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Paul Sorvino’s wife Dee Dee Benkie recalled falling in love with the late “Goodfellas” actor who died on Monday of natural causes at the age of 83. They built their lives side-by-side after first meeting backstage at the Fox News Channel studios years ago.
“We were so happy every day, every single day of our lives together,” she exclusively told Fox News Digital. “Maybe not all day, every day, but … we had the most wonderful marriage, the most wonderful life.”
Sorvino — known just as much for mob roles with the late James Caan in “The Gambler,” working with Alan Arkin in “The Rocketeer” and Warren Beatty in “Dick Tracy” as he was for playing a crime-fighting cop in “Law & Order” — died at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida after suffering health issues, according to his representative.
Dee Dee remembered how Fox News played a pivotal part in their relationship as they first met in the green room while waiting for separate appearances on the network, and even announced their surprise elopement while on Neil Cavuto’s show in 2015.
“If not for Fox, we would not be married. And Neil Cavuto, we called him Dr. Love,” she said. “We would always joke about this because Paul knew he wanted to marry me right away.”
“We were so happy every day, every single day of our lives together.”
The couple announced their elopement in 2015 and shared a small piece of their love story with Cavuto during an appearance on “Your World with Neil Cavuto” following their surprising wedding the month before.
Cavuto introduced the pair who “started as guests on my Fox Business show” before declaring: “They just tied the knot, and no one knew about it, right?”
“We eloped standing in front of the fountain at Lincoln Center where I have sung at the MET, and I have sung at the New York City Opera,” Sorvino told Cavuto. “The plan was, if we told one person, we’d have to tell everybody. As soon as the ceremony was over, I started calling my family and telling them.”
Cavuto joked: “Funny, you never called me. You know, it’s so weird … I hooked you up. Not even a call or anything!”
Paul remembered seeing Dee Dee in the green room for the first time as they waited to appear on different television time slots, a sight he would never forget.
“I saw her … she was wearing this beautiful, blue dress and she had an aura around her,” he told Cavuto during the show. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. What I saw, what it was … I said, ‘Oh my god.’ I said, ‘This is gonna be it for me.’”
“If not for Fox, we would not be married.”
Dee Dee remembered Paul would play a “big, tough monster” on screen, but deep down, he was truly a “very sweet, very respectful” gentleman.
“Paul was just a universally loved actor, and of course, I adored him every minute,” she said. “I got so lucky that he pursued me like he did. And I’m like, wow, I really have had a wonderful life with this man. The only problem is, it was just too short.”
She recalled a time when Chris Rock saw Sorvino from the other end of a red carpet at an event, and the comedian locked eyes with the “Money Talks” actor, and then proceeded to walk down the length of the carpet just for the chance to shake Sorvino’s hand.
“I’ll never forget this because he was so respectful to Paul, and I really thought that was great,” she said. “He said, ‘Respect has to be paid,’ and he shook Paul’s hand, and he walked all the way back to do that, just to pay respect to Paul. Paul is really that actor’s actor.”
She had some “hesitation” at first about their age differences as he was 28 years her senior, but admitted he was “so wonderful” and a “really lovely man” that their spirits were too kindred to see numbers.
“He’s just this sweetheart … and loved people. He loved life. He loved food, you know, he just loved everything,” Dee Dee reminisced. “That’s how I fell in love with him, that’s how he grabbed me because it’s like, how can you not love someone who loves so much? He just was that guy. Paul really touched me and changed my life.”
She recalled the Italian cookbook they made together, “Pinot, Pasta and Parties,” which incorporated his mother’s “old school” recipes and family traditions from Naples, Italy.
“Italians really love life,” Dee Dee said. “Paul taught me the appreciation of living life and living life well, and eating well, because Paul ate well. He wanted the best of the best.”
Sorvino was “happy” to see the movie industry coming back after the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown film productions and theatrical performances.
“He is a Patriot. He’s all about America. He’s very patriotic.”
“He felt like the movie business was falling apart … and nobody was going to theaters anymore,” she said. “That upset him, because he was a big Hollywood guy.”
Dee Dee said after they saw “Top Gun: Maverick” starring his former “The Firm” co-star, Tom Cruise, Sorvino was “so happy because he saw the movie industry is back.”
She added: “He is a Patriot. He’s all about America. He’s very patriotic. So ‘Top Gun’ was a patriotic movie. It was so good. It was so pro-American, and he said, ‘I’m so proud of Tom Cruise and so proud of this movie.’
“It made him so happy. I thought that was really nice that he was so invested in the movie industry. He was concerned about it.”
Dee Dee noted: “That’s the thing about Paul, it’s like a lot of these actors, they just care about their career and what money they’re making. No, Paul cares about the mission. He cares about the Hollywood mission. He cares about America’s vision and he’s a Patriot.”
Their shared love for their country and the industry was not lost on Dee Dee, who added that her late husband rarely ever thought of himself and was always concerned about other people.
“He was so happy about a patriotic movie coming through, that America is back, the industry is back and everybody can be together,” she said. “The theater was full, and he was all smiles, and it was great. He was absolutely elated. He just loved it. I bring that up only because it was sort of … that was the last memory we saw together.”
Sorvino was also a father to three children from his first marriage, including Mira, 54, an Academy Award winner. He also directed and starred in a film written by his daughter, Amanda Sorvino, which featured his son, Michael Sorvino.
“My father the great Paul Sorvino has passed,” the actress tweeted on Monday. “My heart is rent asunder- a life of love and joy and wisdom with him is over. He was the most wonderful father. I love him so much. I’m sending you love in the stars Dad as you ascend.”
She later shared: “Overwhelmed with gratitude for all the outpouring of love for my father and our family. If he can sense it now it will mean so much to him to be so appreciated, so beloved. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the unexpected blessing of your care.”
He was proud of Mira as she rose to Hollywood stardom and cried when she won the best supporting actress Oscar for “Mighty Aphrodite” in 1996. He told the Los Angeles Times that night that he didn’t have the words to express how he felt seeing her win the most coveted award for actors.
“They don’t exist in any language that I’ve ever heard — well, maybe Italian,” he said.
He famously taught audiences the correct way to slice garlic with a razor blade in “Goodfellas” and played Claire Danes’ father, Fulgencio Capulet, in the cult classic Leonardo DiCaprio film directed by Baz Luhrmann, “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet.”
Cavuto took “great pride” being the catalyst in starting their relationship, and paid tribute to his late friend on “Your World” Monday.
“You know, he played one of the scariest characters in any of the mob movies or series,” the Fox News host said. “And I got to tell you, he was just a big old softy with a heart of gold.”