Robert Loggia, one of the most memorable character actors to grace the screen, has passed away at 85. Truth be told I hadn’t recalled the name when I read the news of his passing, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I recognized him and have appreciated his work.
His gravely voice made him ideal for roles in various gangster films and crime thrillers, and he was certainly memorable in some of the greatest films of that genre, from Scarface to Prizzi’s Honor. Further, his skill set as an actor made him ideal for playing that private detective in Jagged Edge.
Speaking for myself, the highlights came later in his career and they include those film credits that have meant the most to me perfectly, and his presence in them was welcome, as he provided rock-steady figure of authority, and he was able to do it without trying. This included the great sci-fi cheese-fest Independence Day. In that film, Loggia was the sturdy general, offering his voice of reason (and foreboding about each crisis as it happened) for the president, played by Bill Pullman. Yeah, Pullman played an awesome president, but since that was such a bold casting decision, having Loggia standing behind him at all times really helped make us believe in the character. Loggia – almost single-handedly – grounded the movie – because his performance as the general was believable and carried the necessary authority. I can’t imagine watching that movie without hearing his voice. “Mr. President, I’d sure like to know what you’re doing,” he asks as the President prepares to get on a fighter plane. I think, the audience was asking the same question.
His most memorable role, at least for me, was the CEO of the toy company in Big. That film was one of the defining moments of my childhood, and it really something to see a young boy (who was my age at the time I saw it) inhabit an adult world with his imagination and eagerness intact, and nowhere was that more well-demonstrated than in the famous scene where the boy (in Tom Hank’s body) finds himself sharing a piano duet of Chopsticks on that giant piano with Loggia’s character; it so great how he was able to bring that sense of wonder out of this older man. Loggia played the part perfectly, you believed that some innocence and pure joy had indeed emerged from the good-natured (but all-business) man that he is. It’s one of cinemas most heartfelt moments.
Thank you, Mr. Loggia, for all the memories!