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.
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?
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.
Did Al Pacino's character, Lefty Ruggiero, really receive
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
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.
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
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: