Joseph D. Pistone - Donnie Brasco real face

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Donnie Brasco (1997)
Starring Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen
based on the book "Donnie Brasco" by Joseph D. Pistone
Reel Face: Real Face:
Johnny Depp Johnny Depp
Born: June 9,
Kentucky, USA
Joseph D.
Pistone (a.k.a.
Donnie Brasco)

Born: ?
Patterson, New
Jersey, USA
Al Pacino
Born: April 25,
New York, New
York, USA
Lefty Ruggerio Benjamin 'Lefty' Ruggerio
Born: 1923
Birthplace: New
York, New York,
Died: November
28, 1995
New York

Michael Madsen Michael

September 25,
Illinois, USA
Sonny Black Dominick 'Sonny
1982, New York

"I had no idea that Joe was working for the FBI. We used to play basketball two or three times a week and then one day he just disappeared without a trace. About six or seven years later, all the New York papers had a front page story about this FBI agent who went undercover in the mob, and they kept using the name Pistone." - friend and Donnie Brasco Producer, Lou DiGiaimo

Questioning the Story:

Did Al Pacino's character, Lefty Ruggiero, really get whacked as the end of the film implies?
No, he did not get whacked. Benjamin 'Lefty' Ruggerio was picked up by FBI agents as he left his apartment on August 30, 1981. As a result of Pistone's work, Ruggerio was sentenced to serve twenty years in prison. In the early 1990's, he was released from prison, and on Thanksgiving Day, 1995, at age 72, he died of cancer in his New York home.

What happened to Michael Madsen's character, Dominick 'Sonny Black' Napolitano, who was also responsible for bringing Brasco into the family?
In early August of 1982 surveillance agents noticed workmen dismantling Sonny's pigeon coops on top of the Motion Lounge. On August 12, 1982, Sonny Black's body was discovered in a hospital body bag in a creek near South Avenue close to the Geothals Toll Bridge that connects Staten Island to Linden, New Jersey. His hands had been cut off, and his body contained several gunshot wounds.

So, if Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino) was never whacked, was the part at the end of the film where he removes his jewelry just for dramatic effect?
This is said to have happened, but it wasn't Lefty. According to a source of Court TV's Crime Library, it is said that before leaving his crew for certain death, Sonny Black removed his jewelry and gave it to them.

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Go undercover with Joseph D. Pistone for a gripping firsthand account of the true story, including everything that the movie doesn't show.

Did Al Pacino's character, Lefty Ruggiero, really receive a lion?
Yes, he did. In reality the lion was still somewhat of a cub, and it could be handled more easily than the adult lion depicted in the film. Donnie Brasco and Lefty fed the lion twenty to thirty steaks a day, and Lefty could at times be seen walking the lion up and down the street. When the lion became too big for them to control
, they took it to a park, tied it to a tree, and had the police called to come take the animal.

How did the mafia world respond to the movie Donnie Brasco?
John (Boobie) Cerasani
John (Boobie) Cerasani
As reported in the Gang Land Online Column, the Bonanno crime family mobster John (Boobie) Cerasani filed a libel suit against Sony Corporation, TriStar Pictures, and others involved in the making of the film. Cerasani had dealings with Donnie Brasco and was aquitted in 1982 of racketeering charges stemming from Pistone's investigation. Cerasani claimed that the movie defamed him. Manhattan Federal Judge Denny Chin ruled that Cerasani's claims were nonsense, and that his aquittal was merely a failure to prove absolute guilt. Judge Chin went on to list numerous crimes Cerasani had been convicted for from 1985 to 1994.

Donnie Brasco's cover in the underworld was as a jeweler. How did he keep his cover if he really wasn't a jeweler?
To protect his cover, Joe Pistone (Donnie Brasco) went to school to learn about precious gems and diamonds. He also had friends who were jewelers. In a Jonesville Station interview he said that most of the time if he really didn't know something, instead of lying, he would just tell them that he didn't know, figuring that nobody knows everything about their profession.

Had Donnie Brasco (Pistone) ever been given contracts to whack anybody?
Pistone said that he had been given four contracts to whack people. He claims that he never did though. Undercover agents would do such things as stage fake hits with the police, and then take the supposed-to-be-dead individual into the witness protection program, as he discusses in the Jonesville Station interview below.

How much was the contract for that was put on Pistone's head?
At the time when his double-agentry was revealed, there was a $500,000 contract on Joe Pistone's head, according to FBI informants.

Has anyone ever made an attempt on Pistone's life after his double-agentry was revealed?
No, but Pistone doesn't take any chances. He appears for interviews and photos in disguise. He doesn't disclose where he lives, and his neighbors are unaware of who he is. He simply says that he resides west of the Mississippi and has developed a fondness for horses.

What does Joe Pistone (Donnie Brasco) do today?
In 1986, Joe Pistone retired from the FBI. He currently does international lecturing and training for the organization. He also works as a consultant for them as well. He is the author of several books (right) and the co-owner of a production company. Besides being involved in the making of the film, he has also been involved in the television series "Falcone," in which Jason Gedrick plays the character of Joseph D. Pistone. The series is based on his experiences undercover.

Joe Pistone (Donnie Brasco) Interviews and Video: