Had he been in Hollywood in the 1930s or 1940s, Vincent Schiavelli's Halloween-mask countenance, shock of unkempt hair and baleful voice might have permanently consigned him to minor roles in horror or gangster pictures. As it happened, Schiavelli became an actor during the 1960s, a period when, thanks to unpretty stars like Elliott Gould and Dustin Hoffman, homeliness opened more career doors than it closed. After several seasons' worth of stage experience, Schiavelli made his first film appearance in Milos Forman's Taking Off (1971) playing a pot-smoking support group leader by the name of...Schiavelli. He would work with Forman again on several occasions, most memorably as Salieri's(F. Murray Abraham) phlegmatic valet in the opening scenes of Amadeus (1984). In 1972, Schiavelli played his first regular TV-series role, gay set designer Peter Panama in The Corner Bar. Fourteen years later, he could be seen as oddball science teacher Hector Vargas in the weekly sitcom Fast Times, repeating his role from the 1982 theatrical feature Fast Times at Ridgemont High. One of his best-known screen roles was the ill-tempered Subway Ghost, who teaches newly dead Patrick Swayze how to move solid objects with sheer "hate power" in the 1990 blockbuster Ghost. Tim Conway fans are most familiar with Schiavelli through his appearances as Conway's dull-witted assistant in the popular Dorf videocassettes. Previously married to actress Allyce Beasley, the couple would part ways in 1988 and Schiavelli would subsequently wed Carol Mukhalian.
- Was frequently cast in Milos Forman films.
- In 1997, was chosen by Vanity Fair as one of the best character actors in the U.S.
- Wrote three cookbooks and won a James Beard Award in 2001 for an article he wrote about Sicilian food.
- Was honorary cochairman of the National Marfan Foundation and worked at the national conference helping teens with Marfan syndrome, whom he called his "genetic brothers and sisters."
- In 2001, directed a theater piece in Sicily based on nine traditional fables.
- Spoke fluent Sicilian and spent his later years living in Sicily.