Joe Cirillo, a South Bellmore resident for nearly 50 years, has had a remarkable life. Now, the 90-year-old — who said he’s seen and done it all — recounts his life in his recently published autobiography, “An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse.”
Cirillo, who is also a Korean War Veteran, began his career as a police officer for the New York City Police Department in the 1950s.
In 1958, Cirillo was one of the first people to do composite drawings of suspects, he said. When they offered him a desk job in the department, he turned it down because he wanted to be on the streets. While patrolling the streets, Cirillo began to meet people, including Oscar winning director and producer Mike Nichols.
“We became friends,” Cirillo recalled. “Mike said to me, ‘How would you like to become an actor?’ He then got me an interview with Paramount Pictures.”
The rest is history, he said.
Cirillo’s interview with Paramount landed him his first small speaking role in “The Godfather,” the classic mob era movie starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.
“The speaking part never made the movie,” he said, laughing. “But it earned me my Screen Actor’s Guild card.”
Cirillo, who’s saved most photos, articles and other media about him in large binders, was eager to open and flip through them and look back on his life.
In 1976, the “most popular show on television,” was “Kojak,” a crime drama that starred Telly Savalas and took place in New York, according to Cirillo.
“It was first shot in California,” Cirillo said. “But, they did stock shots in New York City.”
When they needed someone to do security for Savalas, Cirillo said the police department told them, “We got the right guy for you.”
“I got out of the police department 2 months later,” Cirillo recounted. “I moved to California, and I started working for Savalas.”
After working with Savalas until the end of “Kojak” in 1978, Cirillo stayed in California where he was given a co-star role in the short-lived television series Eischied, another crime drama. Upon its conclusion, Cirillo returned to New York.
“I started my own security business for movie stars” and other big names in Hollywood, he said. The list of people he’s done security for includes Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Jerry Lewis and Goldie Hawn, amongst countless others.
Thinking back on all the people he’d worked for, he recounted that he wasn’t just their security guard — “We became friends,” he said, smiling.
Perhaps Cirillo’s most memorable role was the police captain in “Ghostbusters,” in the scene where the supernatural containment center gets shut down by authorities. Cirillo’s character says the quotable line, “You do your job pencil neck, don’t tell me how to do mine!”
Additionally, Cirillo considers himself a writer.
“I’ve written 12 screenplays,” he said. “I also wrote a musical version of the film ‘Marty,’ although it was never produced.”
Cirillo also has his own production company, and at the moment, two of his screenplays, called “Comeback in Vienna” and “Megaballs,” are in the works of potentially being made into films.
Encouraged by many for years to write a book about his life, he explained, he finally decided to do so — but not for himself.
“I did this for my family,” he said. “So that my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren can know me and my legacy.”
Cirillo’s book, “An Offer I Couldn’t Refuse” — a play on the famous “The Godfather” line, “I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse,” delivered by Brando — is available on Amazon and Kindle, and so far, has received high praise from readers and critics.
“I talk about Korea, my years in the police department, Hollywood, my security business and present day,” Cirillo explained.
Still working hard on seeing his screenplays become movies, Cirillo said, “I don’t give up. Perseverance is what it’s all about.”