Capone played no direct role in his big screen incarnation, but he announced his presence during the 1932 production of "Scarface." Screenwriter Ben Hecht says he returned to his hotel room one evening to find two of Capone's associates demanding to know how their boss would be depicted.
Indeed, Mafiosi may be famously silent around cops, but the code of Omerta doesn't apply in Tinseltown. Meyer Lansky telephoned Lee Strasberg, the actor who portrayed Hyman Roth (the Lansky figure) in "The Godfather, Part II." The real-life gangter told the actor, "Now, why couldn't you have made me more sympathetic? After all, I am a grandfather," according to Lansky biographer Robert Lacey.
Jimmy "The Gent" Burke was so happy that De Niro was cast to play a part based on him in "Goodfellas" that he allegedly called him from prison to congratulate him and give him pointers. It turns out that De Niro was also on the phone five times a day with Henry Hill, the mob turncoat who supplied the "Goodfellas" storyline, which also put Burke in jail.
Some wise guys can even offer fashion tips. James Gandolfini has gotten some unsolicited fashion tips for his portrayal of Tony Soprano.
"I talk to some gentlemen who have friends who are these people and most of them enjoy the show," James Gandolfini, TV's Tony Soprano, told reporters when he was promoting "The Mexican."
"They get a good laugh out of it, although once when I wore shorts in a barbecue scene it was relayed to me that it was not something these gentlemen would do, even at a barbecue."
When "Sopranos" creator James Chase heard that, he wrote it into the show, having New York boss Carmine Lupertazzi tell Tony at a lawn party that "A don never wears shorts." The Lupertazzi character died last season, and Tony subsequently started showing some more leg.
Of course, the mob's love of mob movies is a running joke on "The Sopranos." As Silvio Dante, Steve Van Zandt regales the rest of the Soprano gang with his Michael Corleone impression. And as Van Zandt's fictional character did his impression of another pretend gangster, some real gangsters were watching, according to FBI wiretaps.
Members of the DeCavalcante family -- a New Jersey crime syndicate said to be the model for the HBO show -- were secretly recorded in 1999 gushing over the show, and how it's given them more respect among their elitist New York peers, who once dismissed them as "Farmers."
"Every show you watch, more and more, you pick somebody," says Anthony Rotondo, a DeCavalcante turncoat who called the show "amusing."
"Yeah, but where do they get this information from?" family soldier Joseph "Tin Ear" Sclafani asks.
"Aren't they funny?" Rotondo says. "What characters. Great acting."
Like the Sopranos, the DeCavalcante family is said to operate from a pork store in north Jersey, and one of the acting bosses owns a strip club, just like the Bada-Bing.
Guys with rap sheets have long infiltrated "The Sopranos." Several cast members, including Tony Sirico, who plays Paulie Walnuts, have had brushes with the law, and many members count themselves in an unofficial group of New York actors called "GAG" -- the Gangsters Actors Guild.
Just a few "GAG-sters" have done time, but all make their living playing hoodlums.