Scott's World;NEWLN:From felony to fame

HOLLYWOOD -- Richard Foronjy, a former felon, has become a successful character actor who specializes in playing cops.

The dark-visaged, tough-looking Foronjy was busted more than 20 times for felonies ranging from bank robbery to armed robbery, yet he is highly billed in the role of a policeman in Jane Fonda's new movie, 'The Morning After.'


Foronjy, a middle-aged Brooklyn native, is not the sort of man a person would knowingly offend. He is powerfully built and bursting with energy.

'I was arrested for forgery, bank robbery, credit card rip-offs, assorted crimes and skullduggery,' Foronjy said recently. 'I was always trying to make two out of one, and that's what tripped me up in life.

'Altogether I was arrested and put in jail 27 times. I was guilty of almost everything except drugs and homicide. But I was only convicted once, for armed robbery, and I put in eight and a half years in Sing Sing and Attica.


'I grew up as an angry kid in Brooklyn. I didn't care about anything. I got married and had four kids with a girl down the block. I made my living as a butcher. Eventually the pressures of the family got to me, so I hit the streets.

'It was in the days before computers and I thought I could make an easy living forging checks and collecting credit cards. Then I began robbing candy stores. It seemed to me it would be more profitable to go to the source of big money -- banks. So I began robbing them.

'My first bank job brought me $170,000, a lot more than Willy Sutton ever got. I spent the money lavishly and went to Europe.

'Eventually, it all caught up with me. I robbed an attorney at gunpoint and the cops caught me as I was driving away.'

Foronjy scoffs at cops-and-robbers movies and TV shows, saying the real world of crime is a horror of endless fear on both sides of the law. He said prison pictures are cream puffs compared to what he found in New York jails.

'The worst thing about prison is the loneliness,' he said with a grimace. 'All you think about is getting through the next minute. You form alliances with other convicts you will never see or need again.


'I never went to high school. I met a con who helped me with my education and while I was locked up I read more than 500 books.'

Foronjy left prison when he was 32 and vowed never to commit another crime. His years in the pen had cost him his wife and family. He couldn't return toBrooklyn to see his old criminal pals so he moved to Greenwich Village and took up his old craft as a butcher.

'Then I watched 'Kojak' on TV,' he said, 'and told myself if Telly Savalas could be an actor so could I.'

For two years Foronjy attended acting classes in his spare time and sought out agents. His first job was for director Sidney Lumet in 'Serpico' playing a cop killer.

'I cried when Lumet gave me the job,' he recalled. 'Then I asked him for $300 to join the Screen Actors Guild.'

Foronjy moved to Hollywood in 1975 and since then has appeared in 22 movies and 100 episodic TV shows. His movie credits include 'Prince of the City,' 'Once Upon a Time in America' and 'Repo Man,' all films in which he played cops.

Acting presented few problems for the outgoing, flamboyant Foronjy. He had developed a dramatic style in his days as a proficient con artist, a line of work that required consummate skills to convince his victims that he was a pillar of society.


'I wasn't thivking about acting when I conned people,' Foronjy said. 'But that's what I was doing. I realized I had a natural talent for acting when I began going to classes.

'I was especially good at playing cops, no doubt because I got to know them so well when they were busting me every other week.'

Surprisingly, the former felon wrote and sold a teleplay for the 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' series and re-wrote Budd Schulberg's 'On The Docks.' Foronjy is now a proud member of the Writers Guild of America.

'It's been a long trip from Attica to Hollywood,' Foronjy said. 'And you can bet money I'll never go back again.'

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