeted with a five-minute downpour of wild flowers thrown by the audience.
The production was a return to his theatre roots. During high school he was the star of the Drama Society. He studied acting at the theatre program at New York University and, upon graduating, began working on the Off-Broadway stage almost immediately, in plays such as Instructions for the Running of Trains, Etc., on the Erie Railway to Go Into Effect Jan. 1, 1862 at the Sheridan Square Playhouse. Mr. Schiavelli's other passions included food. (His grandfather was a cook for an Italian baron before moving to the United States.) He was the author of three cookbooks and, in 2001, received the James Beard Journalism Award.
He was also the honorary co-chair of the National Marfan Foundation, which serves people afflicted with Marfan Syndrome—a genetic disorder that Mr. Schiavelli had and which results in unusually long limbs.
He married "Moonlighting" actress Allyce Beasley in 1985. They had one child and divorced in 1988. He married again in 1992 to Carol Mukhalian, who survives him.