Louis Giovanni "Gianni" Russo (born December 12, 1943) is an American actor known for his role as Carlo Rizzi in the 1972 movie The Godfather(Film). After appearing in The Godfather (he appeared in a flashback scene at the end The Godfather Part II), Russo went on to act in more than 35 movies including The Freshman, Super Mario Bros., Any Given Sunday, and Seabiscuit.
Russo was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in the Rosebank section of Staten Island. He has Mob connections and his uncle was a solider in the Gambino crime family. The Gambinos persuaded Francis Ford Coppola to cast Russo as Carlo Rizzi in the Godfather. Gianni states his father was a longshoreman and a musician who worked at the Brooklyn waterfront who was ashamed his only son was crippled from the horrible disease and refused to acknowledge him during his early childhood. He suffered from a gimp arm
He started a fledgling career in organized crime working as an errand boy and mob associate for Frank Costello as an adolescent but later abandoned the dangerous and volatile lifestyle of organized crime.
In the 2006 book "Supermob" by investigative reporter Gus Russo (no relation mentioned), the author writes that Gianni Russo secured his role in "The Godfather" by acting as an intermediary between Paramount Studios and NYC Mafia don Joe Colombo Sr., whose Italian Anti-Defamation League had shut down early production of the film in Manhattan. Colombo met with the film executives who then hired Russo to play Carlo.
Gianni Russo claims that he has personally known three popes, five United States presidents and every mafia boss in the United States. He also claims to have had romantic trists with Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Liza Minnelli. Over the years since the beginning of his stardom he has owned a Las Vegas restaurant called Gianni Russo's State Street, dated Dionne Warwick for more than a decade and has successfully defeated twenty-three federal criminal indictments on a variety of charges stemming from alleged organized crime associations.