In a movie full of murderers and mobsters, one killer sticks out as especially ruthless.
Perhaps it's the contrast between his actions and his non-threatening physical appearance, but Salvatore "Sally Bugs" Briguglio (Louis Cancelmi) seems especially vicious in the newest Martin Scorsese film, “The Irishman,” which depicts the violent life of Frank Sheeran, a labor union leader who claimed to have worked for years as a hitman for the Bufalino crime family — and to be responsible for the death of Jimmy Hoffa, the union leader whose 1975 disappearance was never solved. So is Briguglio based on a real person?
The movie, based upon Charles Brandt's book "I Heard You Paint Houses" which detailed his conversations with Sheeran, may have some doubting its veracity — Vince Wade, who reported on Hoffa's disappearance in 1975 laid out inconsistencies in Sheeran’s Hoffa confession for the Daily Beast and former FBI agent John Tamm told Slate that he doesn't think that Sheeran was even a hitman at all — but there are plenty of elements in the film that are built upon more reputable claims, including its colorful cast of real-life mobsters like Briguglio.
In real life, Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano was the International Brotherhood of Teamsters vice president for Teamsters Local 560 in Union City, New Jersey and Briguglio was his strong arm man. Both in real life and the film, Briguglio wore thick glasses, making him appear more like an accountant than any sort of killer.
In the movie, Briguglio ruthlessly kills a man upon Provenzano’s request all because the man gets more votes than him in a Teamsters election, despite the pair being on the same side of the ticket and the man running for a different and lower office. Briguglio strangles him from behind in a car before putting his body through a wood chipper. And crazily enough, that is — sort of — true.
The victim is a character based on real murder victim Anthony Castellitto, Local Teamsters 560's secretary-treasure, who Provenzano ordered killed. After Castellitto was strangled to death, Provenzano then appointed Brigulio as treasurer, according to federal court documents.
In June 1976, Briguglio was indicted, along with Provenzano and and another associate in the Castellitto murder. But two years later, in March 1978, while still under indictment in that case, Briguglio was shot to death in New York City’s Little Italy, according to the federal court documents.
Provenzano was convicted in 1978 for ordering Castellitto's murder, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
While the movie claims that Briguglio was one of the men who disposed of Hoffa’s body, there is no proof of that, or even proof that Hoffa was killed in real life, as his body has never been found. However, a feud between Hoffa and Provenzano has long been theorized to have been connected to Hoffa’s disappearance, according to the Los Angeles Times. And while Provenzano had an alibi during the actual hours that Hoffa vanished, his strong arm Briguglio did not.
In fact, Briguglio was named as a key suspect in Hoffa’s disappearance along with Provenzano, according to an FBI report, as reported on by the Chicago Tribune in 1985.
One FBI theory indicates that Briguglio was one of the men who Hoffa met the day he vanished under the pretense that he was going to meet Provenzano to iron out their feud. However, the truth about what happened that day — and Briguglio's exact role in it, if he even plays one — still remains unknown.
"The Irishman" is now playing in select theaters and starts streaming on Netflix on November 27.
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