Joe Pesci is one of the great actors of the 1980s and 1990s. But as well as discussing his many great movie roles, many wonder whether Pesci went bald and if so, when?
The Italian American legend was a dominant force, whether starring in crime dramas such as Casino or Goodfellas or showing off his comic roots with his roles in the Home Alone movies and My Cousin Vinny.
But his hair would often change from movie to movie, and he was someone who wasn’t afraid to don a wig or a toupee if the role and the character suited it.
So let’s look at Pesci’s hair throughout his storied career, highlighting some of his biggest movie roles and the look that he chose for the character, and see if he ever did go fully bald.
Is Joe Pesci bald?
Joe Pesci is not completely bald, but he has had a receding hairline for much of his career. He has only made sporadic public appearances since ‘retiring’ in 1999 (he has appeared in 4 films since), and today he is only ever photographed while wearing a hat.
There is still some visible hair around the side and back of the head but it’s fair to assume, especially when you look back over Joe’s hairline since as far back as the 80s, that he is at least a 6 on the Norwood Scale, and is most likely now a 7.
It’s safe to assume that Pesci uses the hat to cover his bald spot, or perhaps a fully bald head.
Does Joe Pesci wear a wig?
Joe Pesci doesn’t appear in public much today, and when he does he prefers to wear a hat, so we can guess that he doesn’t tend to wear a wig. But he definitely has donned a wig for some of his films, and the ‘Joe Pesci hair piece’ has become an iconic look of its own.
It’s hard to tell whether Pesci feels less confident with his receding hairline or if he just prefers to wear a hat. He’s never commented on it, but he’s relatively private about his personal life in general.
Poison singer Bret Michaels is less private and has admitted that the hair under his bandana includes ‘the finest hair extensions money can buy’. Pesci has never even hinted at baldness, even to this extent, so we’ll need to take a closer look.
Let’s take a look back at his career in film, and we can see how Joe’s ‘hairline’ has bounced back and forth between his real, receding hairline and the famous slicked-back Joe Pesci toupee that he often sports when appearing in mob movies.
This isn’t every movie he’s appeared in – just the most notable ones.
1976 – The Death Collector
Pesci’s early career focussed on singing, but he moved into acting on Broadway before making his feature film debut in The Death Collector, when he was 33 years old.
And while he had quite the impressive hairdo, there were already some very early signs of a receding hairline around the temples. He was not balding by this stage, but you can spot the telltale points of the hairline around the sides being slightly further back.
You would only notice it if you were looking out for it though – otherwise, he has quite the 70s full head of hair look going on. That would soon change.
1980 – Raging Bull
After being spotted in The Death Collector by Robert De Niro, Pesci was hand-picked for Raging Bill where he arguably made his big breakthrough.
Four years had passed since he filmed his prior movie, and his hairline had held up well – there was no real movement around the temples. The hairstyle had changed though – gone was the floppy, thick wavy cut, and in its place a very thick fuzz.
Of the two leads, you would’ve bet on De Niro going bald first, based on this movie.
1984 – Once Upon a Time in America
Pesci made a couple of movies after Raging Bull that did quite well, but the next major film came another 4 years later, with Once Upon a Time in America.
And by this stage, you can really see the change in Joe’s hairline. He was still natural, but his shorter, side-parted cut exposes the thinning hair at the front of his uneven hairline.
I’d say he’s a good example of a Norwood 2 here. It makes it really clear how much further the line has moved back in the years.
Remember that by this stage Pesci is 41, so even for a man with a thicker head of hair in his youth, it’s expected that he will lose some of that by this stage.
1988 – Moonwalker
Another four years passed, along with a few more movies, before we get to the very unusual ‘movie’ Moonwalker. Essentially a collection of music videos for Michael Jackson with some thin story elements woven through (including very odd special effects), Pesci was hired to play the villain, Mr. Big.
And by now you can see the dramatic change in his hairline. Ignore the very unusual hairstyle with the sort-of reverse ponytail at the back – what’s more interesting is seeing just how quickly the hairline had moved on top. In terms of the Norwood Scale, he’s between a 3 and a 4 here.
