With “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” he celebrated a late career boost. Emmy nominee Mark Margolis has died at the age of 83.
Most movie fans may have noticed him for the first time in 1983 with director Brian De Palma’s immortal gangster epic “Scarface.” Although the film classic thrives on Al Pacino’s exuberant energy, Mark Margolis was able to enjoy a few minutes as drug lord Alejandro Sosa’s (Paul Shenar) henchman Alberto, burning himself into the memories of countless movie fans forever. That was Margolis’ great strength: he didn’t need a leading role or even a major supporting role to make a lasting impression. Now he died last Thursday, August 3, at the age of 83 after a short illness at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, as his son Morgan has announced (via The Hollywood Reporter).
Margolis was an exceptional talent. No wonder the actor, born in 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, got a job at the age of 19 as a personal assistant to Stella Adler, a legendary actress, and drama teacher who taught the much-cited method acting at the Actors Studio. In addition to studying with Adler, whom he described as a major influence, he trained with Lee Strasberg, the father of US method acting, and Barbara Loden. So Margolis learned from the best.
He earned his spurs in the theater; first TV and film appearances followed from 1952, but Margolis was only able to really take off from the late 1970s with supporting roles in crime novels and thrillers such as the aforementioned “Scarface.” As a result, he mostly portrayed villains. While some might feel coerced into a role, the Jewish actor found it a challenge every time (via Forward):
“You don’t play villains as if they were villains. You play them like you know exactly where they come from, which you hopefully do.”
An approach to, if you will, typecasting that earned Margolis an Emmy nomination in 2012 for his role as Don Hector Salamanca in Breaking Bad. The role, originally intended as a small cameo, was expanded for the Netflix series Better Call Saul.
Margolis had a very special connection with the acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (“The Whale”): Starting with his film debut “Pi – System im Chaos,” Margolis starred in every film by Aronofsky except for “Mother!” and “The Whale.” When asked about this, he had a mischievous answer ready:
“He (Darren Aronofsky, editor’s note) thinks he has an obligation! I started with him on his first film, the $60,000 film ‘Pi,’ when he was still unknown. I chased after him for three months because he kept lying to me about when I would get my money. Finally, I threatened to call his mother, who was a handyman on the film. Then he finally paid me.”
“Every Last Secret,” one of the last films by Ray Liotta, who died in 2022, is the last film by Margolis, who is survived by his wife Jacqueline, his son Morgan, his brother Jerome, and three grandchildren.