‘My Cousin Vinny’ Court Scenes

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Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny

Few actors are as at ease rotating between tough guy roles and comedic ones as Joe Pesci. Five years after the actor won an Academy Award (for Best Supporting Actor) as Tommy DeVito in 1990’s Goodfellas, he appeared as mobster Nicky Santoro in another Martin Scorsese picture, Casino.

In between were the first two Home Alone comedies, as well as his return as Leo Getz – “What Leo wants, Leo gets!” – in 1992’s Lethal Weapon 3.

And then there’s My Cousin Vinny. The 1992 comedy paired Pesci with actress Marisa Tomei, then just 27. The Brooklyn-born actress (birthday: December 4, 1964) was largely unknown and, given her age, an unusual choice to be cast in a romantic role opposite Pesci, then 49.

Pesci’s Vincent LaGuardia Gambini is a novice New York lawyer who is summoned to Alabama to defend his nephew who has been charged with murder, based on circumstantial evidence. Along for the ride is Gambini’s fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito.

Pesci’s character has no trial experience and he immediately bumps up against the courtroom code of behavior expected for an attorney. He racks up one violation after another from the judge, played by Fred Gwynne, best known for role as Herman Munster on TV’s The Munsters. It’s clear that Vinny Gambini is in over his head.

Gambini and “Miss Vito” have many fish-out-of-water moments as New Yorkers with strong accents and inappropriate courtroom attire. The trial advances and Pesci’s character is learning on the fly, even as he wears a movie usher’s uniform, the only “suit” he could purchase on short notice.

He asks a witness about “the two yutes”…

Under the pressure of the case, Gambini makes fun of Vito’s suggestions to help and the pair are barely on speaking terms. He realizes that her experience in her father’s auto body shop can prove useful for the case and he calls her to the stand as an expert, but reluctant, witness.

Watch the scene in which Tomei is put to the test by the prosecuting attorney

She’s still angry at Gambini as he elicits her testimony from the stand…

It was considered quite a surprise when Tomei received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role. The four women she was up against had far longer resumes and actors rarely win Oscars for comedic roles.

Watch Jack Palance announce the nominees and the surprising winner

For years there was a theory that Tomei was not the actual winner. Read the explanation on Snopes.com disproving the claim.

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