1989 – Lethal Weapon 2
Pesci joined the Lethal Weapon franchise (if you can call it that by the second movie)to play Leo Getz, a major secondary character in the movie.
And while his hairstyle is a lot more ‘normal’ than that of his character in Moonwalker the year prior, we can still see the changes in his hairline as it moves further back. It suited the character though, and so Pesci continued to have a natural look for this movie.
1990 – Goodfellas and Home Alone
1990 was a huge year for Pesci as he managed to star in an epic drama film with Goodfellas, while also endearing himself to family audiences as the villain in Home Alone.
In Goodfellas, Pesci wore a wig – his character needed to look younger than his almost-50-year-old hairline could portray.
But in Home Alone, he kept it natural. You don’t see it much during the movie – he’s normally in a woolen hat, or a police hat while impersonating an officer.
Of course, part way through the movie his head is blow-torched (spoilers) by which point he sports a shaven, blistered look.
1992 – My Cousin Vinny, Home Alone 2, and Lethal Weapon 3
Two years later and Pesci arguably had his biggest year in film.
First up came the cult-classic comedy My Cousin Vinny, with Pesci playing a slick New York lawyer. He wore an impressive wig for this role, recreating the thick head of hair that he’d sported earlier in his career.
The wig was gone for the Home Alone sequel, and again we don’t see much of his bare head but we do know he’s bald under there. He isn’t helped by his head catching fire once more. It’s hardly going to help protect what’s left of his hair, is it?
And then finally was the next Lethal Weapon film. Pesci grew his hair out for this role and bleached it blonde, but the receding hairline is in full view throughout.
1995 – Casino
1995 brought another major crime movie in Pesci’s career with Casino, and as for most of his mob/crime roles, he donned a wig to help give his character a slightly more youthful look, and capture that classic Italian-American style.
It wasn’t quite the wig that he wore for Goodfellas – this is a little more restrained and slicked back to reflect the slightly older character – but it still covers his natural hairline.
1998 – Lethal Weapon 4
Pesci had always played the Leo Gatz role in Lethal Weapon with his natural hairline, but in the fourth movie (his third appearance) we don’t really get much of a look at it – he spends most of the movie wearing a hat.
We do get a glimpse of his hairline in the dentist’s chair so we can see that his hairline hasn’t moved too much by this stage, and he has moved to a closer shave for the rest of his hair.
2019 – The Irishman
Pesci officially retired from acting in 1999 but made a few smaller appearances. His biggest main comeback was in 2019’s The Irishman.
It was always great seeing Pesci in these crime dramas, and how he had moved from a cocky younger character to a more powerful veteran.
The movie spans 50 years of a story that involves multiple characters, which was a challenge for Hair Department Head Sean Flanigan: “We basically oversaw the whole entire cast: over 200 characters”, said Flanigan.
“With every single character, there were going to be wigs or multiple wigs.” This maintains the mystery of what Pesci’s actual hair looked like in real life in 2019.
We’ve seen actors with great hair lose it in the past. Heath Ledger was clearly receding just before his untimely death. Jude Law is a great-looking guy who has resisted the temptation to shave his balding locks.
Meanwhile, Henry Cavill is currently developing a ‘mature hairline‘, let’s say. He may well go the same route as Steve Carell, who seems to have had a hair transplant in 2006.
As we track Pesci’s career, you can see that it’s during the later 80s that his hairline starts to move further back, when he was in his mid-40s.
He’s had some impressive wigs and hairstyles in movies since then, but whenever he’s taken the natural look he is certainly balding. Given his semi-retirement, however, he’s never likely to play a bald movie character.
His look doesn’t matter though – he’s an amazing character actor, able to give incredible performances in both drama and comedy, and it’s just a shame that he chose to retire when he did, only making limited appearances since.
If you’re struggling with hair loss, one option is to ride it out like Joe, and get into hats. Don’t panic – the claim that wearing hats regularly can cause baldness is just a myth, so here are my recommendations for the best hats for bald guys.
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