Lenny Montana (born Leonardo Passofaro) (March 13, 1926 – May 12, 1992) was an American actor, professional Wrestler, ex-mob associate and bodyguard.
Early Life and Wrestling Career Edit
He was born in Brooklyn, New York City in 1926 of Italian American heritage. Prior to becoming an actor, Montana was a wrestler and a mobster. He also worked as a bouncer and doorman at several clubs in the 1950s.
His wrestling career started in the early 1950s. Montana came to the Tampa Bay area wrestling under a hood. The "Zebra Kid" as he was known, was an intimidating fellow, often pinning his opponents in under one minute. His classic battles with Eddie Graham sold out Fort Homer Hesterly Armory many Tuesday nights in the summer of 1961. Montana was a popular Wrestler and well known between other fighters. He won the NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship in October 1953. In October 1960, he and Hard Boiled Haggarty won the AWA World Tag Team Championship but was unable to win it a second time as he broke his leg in a match against Verne Gagne and Leo Nomellini forcing Haggarty to choose a new partner. Montana also won the NWA World Tag Team Championship in 1963 with Tarzan Tyler.
Colombo crime family and Film Career Edit
Montana also wrestled under the names of Lenny 'The Bull', Len Crosby and "Chief Chewacki" in the 1950's and until his retirement from wrestling in the late 1960's. During this period, he spent time in Riker's Island Prison. It was at this point that Lenny began to work for the Colombo crime family. His talents were said to be as an arsonist and enforcer. He would tie tampons on the tail of a mouse, dip it in kerosene, light it, and let the mouse run through a building, or he’d put a candle in front of a cuckoo clock, and when the cuckoo would pop out, the candle would fall over and start a fire. It was when acting as a bodyguard for a senior Colombo Family member that Lenny met Francis Ford Coppola and Al Ruddy.
After being introduced to the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Montana, they quickly cast him for the role of Luca Brasi. Lenny was well connected to the other mobsters around him. When Bettye McCartt, Al Ruddy's assistant, broke her watch, Lenny offered to get her a new one. A week later, Lenny returned with a "gift from the boys" - an antique diamond watch.
This would be his first film appearance. His role was that of brutal mob Enforcer Luca Brasi in the 1972 classic The Godfather. He was cast in the role of the fearsome Brasi after acting as a bodyguard for mobsters on the set of the film. Al Ruddy picked out Montana for the part after the original actor playing the character died of a stroke. Montana was so nervous about appearing opposite Marlon Brando (Vito Corleone) that he kept practicing his lines over and over again. Francis Ford Coppola recorded this and the scene featured in the film. He had little screen time in the role of Luca Brasi, but his notable height and physique caught the eye of producers and he appeared in several television programs such as Contract on Cherry Street (1977) which featured Frank Sinatra, Kojak (1978), They went that-a-way & that-a-way (1978) and Magnum PI (1982).
He also starred in a series of other movies. Fingers (1978) as the pizzaria owner Luchino, The Jerk (1979), Defiance (1980), Battle Creek Brawl (1980) alongside Jackie Chan, Evilspeak (1981), All the Marbles (1981) and finally Pandemonium in 1982. Montana also co-wrote B movie Blood Song (1982) and made a cameo appearance as Skipper.
His son, Lenny Montana, Jr. known as "Limping Lenny", is an alleged a member of the Los Angeles crime family.
His likeness was used as his character Luca Brasi in The Godfather Game. Terence McGovern provided the voice acting.
In 1992, Montana died of a heart attack in Italy. He was 66 years old.