William Hickey, a character actor who achieved popularity late in his career with an Oscar nomination in 1985 portraying the shriveled, wise old Mafia Don in John Huston’s “Prizzi’s Honor,” has died. He was 69.
Hickey died June 29 at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. The cause was complications of emphysema and bronchitis, according to his companion Lili Afan.
Although Hickey’s acting career began in the late 1940s and encompassed radio, TV and film, he was better known as a respected acting teacher until the release of “Prizzi’s Honor.”
He was associated for more than 40 years with the HB Studios in Greenwich Village, founded by Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagen, who were Hickey’s discoverers and artistic parents.
Hickey’s film career began in 1957 with a role in “A Hatful of Rain” and he subsequently appeared in nearly 30 films, finally achieving popularity with the breakthrough role of the 84-year-old Don Corrado Prizzi. Hickey was 57 at the time.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Hickey acted in radio, danced a little and occasionally found replacement roles on the stage before studying with Berghof and Hagen.
New York stage credits include “St. Joan,” “As I Lay Dying,” “Miss Lonelyhearts,” “On the Town” and “Tovarich.”
In the early days of TV he appeared on “Studio One,” “Philco Playhouse” and “Camera Three.” In recent years he appeared in episodes of “Tales From the Crypt” and “Wings.”
Hickey recently completed DreamWorks SKG’s upcoming feature “Mouse Hunt” starring Nathan Lee and Lee Evans.
Hickey, who lived in Greenwich Village, continued to work at the HB Studio until about two weeks ago.
He is survived by his sister, Dorothy Finn.