Sirico, who was convicted and served time in Sing Sing for sticking up a few New York nightclubs, once told the New York Daily News, "I've done like 45 movies, played 40 gangsters and five crooked cops."
Nearly every American man has seen "The Godfather" multiple times, but gangsters speak of it as a life-affirming experience. When the original hit the big screen in 1972, Gravano described his associates "gloriously floating out of theaters."
In interviews over the years, he'll quote "Leave the gun, take the cannoli," and other lines that fans commit to memory.
When asked by The New York Times if it influenced how he behaved, Gravano said, "Well, I killed 19 people." And before the movie came out? "I only did, like, one murder."
Another Gambino family soldier says he had actually tried to go straight, but was persuaded back after watching "The Godfather" and feeling "terribly homesick."
The man, identified as "Dominick" in the TNT documentary, "Family Values: The Mob & The Movies," says he was a war veteran, just like Michael Corleone, and could easily relate to the romanticized mob life, even while acknowledging that it doesn't really exist.
"The movie "Godfather' was so different from what it's really like," Dominick says. "This honor and respect, it's not there. It's money; it's greed. And it's killing for people you might not want to kill for, but you've got to do it or they're going to kill you."
Today, Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece is so widely hailed as a cinematic achievement, that it's hard to appreciate that it was controversial in its day. While it was in production, Frank Sinatra hosted a fundraiser by the Italian-American Civil Rights League at Madison Square Garden, slamming the film for advancing ethnic stereotypes. The studio eventually promised that the words "mafia" or "cosa nostra" would not be used. (And they weren't, until "Godfather, Part II.")
Sinatra, of course, was said to be furious that he seemed to be the inspiration for the film's Johnny Fontaine character. Fontaine gets a plumb movie role after his godfather intimidates a producer, who wakes up with a severed horse's head in his bed.
Film historians will note that Sinatra indeed socialized with reputed gangsters. But he got his Oscar-winning part in "From Here to Eternity" the old-fashioned way -- by begging: Ole Blue Eyes dropped his asking price from $150,000 to $8,000.
Sinatra had a few confrontations with "Godfather" novelist Mario Puzo, but eventually he, too, lightened up. He even mulled taking a part in "The Godfather Part III," a role that eventually went to Eli Wallach. (Ironically, it was Wallach who dropped out of "From Here to Eternity," paving the way for Sinatra's cinematic comeback.)
At 89, Wallach is still acting, so perhaps 50 Cent might give him the call, when he's ready for "Get Rich Or Die Tryin' Part II." But by then, will he be rich enough to stop trying?
Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.