Tony Lo Bianco Dies: Prolific Actor Who Played Sal Boca In ‘The French Connection’ Was 87

Tony Lo Bianco Dies: Prolific Actor Who Played Sal Boca In ‘The French Connection’ Was 87

Tony Lo Bianco, who played the key role of Sal Boca in Best Picture Oscar winner The French Connection and appeared in more than 100 films and TV shows during a 60-year screen career, died Tuesday of prostate cancer at his home in Maryland. He was 87.

A rep confirmed his death to Fox News today.

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Lo Bianco got his start guesting on 1960s TV series including The Doctors, Get Smart! and N.Y.P.D. before landing a big-screen star turn in 1970’s The Honeymoon Killers. That led to his signature role as Salvatore “Sal” Buco in William Friedkin’s seminal New York crime drama The French Connection the following year. His character is at the center of a drug deal followed by NYPD Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman). The film won five Oscars including Best Picture and Lead Actor for Hackman.

Tony Lo Bianco dead
Roy Scheider, left, and Tony Lo Bianco in ‘The French Connection,’ 1971

Born on October 19, 1936, in Brooklyn, Lo Bianco’s final credit was in Ray Romano’s 2022 feature directing debut, Somewhere in Queens.

In between, Lo Bianco appeared in dozens of films including a big role opposite his French Connection co-star Roy Scheider in 1973’s The Seven Ups, which was directed by French Connection producer Philip D’Antoni. He toplined the 1976 crime drama God Told Me To and appeared in 1978’s F.I.S.T. alongside Sylvester Stallone in his first post-Rocky role.

Lo Bianco’s other silver-screen credits include City Heat (1984), City of Hope (1991), Boiling Point (1993) and opposite Anthony Hopkins in Nixon (1995).

He also starred or appeared in a number of TV movies, including as boxing legend Rocky Marciano in the 1979 telefilm Marciano, and played Quintillus in the 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. Other miniseries roles included The Maharaja’s Daughter (1994), La romana (1988) and Marco Polo (1982).

Lo Bianco was a regular on a pair of short-lived TV series. He co-starred with Lindsay Wagner in the 1984 cop drama Jessie and co-starred in 1991 CBS crime dramedy Palace Guard. He had an arc as Detective Mitch Richmond on Homicide: Life on the Street, playing the ex-partner of Ned Bolander, who is badly shot in the first of Lo Bianco’s three episodes in 1995.

He also guested on such popular TV series as Police Story, The Streets of San Francisco, The Paper Chase, Walker, Texas Ranger, Law & Order and Murder, She Wrote.

Along with his acting career, Lo Bianco was a candidate for the pre-merger SAG New York Division Board in 2009.


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