See the Cast of ‘Donnie Brasco’ Then and Now
Released in 1997, ‘Donnie Brasco’ starred Johnny Depp as an FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate a crime family and is befriended by hitman Lefty Ruggiero, played by Al Pacino. Based on a true story, ‘Donnie Brasco’ was a huge hit and continues to be hailed as one of the best contemporary crime films. Seventeen years later, we revisit the cast of this modern classic and see what they’re up to now.
Johnny Depp, Joseph Pistone/Donnie Brasco
Then: Johnny Depp played Joseph Pistone, an FBI agent who goes undercover as Donnie Brasco to infiltrate the Bonanno crime family, but finds himself actually becoming one of them. Depp was previously known for starring in the Tim Burton films ‘Edward Scissorhands’ and ‘Ed Wood,’ as well as films like ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ and ‘Benny and Joon.’
Now: Depp went on to appear in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ and ‘Blow,’ and has reunited with Tim Burton several times over the years, starring in ‘Sleepy Hollow,’ ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ ‘Sweeney Todd,’ ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Dark Shadows,’ although their work together has been critically divisive with many wondering if the two should take a creative break from one another. Depp also played Captain Jack Sparrow in all four ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films, and recently starred in ‘The Lone Ranger’ and ‘Transcendence.’ Up next, he has roles in ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘Mortdecai,’ and is rumored to have a small part in Kevin Smith’s new horror movie ‘Tusk.’ He’s also set to reprise his Jack Sparrow role for a fifth ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ film, which is supposed to start shooting later this year.
Al Pacino, Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero
Then: Al Pacino, best known for roles in classic films like ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Scarface,’ played Lefty Ruggiero, a low-level mob hitman who befriends Donnie Brasco. Pacino also starred in crime films like ‘Carlito’s Way’ and ‘Heat.’
Now: Pacino continued a successful stretch in the ’90s with roles in ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ and ‘Any Given Sunday.’ In the aughts, he appeared in ‘The Recruit,’ ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ and Christopher Nolan’s ‘Insomnia.’ His film output in recent years hasn’t been as impressive as his earlier work, with roles in ‘Jack and Jill’ with Adam Sandler and ‘Stand Up Guys.’ Though, he also starred in the HBO films ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ and the Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated ‘Phil Spector,’ and up next he’ll appear in David Gordon Green’s ‘Manglehorn.’ Judging by Nicolas Cage’s performance in Green’s ‘Joe,’ we might be in for something pretty special.
Michael Madsen, Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano
Then: Michael Madsen played Dominick Napolitano, aka “Sonny Black,” the captain of Lefty’s crew. Madsen was previously well known for roles in ‘Reservoir Dogs,’ ‘Wyatt Earp’ and the family film ‘Free Willy.’
Now: Madsen reunited with his ‘Reservoir Dogs’ director Quentin Tarantino for both ‘Kill Bill’ films, and appeared in ‘Sin City.’ He popped up on shows like ‘CSI: Miami,’ ’24′ and had a stint on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ in the UK. More recently, his film credits include roles in ‘Piranhaconda’ and ‘I’m in Love with a Church Girl,’ and he guest starred on ‘Hawaii Five-0′ and lent his voice to the animated series ‘Axe Cop.’
Anne Heche, Maggie Pistone
Then: Anne Heche played Maggie, Joseph Pistone’s wife and mother of his three children, who struggles with her husband’s double life. Heche was a a rising star at the time, and was previously known for roles on the TV series ‘Another World’ and in films like ‘Milk Money.’
Now: Immediately following ‘Donnie Brasco,’ Heche landed a series of roles in films like ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer,’ ‘Wag the Dog,’ ‘Six Days, Seven Nights’ and the ‘Psycho’ remake. She had recurring roles on ‘Ally McBeal’ and ‘Everwood,’ and also appeared in the films ‘Prozac Nation,’ ‘John Q.’ and ‘The Other Guys.’ From 2006 to 2008, she starred in the series ‘Men in Trees,’ and from 2009 to 2011, she co-starred with Thomas Jane in acclaimed HBO series ‘Hung.’ More recently, she appeared in the films ‘Arthur Newman’ and ‘Nothing Left to Fear,’ and had roles on the short-lived NBC shows ‘Save Me’ and ‘The Michael J. Fox Show.’
James Russo, Paulie Cersani
Then: James Russo, known for supporting roles in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ and ‘Beverly Hills Cop,’ played Paulie Cersani, one of the mobsters.
Now: Russo reunited with Johnny Depp for the thriller ‘The Ninth Gate,’ and has appeared on the shows ‘CSI,’ ‘CSI: Miami’ and ‘Dark Blue.’ He also starred on the miniseries ‘The Capture of the Green River Killer’ and ‘Hatfields and McCoys,’ and reunited with Depp again in 2009 for ‘Public Enemies.’ Recently, he appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained.’
Zeljko Ivanek, Tim Curley
Then: Zeljko Ivanek played Tim Curley, an FBI associate. At the time, Ivanek was known for roles in ‘School Ties’ and ‘The Associate.’
Now: Ivanek is one of those great “that guy” actors, whose name you might not know, but whose face you definitely recognize from films like ‘Hannibal,’ ‘Black Hawk Down,’ ‘Live Free or Die Hard,’ ‘In Bruges’ and ‘The Bourne Legacy.’ He played Governor James Devlin on the HBO series ‘Oz,’ and had recurring roles on ’24,’ ‘Damages,’ ‘True Blood’ and ‘Big Love.’ Ivanek recently popped up in the films ‘Argo’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths,’ and had recurring guest spots on ‘Revolution’ and ‘Banshee.’
Tim Blake Nelson, FBI Technician
Then: Tim Blake Nelson wasn’t yet that well known when he played the supporting role of an FBI technician. He’d previously appeared in the comedies ‘Heavyweights’ and ‘Joe’s Apartment.’
Now: Nelson caught his big break a few years later in the Coen brothers’ ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?,’ and he starred in ‘The Good Girl,’ ‘Minority Report,’ ‘Wonderland’ and ‘The Incredible Hulk.’ He guest starred on ‘CSI’ and ‘Modern Family,’ and recently appeared in ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Blue Caprice.’ He also starred in both ‘Child of God’ and ‘As I Lay Dying,’ indies directed by James Franco and adapted from works by Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner, respectively. Up next, Nelson stars in ‘The Homesman,’ directed by Tommy Lee Jones.
Paul Giamatti, FBI Technician
Then: Like Nelson, Paul Giamatti was also not yet that well known, and played the other FBI technician assigned to the case. Giamatti had a handful of small, supporting roles prior, but 1997 was a big year for the actor, who also memorably starred in Howard Stern’s ‘Private Parts,’ as well as ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ and ‘Deconstructing Harry.’
Now: Giamatti went on to appear in ‘The Truman Show’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ but it was the 2003 indie film ‘American Splendor,’ in which he played underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar, that really got audiences taking him seriously as a leading man. Since then, he appeared in tons of films, including ‘Sideways,’ ‘Shoot ‘Em Up,’ ‘Fred Claus,’ ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Cosmopolis.’ Recently, he appeared in ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Saving Mr. Banks.’ You can see him next as the villain Rhino in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2,’ and he’ll star in ‘Love and Mercy,’ ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘The Congress.’