James Hayden

James Hayden

Birth
Bay Ridge, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Death 8 Nov 1983 (aged 29)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Woodside, Queens County, New York, USA
Plot First Calvary, Section 13, Plot 273, Grave 17
Memorial ID 19324075 · View Source
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Actor. Best known for his portrayal of a cheerful but brutally efficient gangster in Sergio Leone's epic crime drama "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984). He was on the brink of fame when he died at the age of 29. Hayden was born in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, the son of divorced parents. He ran away from home at 14 and enlisted in the US Army in 1970, serving as a medic during the Vietnam War. Following his discharge he studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and paid his dues playing bit parts in Hollywood and on the New York stage. Al Pacino became a friend and mentor. It was probably on the star's recommendation that Hayden made what would have been his big screen debut in "Cruising" (1980), but his scenes were cut prior to the film's release; Pacino also lobbied for him to be cast as Manny in "Scarface" (1983), a role that went to Steven Bauer. Instead he auditioned for and won the part of the adult Patsy Goldberg in "Once Upon a Time in America", appearing with Robert De Niro, James Woods and William Forsythe as Jewish gangsters who blast their way to success in Prohibition-era New York. Hayden's key scene with a vulgar Mafioso (Burt Young) tips the audience to how ruthless the gang has become since their cocky teen days. From there Hayden's future looked promising. In 1983 he was admitted as a lifetime member of the Actors Studio and won rave reviews on Broadway in revivals of Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" and David Mamet's "American Buffalo". In the latter he played Bobby the junkie - a scenario that hit closer to home than most knew. The actor had long struggled with heroin addiction but managed to keep it secret from all but his estranged wife and his priest. On November 8, hours after a performance of "American Buffalo", Hayden was found dead from an overdose in his Manhattan apartment. The tragedy shocked the New York theatre world. He never saw "Once Upon a Time in America", which was released seven months later; many critics believed it would have been a career breakthrough for him. His other credits include the theatrical features "The First Deadly Sin" (1980) and "The Nesting" (1981), and the TV movies "Marilyn: The Untold Story" (1980), "The Intruder Within" (1981) and "The Patricia Neal Story" (as a young Martin Sheen, 1981). Mickey Rourke dedicated his performance in the film "The Pope of Greenwich Village" (1984) to Hayden's memory.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Terrance Crooms
  • Added: 10 May 2007
  • Find a Grave Memorial 19324075
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for James Hayden (25 Nov 1953–8 Nov 1983), Find a Grave Memorial no. 19324075, citing Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, Queens County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .